Yale Awards Wilbur Cross Medals to Five Alumni

A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, a Japanese senator, the president of Haverford College and two other distinguished alumni of Yale University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will receive the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal—the Graduate School’s highest honor—on October 7.

This year’s Medalists are political scientist and scholar Robert Axelrod; Dr. Stephen Emerson, president of Haverford College; Yoriko Kawaguchi, former Foreign Minister of Japan; historian David Kennedy; and chemist Laura L. Kiessling. As part of the celebration, each medalist will present a talk to current graduate students, faculty and interested guests. See details below.

The Yale Graduate School Alumni Association established the Medal in 1966 to honor alumni for outstanding achievement in some phase of activity in which Dean Wilbur Cross excelled. An alumnus of Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Ph.D. 1889, English), Cross was a scholar of distinction and author of definitive works in English literature. He was a distinguished literary critic, rejuvenating and editing the Yale Review. He headed the Graduate School from 1916–1930, and, following his retirement from academia, served as governor of Connecticut for four terms.

The Honorees


Robert Axelrod, (1969 Ph.D., Political Science), the Walgreen Professor for the Study of Human Understanding at the University of Michigan, is best known for his seminal book, The Evolution of Cooperation, which has been translated into a dozen languages and cited in thousands of scholarly articles. Among his other publications are Harnessing Complexity: Organizational Implications of a Scientific Frontier (with Michael D. Cohen), The Complexity of Cooperation: Agent-Based Models Competition and Collaboration, and Perspectives on Deterrence (ed.), as well as many articles. His contributions, extending across the social sciences as well as to biology and computer science, have been significant. His honors include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (“genius grant”) and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He has served as president of the American Political Science Association and as a public policy analyst on issues related to international peace and the threat of nuclear war.


Dr. Stephen G. Emerson (1980 M.D./Ph.D., Cell Biology/Immunology) was inaugurated as the 13th president of Haverford College, his undergraduate alma mater, in 2007. After earning his joint degrees from Yale, Emerson did a medical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and was a research fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He taught and practiced medicine at the University of Michigan and, for many years, at the University of Pennsylvania. His research on stem cells, particularly their therapeutic applications, has had a profound practical and theoretical impact on the field. As a clinical hematologist/oncologist specializing in the treatment of bone marrow stem cell disorders, he has been named one of Philadelphia’s “Top Docs,” year after year. He served as head of the Hematology/Oncology Division at Penn for 13 years, building one of the nation’s leading programs in the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma.


Senator Yoriko Kawaguchi (1972 M.Phil., Economics) has served the Japanese government as foreign minister (2002-2004), minister of state, director-general of the Japanese Environmental Agency, and minister of the environment, breaking new ground for women in leadership positions in that country. She currently represents the Kanagawa Prefecture in the House of Councillors of the Japanese Diet. During her years in the Cabinet, Japan emerged as an influential and progressive leader in global environmental issues such as sustainability and climate change. From 1993–2000, Kawaguchi was managing director of Suntory Limited and simultaneously served on several Japanese government advisory committees. In July 2008, Kawaguchi was appointed co-chair of a new International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, with the former Australian minister for foreign affairs, Gareth Evans. At Yale, Kawaguchi serves on the President’s Council on International Activities, advising President Richard C. Levin and the other officers of the University.


David M. Kennedy (1968 Ph.D., American Studies), the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History at Stanford University, is “arguably the leading historian of the 20th-century United States,” wrote Frank Turner, the John Hay Whitney Professor of History at Yale, in his letter nominating Kennedy for the Wilbur Cross Medal. Kennedy’s scholarship integrates economic and cultural analysis with social and political history. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for his book Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945, which also won the Parkman Prize, the Ambassador’s Prize, and the California Gold Medal for Literature. His other books are Over Here: The First World War and American Society, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger, which won the Bancroft Prize. Kennedy received the Distinguished Service Award from the Organization of American Historians in 2007 and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is editor of the award-winning, multi-volume Oxford History of the United States.


Laura L. Kiessling (Ph.D. 1989, Chemistry), the Hilldale Professor of Chemistry and the Laurens Anderson Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, does research that merges synthetic chemistry with biology, and in the process, creates new fields of study. Her awards include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (“genius grant”) and election to the National Academy of Sciences. She joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin in 1991, where she quickly rose through the ranks. In her research, she uses her training as an organic chemist to design and synthesize molecules that mimic natural molecules that take part in the life and functioning of the cells of the human body. Her work tracking what happens when the synthetic molecules enter into, or in some cases block, bodily processes is helping to explain these processes at the molecular level. Kiessling investigates a wide range of forms in which proteins occur, and specializes in carbohydrate-mediated biology.

“There is no other colleague on the national scene who has been more respected, influential, or giving of his or her time to the advancement of science,” Gary Brudvig, chair of chemistry at Yale, and Scott Miller, professor of chemistry, said in their joint letter of nomination.

The Wilbur Cross Medals will be presented by Yale President Richard C. Levin, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler and Carlos Riobó (Ph.D. 1998, Spanish & Portuguese), chair of the Graduate School Alumni Association Executive Committee, at a gala private dinner at the Yale Center for British Art.

Associated talks on October 7 are free and open to the public.

Robert Axelrod, “The Future of Political Science,” Room 119, 8 Prospect Place, noon.

Stephen G. Emerson, “Irreversible Thermodynamics and Stem Cell Metaphors in the Immune Response,” The Anlyan Center Auditorium, 300 Cedar Street, noon.

Yoriko Kawaguchi,”Creating a Low-Carbon Society in Japan: The Role of a Politician,” Jeffrey Loria Center for the History of Art, 190 York Street, 4 p.m.

David M. Kennedy, “The Wages of a Mercenary Army: Civil-Military Relations in the 21st-Century United States,” Room 211, Linsly-Chittenden Hall, 63 High Street, 4 p.m.
Laura L. Kiessling, “The Chemistry of Carbohydrate Biosynthesis in Mycobacteria,” Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, Room 110, 225 Prospect Street, 4 p.m.

Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325