LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 20, 2010) - Humble and gentile, yet full of perseverance and ambition, University of Kentucky sociology professor Doris Wilkinson has been educating residents of Lexington, Ky. and the nation since her arrival on campus in 1954.
"Oh, I've been here 100 years," she laughed. "And I cannot imagine having worked in any other capacity other than as a teacher."
In response to her work, influence and accomplishment, Wilkinson has been selected by the American Sociological Association as one of two recipients of the 2010 Award for Public Understanding of Sociology.
"Wilkinson has a long and distinguished career of service to the discipline, personal and professional achievements and public education outreach that together make major contributions to the public understanding of sociology," said the ASA award letter.
Born and raised in The Commonwealth, Wilkinson has been true to herself and her roots throughout life as a student, professor and mentor.
Wilkinson was a pioneer in the desegregation of UK, enrolling as a freshman a few months after the historic Supreme Court decision and becoming the first black student to graduate in 1957. In 1967, she became the first full-time black female faculty member at the University of Kentucky.
She is best known within sociology for her pioneering work on critical race theory and the sociology of health and illness.
Wilkinson became the founder and first director of the UK African American Studies and Research Program and founded a Forum for Black Faculty, the Carter G. Woodson Lecture Series and the Black Women’s Conference.
"I applaud the ways in which Dr. Wilkinson has honored and preserved the historic legacy and contributions of African Americans through her research," said AASRP Director Sonja Feist-Price.
For over 40 years, Wilkinson’s research and writings have helped to bring sociological understanding of race and ethnic relations; class and gender; occupations and professions; and social change and social movements to a broad public audience on university campuses and throughout society.
"At the graduate level as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Case Western Reserve, sociology gave me a language with which to describe the social world and the realities that I encountered," she said. "While the piano and writing are my escape routes, the world around me - the human arena - is my laboratory for sociological research."
Wilkinson co-edited Race, Class & Gender: Common Bonds, Different Voices with Esther Chow and Maxine Baca Zinn, one of the first readers to examine the intersectionality between race, ethnicity and gender. She edited one of the first works on The Black Male in America and "Black Male-White Female." Her work is contained in "Imagine a World: Pioneering Black Women Sociologists."
With Marvin Sussman, she co-authored Alternative Health Maintenance and Healing Systems for Families. This book emphasizes that alternative health customs and practices do not have to be in conflict with modern medical practices.
"Wilkinson’s accomplishments are particularly compelling when viewed from the exclusionary educational, economic, legal, social and racial context in which they occurred," said the ASA award letter. "Her research connects with historical and contemporary issues of great public interest, making her findings easily engaging to a broader audience."
Wilkinson has served as president of the Eastern Sociological Society, vice president of the American Sociological Association, president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems and president of the District of Columbia Sociological Society.
While serving as executive associate at the ASA, she was awarded a grant from the National Institute of Education to establish a research skills institute for women and minorities. In addition, she has served on the board of scientific counselors of the National Cancer Institute and was awarded a contract from the Southern Education Foundation to study black colleges and universities.
"Professor Wilkinson is one of UK's treasures," said Provost Kumble Subbaswamy. "She has been an inspiration to generations of students and scholars, and continues to do so even as she approaches retirement."
Wilkinson will be honored during the ASA's 105th Annual Meeting this year from August 14-17 in Atlanta.
"I was blessed to have known and worked with Professor Constance Wilson as an undergraduate," she said. "UK was receptive to and supportive of my work. It is not likely that I would have endured without their presence in framing the culture of the university and their genuine understanding and appreciation of diversity."