Dr. Bobby Wilson Receives Lifetime Mentor Award


Bobby WilsonDr. Bobby Wilson has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) “for his extraordinary efforts to significantly increase the number of African Americans with Ph.D. degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).”

Dr. Wilson—who serves as the L. Lloyd Woods Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Shell Oil Endowed Chaired Professor of Environmental Toxicology at the Texas Southern University—will receive the 2011 AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement during a 17 February ceremony at the 2012 AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (See www.aaas.org/meetings.)

A nationally regarded research chemist and a Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Toxicology, Dr. Wilson excels at inspiring and encouraging his students to achieve at the very highest levels: He has so far mentored 19 Ph.D.s from the United States who are from underrepresented groups in STEM, including eight African American males and 11 African American females.

In a letter of nomination, Dr. Martin V. Bonsangue, Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Mathematics at California State University at Fullerton, noted that a total of 24 African American students in the United States received doctoral degrees in disciplines linked to environmental engineering technologies during the period from 2000 to 2009. Nine of those students—more than a third of all those across the nation—were Dr. Wilson’s students.

“In a career in academics spanning more than forty years, Dr. Bobby Wilson has had a significant impact on students, faculty, programs, institutions, and communities,” Dr. Bonsangue wrote. “Dr. Wilson is more than a scholar, mentor, leader and a trailblazer; he is a national treasure.”

Over the years, Dr. Wilson also has served as a program director for institutional support programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF). His activities have included, for example, service as Principal Investigator and/or Co-Principal Investigator for two major NSF programs in the Houston area: the Houston Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, and the Texas Southern University Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program.

“His educational philosophy is based on a belief that a quality education is not only about providing students with information, but also leading them toward personal growth,” said Yolanda S. George, deputy director of Education and Human Resources at AAAS. “His lifelong contributions as a mentor and a role model have been truly exemplary.”

Dr. Wilson earned his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Alabama State University. Then he obtained his Master’s degree from Southern University. He received a Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Michigan State University in 1976.

His many honors have included being named Texas Southern University Researcher of the Year in 1988, and receiving the First White House Initiative Faculty Award for Excellence in Science and Technology in 1988. He also has received an Outstanding Teacher Award from his institution, and he is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemists, the Texas Academy of Science, and the American Scientific Institute. He is an active member of many professional organizations, including the Beta Kappa Chi Honor Society and the National Organization for the professional advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE). He served as Regional Chairman of NOBCChE from 1978 until 1996, and he is now Chairman of the Executive Board of NOBCChE.

“Dr. Wilson has worked very hard to exemplify excellence in teaching, research and service, and has encouraged others to do the same,” said Dr. Della D. Bell, a Professor of Mathematics and Interim Director of Developmental Education at Texas Southern University.

The many nomination letters supporting Dr. Wilson’s AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award included one from former student Dr. Lamont R. Terrell, an Investigator in Medicinal Chemistry for GlaxoSmithKline. Calling Dr. Wilson “instrumental” to his academic and professional achievements, Dr. Terrell wrote: “Dr. Wilson willingly went the extra mile and challenged us both in the classroom as well as in the laboratory. At the time I didn’t appreciate the many hours that he spent preparing me for research presentations, but the discipline that I learned from those long nights and coaching sessions still remains valuable in my professional career today.”

Yet another former student, Dr. Malinda Wilson-Gilmore, now an Assistant Professor at Alabama A&M University, wrote: “I am truly fortunate to have had such a wonderful, powerful, educated and thoughtful mentor and role model as Dr. Wilson.” Nominator Dr. Noreen Khan-Mayberry, a NASA Space Toxicologist and a Fellow in the International Congress of Disaster Management, said of Dr. Wilson: “His ability to remain grounded and remain focused on developing students into scientific leaders is uncanny and by far his crowning legacy and proof of his global impact.”

Established by the AAAS Board of Directors in 1991, the AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement recognizes individuals who have, for more than 25 years, mentored significant numbers of underrepresented students (women, minorities, and persons with disabilities) toward the completion of doctoral studies and/or significantly affected the climate of a department, college or institution, or field in such a manner as to significantly increase the diversity of students pursuing and completing doctorates in the sciences. Also considered are nominees’ demonstrated scholarship, activism and community building. The award includes a monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, and complimentary registration for the AAAS Annual Meeting.

The AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award will be presented at the 178th AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver, B.C., which will take place 16-20 February 2012. The awards ceremony and reception will be held in Ballroom B of the Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building, on Friday, 17 February at 6:00 p.m.

Each year, the AAAS Board of Directors also bestows a Mentor Award, in addition to the Lifetime Mentor Award. The Mentor Award this year will go to Dr. Rory A. Cooper, who serves as distinguished professor and FISA-Paralyzed Veterans of America Chair for the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Cooper was honored “for his dedication and successful efforts to increase the number of women and persons with disabilities with doctoral degrees in rehabilitation science.”

CONTACTS: Dr. Wilson, the 2011 winner of the AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award, can be reached at (713) 313-7542, or via email, Wilson_BL@tsu.edu. Dr. Cooper, winner of the 2011 AAAS Mentor Award, can be reached at (412) 383-6596, or via email, rcooper@pitt.edu. For general information on the AAAS Awards ceremony or other background, Senior Communications Officer Katharine Zambon of AAAS can be reached at (202) 326-6434, or kzambon@aaas.org.