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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., July 16, 2013—Francis Oakley, Williams College President Emeritus and the Edward Dorr Griffin Professor of the History of Ideas, Emeritus, received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Southern Methodist University during the university’s commencement on May 18.
A distinguished scholar, Oakley is the author of 14 books, coeditor of three others, and a frequent contributor to various journals on topics in medieval history and on American higher education. His most recent book is The Mortgage of the Past (Yale University Press, 2012). In 2004 his Conciliarist Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2003) was awarded the Roland Bainton Book Prize. In 2012 he received the Newberry Library Award for his outstanding achievements in and contributions to the humanities.
Oakley joined the Williams faculty in 1961, became dean of the faculty 1977 and moved on to serve as president from 1985 to 1993, when he resumed teaching. During his tenure as president, he oversaw a doubling in the college’s minority population and the naming of the college’s first women deans, led the college through a major curricular review—introducing the tutorial program—and leading to a successful completion of the $174 million bicentennial fund drive.
His past leadership includes serving as president of the New England Medieval Conference, of the Fellows of the Medieval Academy of America, and of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). He has also served as chairman of the boards of ACLS, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, and the National Humanities Center. He is a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an honorary fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.
A native of Liverpool, England, Oakley was educated at Oxford University (B.A./M.A. – First Class Honours), the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, and Yale University (M.A., Ph.D.). He also holds honorary degrees from Notre Dame, Northwestern and Wesleyan universities, from North Adams State College, and from Amherst, Bowdoin, and Williams Colleges.
Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.