An acclaimed historian of the Caribbean and a multidisciplinary professor of the built environment have been appointed the newest A.D. White Professors-at-Large.
Sir Hilary Beckles, vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and a noted reparations advocate, and Mabel O. Wilson, the Nancy and George Rupp Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, will join 18 other distinguished artists and scientists serving six-year terms.
In addition, three full visits by current A.D. White Professors have been scheduled for the fall 2022 semester: artist Xu Bing (Oct. 17-21; visit may be impacted by travel restrictions); architect Brinda Somaya (Oct. 24-28); and film industry executive Keri Putnam (Nov. 14-18), who will travel to both Cornell Tech and the Ithaca campus, the first dual-campus visit in program history.
Beckles, whose faculty hosts are Judith Byfield, professor of history, and Ernesto Bassi, associate professor of history, both in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been on the faculty at UWI since 1991. He is recognized for his contributions to the field of economic history as a means of exploring reparatory justice for slavery and the history of slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean.
Beckles, who received his doctorate in 1980 from Hull University in the United Kingdom, has written 13 books, eight plays and more than 100 peer-reviewed essays on issues including the history of slavery; gender relations in the Caribbean; sports; and popular culture. He has lectured extensively throughout Europe and Asia.
In September, Beckles will give the Einaudi Distinguished Speaker Series lecture, “The Coming Enlightenment: The University Sector and Reparatory Justice for Slavery and Colonialism,” as part of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program’s 60th anniversary celebration. That talk is scheduled for Sept. 16, at 4:30 p.m. in Rhodes-Rawlings Hall.
Wilson, whose faculty hosts are Dean Meejin Yoon, B.Arch. ’95, of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, and Sean Anderson, associate professor of architecture (AAP), joined the Columbia faculty in 2007 and has held appointments in architecture and in the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department. In 2020, Wilson was named director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia.
Since 2009, she has served as the co-director of Global Africa Lab, an innovative research initiative that explores the spatial topologies of the African continent and its diaspora. She is also a founding member of Who Builds Your Architecture?, a coalition of architects, activists, educators and scholars that examines the connections between labor, architecture and the global networks that form through development of the built environment.
In 2021, Wilson co-curated a major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art showcasing the work of African American and African Diasporic architects, the first exhibition of this kind in the museum’s history. That same year, Wilson was awarded the National Building Museum’s Vince Scully Prize, which recognizes exemplary achievement in the built environment.
Wilson received her doctorate in American studies in 2007 from York University in Toronto.
The professors-at-large program at Cornell sponsors outstanding scholars and public intellectuals in the life sciences, physical sciences, humanities, social sciences and the arts. Previous professors-at-large include writer and actor John Cleese, primatologist Jane Goodall, jazz great Wynton Marsalis and novelist Toni Morrison, M.A. ’55.
Twice during their terms, professors-at-large visit campus for about a week while classes are in session to interact with students and faculty, and enliven the intellectual and cultural life of the university. The program sponsors up to six visits per academic year, as well as activities such as public lectures and seminars.