May-June 2008 Issue • Volume 36 • Issue 5

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Doris Wilkinson Receives Honors

by Florence Bonner, Howard University and Jean H. Shin, ASA Minority Affairs Program

Doris Y. Wilkinson, University of Kentucky and best known for her pioneering work on critical race theory and the sociology of health and illness, was honored recently by her university. In October, the University of Kentucky announced the opening of the Doris Y. Wilkinson Conference Room in the school’s Breckenridge Hall, in facilities shared by the African American Studies and Research Program and the Gender and Women’s Studies Program. It was also announced that the university would establish an endowed professorship, titled the Doris Wilkinson Distinguished Professorship in Sociology and the Humanities, which honors Wilkinson’s outstanding career in the discipline.

In announcing these honors, Patrick H. Mooney, chair of the department of sociology said, "I have had the pleasure of serving for 22 years as Doris Wilkinson’s colleague... She has been a role model, an inspiration and a good friend." Fundraising continues for the endowed professorship.

A Profession and Role Model

Doris Wilkinson

In particular, the endowed professorship honors Wilkinson’s many contributions to the university, the department of sociology, and the state, according to her University of Kentucky colleagues. It promises to do much more in the long run, for it also highlights a woman of color who has contributed greatly to the discipline and who can be seen more broadly as a role model for emerging female scholars in the discipline. In 1967 Wilkinson, a 1958 University of Kentucky graduate, became the first full-time African American female faculty member hired by the university (she completed her doctorate at Case Western Reserve University in 1968). During her career there, Wilkinson founded the first social club for black women and was appointed as the first director of "Black Studies," which she re-named the African American Studies and Research Program. She established the Forum for Black Faculty, the Carter G. Woodson Lecture Series for untenured faculty, a faculty newsletter, and the long-running Black Women’s Conference. Outside the University of Kentucky, she created the African-American Heritage Trail in downtown Lexington, an educational tour popular with tourists. She has also created numerous educational exhibits including "Warriors in the Shadows: Women of the Underground Railroad."

Her contributions to the profession and discipline are equally note-worthy, as she has held offices and provided leadership locally, regionally, and nationally. She has been vice president of the American Sociological Association, president of three other professional societies, and earlier in her career served as Executive Associate for Careers, Minorities, and Women at the ASA Executive Office.

Contributions to Sociology

Of Wilkinson’s honor, Essie Manuel Rutledge, emeritus professor at Western Illinois University, wrote, "She is a prolific scholar, mentor, role model, and an unselfish, supportive colleague. Therefore, an [endowed professorship] named in her honor at her alma mater and institution where she has spent most of her academic career, is an honor most deserved. In whatever program or office she has held in the profession, she has always included women, African Americans, and other people of color, who were less visible in the profession. Congratulations and best wishes." And James E. Blackwell, professor of sociology emeritus at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, added, "In establishing the endowed professorship, the University of Kentucky honors the long and distinguished career of one of our premier sociologists. The high esteem and respect of her colleagues for her contributions as a scholar and to the profession is evident by their elevation of her to outstanding leadership roles in national and regional sociological organizations as well as in her superb chronicles of African American life and culture in Kentucky. I am deeply honored to join in this richly deserved tribute to a scholar and friend." small_green.gif


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