Distinguished Alumni Award


Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. 78MA, 83PhD

2007 Achievement Award

Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., 78MA, 83PhD, is more than a leading scholar on race and communications in America; hes also a political scientist whose sense of community responsibility has driven his academic career.

Since earning a Ph.D. in political science from Iowa in 1983, Gilliams academic career has taken him from teaching positions at the University of Wisconsin to his current position at the University of California, Los Angeles.

A full professor of political science since 1996, Gilliam also serves as UCLAs associate vice chancellor for community partnerships. In addition, he is founding director of UCLAs Center for Communications and Community, which connects research on communications to neighborhood transformation.

Gilliams lifetime of work has evolved from examining questions about black political participation and empowerment, to investigating how blacks are portrayed in the news media, and to exploring how strategic communications influence public support for a broad range of social issues. The results of his innovative and effective research have consistently appeared in leading social science journals, while a comprehensive account of his recent experimental work will soon be available in a book from Princeton University Press.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Gilliams record is his success in bridging the gap between academics and the broader community. The first person in the University of California system to hold the title of associate vice chancellor, community partnerships, Gilliam directs the Center for Community Partnerships, which identifies and supports university and community leaders to use ideas and research in finding practical solutions for challenges facing the broader Los Angeles community. In less than five years, the center has supported more than 100 projects and provided some $2.5 million for campus-community collaborations.

Gilliams distinctive approach has produced such positive results for Los Angeles that he is now involved in applying the centers strategies to other metropolitan areas across the nation.

Recognized as a leader in this field, Gilliam has a long record of funding both from leading private foundations and from the National Science Foundation. He has consulted on a wide range of projects for groups like the Aspen Institute, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. He has been quoted in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe, and he makes frequent public appearances on the NBC Nightly News, ABC Nightly News, CNN, C-Span, and other television stations.

Despite his many professional obligations, this Iowa graduate has remained connected to the UI Department of Political Science and to the University of Iowa. His loyalty to the Iowa Hawkeyes runs deep (his father was a member of the 1957 Iowa Rose Bowl football team), and he has been a superb ambassador for the university and the state through the years.

As an educator, Gilliam has applied his ideas at a practical level to produce profound results in solving complex social issues within American culture. UI political science professor Doug Madsen says, Franklin Gilliams achievements are of great consequence. This work has deep meaning for him personally, but it also has deep meaning for Los Angeles and, really, for us all.


About Distinguished Alumni Awards

Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.


Related Content

Dozens of Iowa's most celebrated writers delve into the museum's collection for the new book, In a Time of Witness

The Tippie College of Business graduate is vice president of consumer creation strategy at the sportswear company's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

