Walt Wolfram, linguist and director of the Language and Life Project at NC State, has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He joins a roster of notable figures including Margaret Mead, Nelson Mandela and Alexander Graham Bell who, according to the academy, “cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people.” The academy brings together leaders across fields and disciplines to address topics both national and global such as civic engagement, alternative energy and access to education.
“I felt humbled and, to be honest, rather unworthy to be inducted into such an austere body of leaders, scholars and innovators,” Wolfram says. “At the same time, I am honored to be recognized since my focus on language and society is unique.”
Wolfram, a William C. Friday Distinguished University Professor, is a pioneer in the field of linguistics who has published more than 20 books and 300 articles. He founded the Language and Life Project in 1993 to document the dialects and culture of North Carolina and beyond. Last year he received the UNC System’s Gov. James E. Holshouser Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service. He received the North Carolina Award — the state’s highest civilian honor — in 2013 and the Language, Linguistics and the Public Award from the Linguistic Society of America in 2010. He has served as president of the society along with the Southeastern Conference on Linguistics and the American Dialect Society.
His first project with the academy is “The Public Face of Science” and studies society’s relationship with scientists, research and discovery.
Jeffery Braden, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, says Wolfram is the first humanist from NC State to gain entry to the academy and that it’s an honor for the university as a whole.
“The impact of Walt’s induction goes far beyond his department or our college; it is a statement about our campus,” he says. “Walt’s induction tells the rest of the world that NC State takes a back seat to nobody when it comes to excellence in all fields of scholarship — including the humanities.”