Alumna Receives Yale’s Highest Graduate Honor

Lynn Cooley, Dorceta Taylor, and Peter Salovey

Dr. Dorceta Taylor, (pictured in center) was presented with the Wilbur Cross Prize at a ceremony April 4, 2022. The award recognizes distinguished achievements in scholarship, teaching, academic administration and public service. With her are (at left) Yale Graduate of Arts and Sciences Dean Lynn Cooley; and (at right) Yale University President Peter Salovey.

Dr. Dorceta Taylor ’85 M.F.S., ’91 Ph.D., one of the nation’s leading environmental justice scholars and activists, was  named a recipient of the 2020 Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal, the highest honor Yale Graduate School bestows on its alumni.

Established in 1966, the award has been given to only two graduates of the Yale School of the Environment: John Aber ’73 M.F.S., ’76 Ph.D. and Eleanor Sterling ’83 B.A., ’93 Ph.D.

“This honor is incredibly well-deserved and an important recognition of Dorceta Taylor’s work,” said YSE Dean Indy Burke. “Throughout her career she has shown how issues of environmental justice are intrinsically linked to all the work that we do. Her scholarship has strengthened the entire field and continues to be an important resource in the teaching of our students today.”

Taylor is senior associate dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion and professor of environmental justice at the Yale School of the Environment.

She has written several books on diversity in the environmental movement, including “Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility” and the award-winning “The Environment and the People in American Cities,” as well as numerous scholarly articles.

Her watershed 2014 study on the state of diversity in nearly 200 U.S. environmental organizations brought into focus the staggering lack of people of color in the field and pushed many prominent organizations to commit to increasing diversity in their workforces.

Taylor’s critical work and scholarship has garnered many awards and accolades. Most recently, she was recognized by the AARP as “carrying on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy,” alongside Georgia politician Stacey Abrams and lawyer Bryan Stevenson.

In 2015, Taylor was awarded the Alumni Association Board's Distinguished Alumni Award.

Taylor received the Wilbur Cross award on April 4, 2022  (following a delay in the ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

This story was originally published on January 27, 2020 and was updated on April 8, 2022. 

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