PULLMAN – American sociologist William Julius Wilson, WSU alumnus, author, and Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University, will be the WSU fall 2009 commencement speaker.
The event will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec.12, in the Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum. WSU President Elson S. Floyd will preside over the ceremony.
 
This year, the William Julius Wilson Diversity Award will be presented during commencement. The award recognizes contributions to social policy and diversity that have had an impact at the local, national and/or international levels. The inaugural recipient is Wilson.
Wilson is one of only 20 University Professors at Harvard University, the highest professional distinction for a Harvard faculty member. He received his doctoral degree in sociology in 1966 from WSU, and has worked at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Chicago, where he was appointed the Lucy Flower University Professor and director of the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Urban Inequality. He joined the faculty at Harvard in 1996.
 
Wilson, an expert in the fields of African American studies, race, civil rights, poverty, and social and public policy issues, has received 42 honorary degrees, including honorary doctorates from Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He is a recipient of the 1998 National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor in the U.S., and was awarded the Talcott Parsons Prize in the Social Sciences by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003.
A MacArthur Prize Fellow from 1987 to 1992, Wilson has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Philosophical Society, the Institute of Medicine, and the British Academy and has been president of the American Sociological Association.
In June 1996 he was selected by Time magazine as one of America’s 25 Most Influential People.
He is the author of numerous publications, including the award-winning books “The Declining Significance of Race,” “The Truly Disadvantaged,” “When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor,” “The Bridge Over the Racial Divide: Rising Inequality and Coalition Politics” and “More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City.” He is the co-author of “There Goes the Neighborhood: Racial, Ethnic, and Class Tensions in Four Chicago Neighborhoods and Their Meaning for America” and “Good Kids in Bad Neighborhoods: Successful Development in Social Context.”
A member of numerous national boards and commissions, Wilson is the first and only non-economist to receive the Seidman Award in Political Economy. Other honors granted to Wilson include receiving the Golden Plate Achievement Award; the WSU Regents Distinguished Alumnus Award; the American Sociological Association’s Dubois, Johnson, Frazier Award for significant scholarship in the field of inter-group relations; the American Sociological Association’s Award for Public Understanding of Sociology; Brandeis University Burton Gordon Feldman Award for outstanding contributions in the field of public policy”; the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Award; and the American Political Science Association Aaron Wildavsky Enduring Contribution Award, for “The Truly Disadvantaged” and “When Work Disappears.”
Almost 700 students are expected to participate in the WSU ceremony in Pullman from a total of 1,800 students that have applied to graduate with a December date, said Teri Hansen, WSU commencement coordinator.
Shuttle bus service between the parking lot of Lewis Alumni Centre and the Beasley Coliseum will be available 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for those attending the commencement ceremony.