For more than 25 years, the College of Liberal Arts and the CLA Alumni Board have recognized the outstanding achievements of our graduates through the Distinguished Alumni Award program. Recipients of this award have made significant contributions to their professions and society. Their accomplishments, affiliations, and careers honor the legacy of excellence in the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue.
Jennifer A. Lancaster
BA 1996, Political Science
For Jennifer Lancaster, the path to success was anything but direct. Her time at Purdue included dabbling in various majors, and by her own account, majoring in fun. It was in political science that she found herself truly engaged. There, she discovered abilities she did not know she had in terms of both writing and processing information. Little did she know that a few years after graduation, her dot-com bubble would burst, and force her to find her way down a road not yet traveled. First through her blog and then through five witty, hilarious memoirs, she made her way from the unemployment line to the New York Times best-seller list. In addition to her work as a Chicago Tribune-syndicated columnist, she completed her first novel in early 2011, opening the next chapter of her writing career.
Michael L. Radelet
PhD 1977, Sociology
Throughout his academic career, Michael Radelet, professor of sociology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, has worked actively to shape more just and humane policies on capital punishment. His research focuses on the issues of erroneous convictions, racial bias, public opinion, and medical involvement. He works closely with international organizations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International on death penalty issues. He has worked with scores of death row inmates, participating in last visits with several dozen individuals and testifying in 76 death penalty cases in a dozen states. More recently, he works with and learns from the families of murder victims where the cases have not been solved.
BA 1986, Communication
For nearly 15 years, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ginger Thompson served as Mexico bureau chief for the New York Times, providing indispensable reading for those who want to better understand the relationship between the United States, Mexico, Central America, and Haiti. Now, as a national correspondent for the New York Times in Washington, DC, she focuses on enterprise and investigative stories, including reports on military corruption, the role of private security contractors in war zones, and how immigration has changed America. As a reporter in New York, she contributed to coverage on the racial strife that was ignited after the shooting of an unarmed African immigrant. She then wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning series, “How Race is Lived in America.”
José H. Villarreal
BA 1975, Political Science
José Villarreal’s political involvement and service culminated with his appointment as commissioner general for Expo 2010 Shanghai, after which President Barack Obama accorded him the personal rank of ambassador. When not representing the United States abroad, he is an attorney in San Antonio, where he is a senior advisor at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. His political background includes senior roles in a number of presidential campaigns. He also has served on the governing boards of numerous organizations. Currently, he is on boards of the Center for American Progress and the New America Alliance, an organization of distinguished American Latino business leaders dedicated to philanthropy.
Visit www.cla.purdue.edu/alumni/awards for more information about the 2011 Distinguished Alumni or to nominate a Liberal Arts alumnus/alumna for next year’s awards.