Poli Sci prof named Alumni Medal winner

By Sarah Hetherington

James Q. Wilson, A.M. ’57, Ph.D. ’59, a prominent political scientist and professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, is this year’s recipient of the Alumni Medal, which honors exceptional achievement spanning an entire career.

The medal, which is the highest honor bestowed by the Alumni Association, will be presented to Wilson at the Alumni Weekend Convocation this Saturday. Wilson will also deliver the Convocation address.

In a 2003 ceremony honoring Wilson with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, President George Bush referred to Wilson as “the most influential political scientist in America since the White House was home to Professor Woodrow Wilson.”

Wilson’s focus on urban politics, crime, and public policy began in the early 1960s. Along with George L. Kelling, currently a Rutgers University professor and fellow in Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Wilson coauthored an article published in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly entitled “Broken Windows.”

The article proposed that vandalism of a city building could be prevented if other problems with the building—such as broken windows—are repaired quickly and efficiently, thus deterring vandals from doing any further damage. The idea was coined as the “Broken Windows Theory” and was most widely implemented by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after his election in 1993.

Recently, Wilson has also studied the intersection between modern American culture and morality, authoring books such as On Character, The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families, Moral Judgment, and The Moral Sense.

His textbook, American Government, is considered a standard for political science and public policy classes and, according to Pepperdine University, is more widely used on college campuses that any other government textbook.

He has held teaching positions at Harvard University and the University of California–Los Angeles, and currently serves as the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University.

The University of Chicago Chronicle quoted a written recommendation nominating Wilson for the medal:

“Wilson has often expressed…the importance of his education at the University of Chicago and the debt he owes to our University. It was at Chicago where he acquired his devotion to sound empirical research, his appreciation of the big questions, his courage to cross disciplinary boundaries, and his willingness to think thoughts out of fashion.”