Yale Bulletin
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May 31-June 21, 1999Volume 27, Number 33

Wilbur L. Cross Medals

Following the University-wide Commencement on May 24, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences awarded its highest honor, the Wilbur L. Cross Medal for outstanding achievement in professional life, to five individuals who earned their doctoral degrees at Yale.

The medals are named in honor of William Lucius Cross, who served as dean of the Graduate School from 1931 to 1939. The award citations for the 1999 medalists follow:

Dr. Francis Sellers Collins
'72 M.Phil., '74 Ph.D.

Eminent physician-scientist, pioneering human geneticist, and director of one of the most ambitious scientific projects of our time, you began your career in chemistry, completing a doctorate at the Yale Graduate School in just three years with a project involving the theory of vibrational energy transfer. You soon transferred your own intellectual energy to medicine and the rapidly changing field of molecular biology. After medical training at the University of North Carolina, you returned to Yale for a three-year fellowship in human genetics where you worked on methods of crossing large stretches of DNA to identify genes associated with hereditary disease. You continued to develop your technique, which you later termed positional cloning, as a faculty member at the University of Michigan. There, with colleagues from Canada, you made your most famous discovery to date, the gene for cystic fibrosis. That milestone in genetics was achieved before you reached the age of 40, and was followed by your team's identification of genes for neurofibromatosis and Huntington's disease. Since 1993, you have directed the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health. Under your guidance, scientists and engineers around the world are marshaling new technologies to map the entire DNA sequence in the human genome, and expect to accomplish that task years ahead of schedule.

Seven years ago, Yale University awarded you an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Today, for your groundbreaking science, effective leadership, and monumental contribution to human knowledge, as well as for your compassion as a physician, the Yale Graduate School Alumni Association is delighted to add to that earlier tribute its highest honor, the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal.

William N. Fenton '37 Ph.D.

Internationally renowned cultural anthropologist and ethnohistorian of North American Indians, you have been a major figure in American ethnology for more than half a century. Now in your 91st year, you remain professionally active and universally respected as the dean of Iroquoian studies, a field that includes ethnographers, linguists, archeologists and historians worldwide. During your 60 years of scholarly publication, you contributed classic works of analytical and historical ethnology, often with high aesthetic qualities, as well as more than 100 critical and informative reviews in the scientific, historical and general literature. Most importantly, last year the University of Oklahoma Press published your 800-page volume, "The Great Law and the Longhouse: A Political History of the Iroquois Confederacy," acclaimed by Iroquoian scholars and Iroquois leaders themselves as the definitive study of the most influential political structure in indigenous North America.

In the tradition of Dean Cross, who admitted you to the Yale Graduate School in 1931, you have held both academic and public service positions: as community worker in the U.S. Indian Service, senior ethnologist in the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology, executive secretary for anthropology and psychology at the National Research Council, director of the New York State Museum, and distinguished professor of anthropology at the State University of New York at Albany.

The Yale Graduate School Alumni Association, proud of your long and distinguished career, presents you its highest honor, the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal.

Allen Lee Sessoms
'71 M. Phil, '72 Ph.D.

Scientist, diplomat, and academic administrator, your spectacular career illustrates a unique synthesis of vigorous leadership, intelligence, integrity and courage. Educated in the art of survival as a youth in the South Bronx, and in the science of physics at Union College, the University of Washington and the Yale University Graduate School, you embarked on an academic research career in high energy physics, becoming an assistant professor at Harvard shortly after leaving Yale. Recuperating from a long illness, you left the ivory tower to put your scientific expertise to use in the service of your country. As science attaché to our embassy in Paris, you achieved unprecedented cooperation with the French in medical research, space science and environmental protection. As political counselor to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, and as Deputy Chief of Mission, second in rank to the Ambassador, your diplomatic skill was invaluable in fostering mutual understanding and goodwill. Returning to academia after 13 years of government service, as vice president for academic affairs at the University of Massachusetts, you were responsible for a university system with five campuses and 60,000 students, a challenge that required great energy and political acumen. Four years ago, you became president of Queens College of the City University of New York and have dedicated yourself ever since to bringing this institution into the realm of the highest national ranking.

For your dedication as a scientist in the service of your country, and for your leadership and commitment to rigorous academic standards, the Yale Graduate School Alumni Association expresses its gratitude and admiration and awards you its highest honor, the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal.

Rosemary A. Stevens
'63 M.P.H., '68 Ph.D.

Internationally recognized expert in the history and development of health care delivery systems, distinguished administrator and teacher, your remarkable career began in England where you were born and educated. You earned a bachelor's degree in English language and literature at Oxford University, studied administration at Manchester University, and worked in hospital administration before coming to Yale to earn advanced degrees in epidemiology and public health. You soon progressed through the academic ranks to become professor of public health in the Yale medical school and master of Jonathan Edwards College. At Yale, and in subsequent posts at Tulane University and the University of Pennsylvania, where you twice chaired the department of the history and sociology of science and now serve as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, you are known as an exceptional lecturer and mentor of graduate students. An expert in the historical evolution of the American health care system and the role of hospitals in determining health care policy, you have elucidated the present system's strengths and deficiencies. You have also contributed scholarly knowledge and perspective to one of the great questions of our time: how to provide all citizens access to the best possible medical care within the context of a free enterprise system.

For your outstanding career as policy analyst, scholar, administrator and teacher, the Yale Graduate School Alumni Association proudly presents to you its highest honor, the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal.

Geerat Jacobus Vermeij
'70 M. Phil., '71 Ph.D.

Distinguished evolutionary biologist, morphologist, paleontologist, naturalist, prolific author and inspiring teacher, you are revered for your extraordinary powers of observation and original way of thinking. Although your interest in science and particularly in shells began in a fourth-grade classroom, we begin here, in this brief tribute, with your bachelor's degree in biology from Princeton University, summa cum laude. You completed a doctorate at Yale in record time and then, through your study of shell and invertebrate morphology along dozens of shores all over the world, developed a theory of the evolution and diversification of species based on adaptation both to physical conditions and to predators in the environment over geological time. Your enthusiasm for research, for first-hand careful observation of species in their natural habitats, has been transmitted to your students at the University of Maryland and now, since 1989, to students and colleagues at the University of California at Davis. You are an inspiration to the learned world as a scientist and scholar of the first rank, and also as an advocate for aspiring scientists who seek to overcome perceived limitations to the full exercise of their talent and intellect.

For your prodigious contributions to evolutionary biology as researcher, theorist and teacher, in recognition of your unique capacities, the Yale Graduate School Alumni Association proudly awards you its highest honor, the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal.

C O M M E N C E M E N T1 9 9 9


Baccalaureate Address

Honorary Degrees

Senior Class Day

Teaching Prizes

Scholastic Prizes

Roosevelt L. Thompson Prize

Athletic Awards

David Everett Chantler Prize

Other Undergraduate Honors

Wilbur Cross Medals

Graduate Student Awards


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Conference to explore the future of language
Dr. William F. Collins is recognized for lifetime contributions to neurosurgery

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Pictured at the presentation of the Wilbur L. Cross Medals are (from left): Rosemary Stevens, Dr. Francis Collins, William Fenton, Dean Susan Hockfield, Geerat Vermeij and Allen Sessoms.