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Alumni to Receive Wilbur Cross Medals for Outstanding Achievement

September 15, 2014

The Graduate School and the Graduate School Alumni Association (GSAA) will confer their highest honor, the Wilbur Cross Medal, on four distinguished alumni on October 14.

The award, established in 1966, is named for Wilbur Lucius Cross (Ph.D. 1889, English), who served as dean of the Graduate School from 1916 to 1930. Cross was a scholar of English literature who authored several books, co-edited The Yale Shakespeare, revived and edited the Yale Review and, following his retirement from Yale, served as governor of Connecticut for four terms.

This year, the honors will go to “camera-on-a-chip” inventor Eric R. Fossum (Ph.D. 1984, Engineering and Applied Science), historian Thomas Holt (Ph.D. 1973, American Studies), reproductive rights expert Kristin Luker (Ph.D. 1974, Sociology), and Nobel laureate Edmund Phelps (Ph.D. 1959, Economics).

Each medalist will give a public talk and meet informally with current students and faculty while on campus. The day will culminate in a festive dinner at which President Peter Salovey (Ph.D. 1986, Psychology), Dean Lynn Cooley, and GSAA Chair Anthony Sabatelli (Ph.D. 1984, Chemistry) will present the medals.       

The 2014 Medalists

Eric R. Fossum
(Ph.D. 1984, Engineering & Applied Science)

Eric Fossum, professor of engineering at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, conceived a way to produce an ultra-small, inexpensive camera that has become an essential feature in billions of cell phones and tablets around the world. His groundbreaking work incorporating imaging-sensing devices onto semiconductor chips has changed the way people communicate and enhanced not only social media but also medicine (pill cameras), the automotive industry (side-view and rear-view cameras), and filmmaking. Several recent Hollywood movies, such as Life of Pi and Avatar, used Fossum’s “camera-on-a-chip” to shoot special effects. For his pioneering work on CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) image sensors, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers honored him with the Andrew Grove Award in 2009. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011, and in 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Fossum holds more than 180 patents and has published over 250 journal articles.

After graduating from Yale, Fossum became a member of the electrical engineering faculty at Columbia University. In 1990, he joined the California Institute of Technology, where he managed the research and development of image sensor and focal-plane technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While there, he invented the technology for a tiny camera and shepherded its development and subsequent transfer to the private sector. He co-founded Photobit Corporation in 1995 to commercialize the technology, and worked for Micron Technology Inc., when it acquired Photobit. He was CEO of Siimpel Corporation, developing micro-electro-mechanical-based camera modules with autofocus and shutter functions for cell phones. In 2008 he joined Samsung Electronics as a technical consultant, and in 2010 he returned to academia as a faculty member of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, where he teaches, conducts research, and coordinates the Ph.D. Innovation Program.

Thomas Holt
(Ph.D. 1973, American Studies)

Thomas Holt, the James Westfall Thompson Distinguished Service Professor of American and African American History at the University of Chicago, has transformed and deepened scholars’ understanding of American, Caribbean, and transatlantic history, the African diaspora, and race relations. His first book, Black over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction (University of Illinois, 1977), placed African Americans at the center of that era’s social and political history. It won the Charles S. Sydnor Prize from the Southern Historical Association and became both an instant classic and required reading for generations of students. His second book, The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832-1938 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), won the Elsa Goveia Prize from the Association of Caribbean Historians. The Problem of Race in the 21st Century, the published version of his Nathan I. Huggins lectures at Harvard University, is a profound meditation on the complexities and contradictions of racial power and ideology that re-envisions the history of race relations in the United States. His most recent book, Children of Fire, is considered a magisterial survey and reinterpretation of African American history. His American Historical Association presidential address, “ ‘Marking’: Race, Race-making, and the Writing of History,” has had profound theoretical implications for how historians analyze social hierarchies and identities.

