News and Events
James Q. Wilson, the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine, Passes
The Pepperdine community was saddened to learn that Dr. James Q. Wilson, the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine and recipient of the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, passed away March 2. He was 80 years-old.
Andrew K. Benton, president of Pepperdine University, said of him, "Dr. Wilson single-handedly changed the American conversation in many different and substantive areas. He was a wonderful friend, mentor to students, exemplary scholar and statesmen. He was one of America's academic treasures."
James R. Wilburn, dean of Pepperdine's School of Public Policy, noted, "James Q. Wilson was one of the most inventive and auspicious political thinkers and intellectual leaders of our time. As one who helped to found the Pepperdine policy program, his frequent counsel to our faculty and commitment to our students was unwavering. He was a dear friend, counselor, and confidant who made an indelible mark on the public policy school and all who met him." He added, "We will continue to remind students each year of the incredible example he set and encourage them to pursue his exemplary model of leadership, vast community service, and dedication to political truths."
Wilson enjoyed a long storied career in the public policy arena. From 1961 to 1987, he taught political science at Harvard University, where he was the Shattuck Professor of Government. He also served as the James Collins Professor of Management and Public Policy at UCLA for a decade before his appointment at Pepperdine.
Wilson is the author or coauthor of more than 15 books, including The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families (Harper Collins, 2002), Moral Judgment (Perseus, 1997), and The Moral Sense (Free Press, 1993). Others include American Government, Bureaucracy, Thinking About Crime, Varieties of Police Behavior, Political Organizations, and Crime and Human Nature (with Richard J. Herrnstein).
In addition, he edited or contributed to books on urban problems, government regulation of business, and the prevention of delinquency among children. Many of his writings on morality and human character have been collected in On Character: Essays by James Q. Wilson. His textbook on American government is more widely used on University campuses than any other government textbook.
Wilson chaired and served on a number of national commissions, including the White House Task Force on Crime, the National Advisory Commission on Drug Abuse Prevention, the Attorney General's Task Force on Violent Crime, the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and the President's Council on Bioethics.
In addition, he served as president of the American Political Science Association which presented him with several prestigious awards honoring his lifetime of service. Wilson was honored by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation as a recipient of the 2007 Bradley Prize.
Wilson was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Educated at the University of Redlands (AB, 1952) and the University of Chicago (PhD, 1959), he received honorary degrees from six universities, including Harvard.
In April 1999, Wilson received his Doctor of Laws degree (LLD) from Pepperdine, the University's highest award of recognition. In the fall of that year, he was named Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy. The Reagan professorship was made possible by a gift from Flora Thornton, a longtime member of the Pepperdine Board of Regents.
Memorial services are currently pending.