NC State’s Walt Wolfram Receives UNC System’s Holshouser Award

Walt Wolfram

Walt Wolfram, William C. Friday Distinguished University Professor at North Carolina State University, has been honored with the 2018 Gov. James E. Holshouser Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service.

The Holshouser Award is bestowed each year on one faculty member from the UNC System who “exemplifies public service toward improving the quality of life for all North Carolinians.”

Wolfram has pioneered research on social and ethnic dialects and is one of the world’s foremost scholars in the field of African American English. He founded and directs the Language and Life Project at NC State, a nonprofit outreach education endeavor to document and celebrate dialects, languages and cultures of the United States.

Over the last two decades, Wolfram and his students have conducted more than 4,350 sociolinguistic interviews with residents of North Carolina and beyond, primarily under funding from the National Science Foundation.

Wolfram is particularly well known to the people of North Carolina for award-winning documentaries such as “Indian by Birth: The Lumbee Dialect,” “Mountain Talk,” “Core Sounders” and “Talking Black in America.” He has also published more than 20 books and over 300 articles.

Wolfram has dedicated his career to the delivery of sociolinguistic information to the public, including the production of a number of television documentaries, the construction of museum exhibits and the development of innovative educational materials related to language diversity, including a Department of Public Instruction-endorsed middle school curriculum “Voices of Carolina.”

He has received numerous awards, including the North Carolina Award (the highest award given to a citizen of North Carolina), the Caldwell Humanities Laureate from the North Carolina Humanities Council, the Holladay Medal from NC State, and the Linguistics, Language and the Public Award from the Linguistic Society of America.

Wolfram has served as president of the Linguistic Society of America, the American Dialect Society and the Southeastern Conference on Linguistics. 

Wolfram received his bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Wheaton College and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in linguistics from Hartford Seminary Foundation. He also holds adjunct faculty appointments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University.

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