Holt’s colleagues elected him to serve as president of the American Historical Association, the largest professional organization of historians in the United States. His many honors include a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “genius” grant and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy in Berlin, and the Social Science Research Council. He has served on the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities and on the board of the American Council of Learned Societies. He is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and  Sciences.

Kristin Luker
(Ph.D. 1974, Sociology)

A trailblazing thinker, dedicated mentor, and public sociologist, Kristin Luker is largely responsible for creating a whole new field of study that focuses on the intersection of reproductive rights and the American justice system. Her scholarship spanning sociology, law, gender, family, and sexuality is internationally respected. She is known for bringing empirical analysis and fair-mindedness to these heated, politicized topics.

Luker is the Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt Professor of Law, professor of Sociology, and founding director of the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice (CRRJ) at the University of California, Berkeley. The CRRJ is a research hub that forges collaborations with legal scholars, social scientists, advocates, and activists on topics that include teen pregnancy, abortion, contraception, and sex education.

Her books on the social politics of abortion and motherhood have influenced public discourse and won major awards. Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood (University of California Press, 1984) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy (Harvard University Press, 1996) was listed as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her most recent books are When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex – and Sex Education – Since the Sixties (W.W. Norton, 2006), and Salsa Dancing Into the Social Sciences: Research in an Age of Infoglut (Harvard University Press, 2008), a highly original, engaging, and unorthodox manual for teaching research methods.

Luker’s pioneering work has been recognized by her election to the American Academy of Sciences and to the Sociological Research Association, which limits its membership to 150 scholars. In 1993, she was one of three sociologists invited to meet with President Bill Clinton to discuss issues confronting the nation, and she recently testified in the California legislature on several bills about immigrant health and reproductive rights. She has received grants from the Ford, Spencer, and Guggenheim Foundations as well as from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Commonwealth Fund. Other honors include the Innovation in Scholarship Award from the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York and the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award.

Edmund Phelps
(Ph.D. 1959, Economics)

Nobel laureate Edmund Phelps has changed the way theorists and policy-makers understand the interconnected macroeconomic issues of growth, employment, inflation, and stagnation. A prolific scholar, he has published 22 books and more than 100 papers that have left a permanent imprint on the profession.

Phelps was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2006 for “his analysis of inter-temporal tradeoffs in macroeconomic policy,” according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. His work on growth theory stimulated a wave of research on how much a nation should spend and how much it should save for future generations. The growth models he developed have proven to be ahead of their time in recognizing the importance of education and the impact of technological change.

Phelps refined the “Phillips curve,” which asserts that inflation and employment are tethered. The standard now used by economists is Phelps’s “expectations-augmented Phillips curve,” which stresses the importance of imperfect information in understanding the slow adjustment of wages and prices to changes in demand. Concern about the human costs of joblessness and low wages among disadvantaged workers resulted in “Rewarding Work,” in which Phelps argued for the importance of devising methods to help less productive workers draw a reasonable wage, thereby reintegrating them into the economic mainstream.

Phelps is the McVickar Professor of Political Economy at Columbia University, where he has been on the faculty since 1971, with only minor interruptions. In 2001, together with Roman Frydman, he founded the Center on Capitalism and Society, which he heads. In addition to his research, he has advised governments and international organizations on economic policy. He was a charter member of the Economic Advisory Council of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and consulted for the U.S. Treasury Department, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Federal Reserve Board.

His many awards include honorary doctorates and professorships from the Université libre de Bruxelles, Tsinghua University, the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, and others. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association. In 2001 a festschrift conference was held in his honor. In 2008, the French government named him a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur and the Kiel Institute in Germany awarded him its Global Economy Prize. The same year the University of Buenos Aires Law School established the Phelps Medal for Innovation. In 2011, Phelps received the Blouin Creative Leadership Award and was named a Full Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which later gave him the Mendeleev Medal for Achievement in the Sciences. In 2012, he was elected an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society of Trinity College, Dublin; and was given the President’s Medal of the National University of Ireland, Galway.

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