Diverse: Issues in Higher Education has announced the Dr. John Hope Franklin Award presentation to Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., during the American Council on Education (ACE) meeting this April. According to Diverse, Jackson was named a 2009 recipient but regrettably, the award ceremony was canceled that year.
The Dr. John Hope Franklin Award was created in 2004 to pay tribute to Dr. Franklin, a historian, writer, educator, and humanitarian who made significant contributions to shaping the perspective of American history in the 20th Century.
With permission from the late Dr. Franklin, Diverse created the award to celebrate his scholarly contributions to the nation. The individuals and organizations chosen are those whose contributions are consistent with the highest standards of excellence. Past recipients include Dr. Clifton Wharton, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Maya Angelou, the late Dr. William Friday, and Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole.
Jackson is a theoretical physicist and inventor. In 2021, she retired as president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), where she was the first African American woman to lead a top-ranked research university. At her 1999 inauguration, she vowed to increase RPI’s profile; under her presidential tenure, more than $1.25 billion was invested, and state-of-the-art research platforms transformed the campus.
In February 2001, RPI said Jackson had ushered in the new millennium of the Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference by becoming the first woman to win the top award. The selection was announced by Career Communications Group (CCG), producers of the Black Engineer of the Year Awards.
Before her RPI presidency, Jackson was chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the first woman and African American to hold that position. From 1991 to 1995, Jackson worked as a professor of physics at Rutgers University, where she taught undergraduate and graduate students, conducted research, and supervised Ph.D. candidates while continuing work in semiconductor theory at AT&T Bell Laboratories.
Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., and attended Roosevelt Senior High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree and doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); she was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate from MIT and one of the first two African American women to receive a doctorate in physics in the U.S.
In 2014, President Obama appointed her co-chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, on which she served until Obama left office. In February 2020, she joined The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) global board of directors to help until 2029.