L.A.-based artist Charles Ray to receive CLAS Alumni Fellow award, give talks this month. Unpainted sculpture by Charles Ray, 1997, fiberglass and paint, 60x78x171 inches. Photograph by Josh White and courtesy of the Matthew Marks Gallery. Charles Ray (75BFA) was walking through the UI physics and astronomy department one day when he came across an inspiring scene. Ray, an art student whose curiosity extended far beyond the studio, hoped to hitch a ride out to the observatory for some evening stargazing. Instead, he found a group of students constructing a satellite bound for a space mission. "It just blew my mind," recalls Ray. Just as mind-blowing were the sculptures Ray was creating across the river, years before he would establish himself as one of the world's most important artists. For one physics-defying piece, he fashioned a 2,000-pound slab of concrete atop a slender tree trunk. For another, he dropped a massive wrecking ball onto a crumpled steel plate, as if Sputnik had just crashed outside the old Art Building. Charles Ray "It was such a formative experience for me," the Los Angeles-based sculptor says of his time in Iowa City. "It did something to my soul and my brain. Even though I was young, the university and my mentors gave me a great deal of independence. My curiosity was endless." A professor emeritus at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, Ray returns to campus this month to speak and receive the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Alumni Fellow award. Rather than just waxing nostalgic about his time at Iowa, Ray has organized a three-day lecture series April 16-18 with two fellow art scholars. Iowa native Graham Harman, a philosophy professor at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, will open the series by discussing his theory of aesthetics known as object-oriented ontology. On the second day, Ray will speak about the nature of sculptural objects. And Richard Neer, an art historian at the University of Chicago, will bookend the series by lecturing on the question of provenance, or art's origin. Ray will also give a separate public lecture April 17 in Art Building West titled "My Soul is an Object." Recognized as one of the leading artists of his generation, Ray is known for his strange and enigmatic sculptures so loaded with nods to the past that they've been called "catnip for art historians." His 2014 Horse and Rider, for example, is a 10-ton solid stainless steel work in the tradition of a war memorial, but depicts the artist slouch-shouldered atop a weary nag. Ray is also famous for his wry re-imaginings of familiar objects, like the 47-foot-long replica of a red toy fire truck that he parked in front of New York's Whitney Museum of American Art for a 1993 biennial exhibition. Ray and his studio team often spend years working on a given piece, which can fetch as much as seven figures at auction. His sculptures can be found at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among other major U.S. museums. Ray is currently preparing for a retrospective show in Paris next year?one of several upcoming international exhibitions. Isabel Barbuzza, UI associate professor of sculpture, describes Ray's work as beautiful and witty, while using scale in unexpected ways. Ray's 8-foot-tall Boy with Frog?commissioned for a prominent spot in Venice, Italy, then removed after some controversy (a version now stands outside the Getty Museum in Los Angeles)?is among Barbuzza's favorites. "His sculptures have a presence you can only see when you're in front of the work," she says. "They're very moving, and to me it's interesting what happens with scale?the viewer relates to the piece in a very profound way." Steve McGuire (83MA, 90PhD), director of the School of Art and Art History, says few others have contributed more to contemporary art than Ray. "This is a big deal for us to be able to celebrate his career," McGuire says of presenting Ray with the alumni fellow award. "I think it's pretty meaningful to him, and of course it's really meaningful for our school." A Chicago native, Ray arrived at Iowa as a gifted artist but hardly a model student. Ray's dyslexia made schoolwork a chore, and his parents had sent him to military school with the hopes of straightening out his academics. It was at the UI, however, where he finally found his language in the studio and, in turn, his footing in the classroom. "Through the syntax of sculpture, I could express myself intellectually for the first time," Ray says. "That gave me a kind of confidence." Ray studied under UI art school pillars like Wallace Tomasini, Julius Schmidt, and Hans Breder. But it was his bond with Roland Brenner?a South African professor and former pupil of sculptor Anthony Caro?that proved to be the most influential. Ray still remembers his first sculpture in Brenner's class, a steel configuration with long stems and discs at the end. Its bouquet-like resemblance didn't sit well with Brenner. "That showed me you made something, but didn't want to discover something," Ray recalls Brenner telling him. "Don't ever do that in my class again." The two would become lifelong friends. Iowa City is a different place today than the 1970s, particularly the transformation of the arts campus after the flood of 2008, Ray says. Still, his visits back to campus over the years always remind him of those crisp and clear Iowa nights at the observatory and gazing out the studio window while exploring the frontiers of sculpture. "It feels like you can see right through the galaxy when you look up," Ray says. Handheld bird by Charles Ray, 2006, painted steel, 2x4x3 inches The UI is home to six pieces by Ray, all found in the Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building and displayed through the university's Art on Campus program. Among them is Handheld bird, a tiny but ornate piece depicting a creature in an embryonic state. Lunchtime Lecture Series What: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences fellow Charles Ray and two guest art scholars?Graham Harman and Richard Neer?will deliver a series of public lectures this month at the UI. When, where: 12:20 p.m. April 16?18 at Art Building West, room 240, 141 N. Riverside Drive, Iowa City More information: events.uiowa.edu/26915 My Soul is an Object: Artist Talk with Charles Ray What: A public lecture by renowned sculptor and UI alumnus Charles Ray When, where: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 17, at Art Building West, room 240, 141 N. Riverside Drive, Iowa City More about Ray: charlesraysculpture.com/ Support the UI School of Art and Art History

Past Dance Marathon participants who spent 24 hours on their feet For The Kids (FTK) are invited to join the Dance Marathon Alumni Group (DMAG).

We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies in accordance with our Privacy Statement unless you have disabled them in your browser.