As a faculty member Wrighton performed landmark studies on the conversion of solar energy into chemical fuels.
FSU alumnus Mark Wrighton, leader in higher education, is awarded honorary doctorate
Mark Wrighton, president of Washington University in St. Louis, is the latest recipient of an honorary degree from Florida State University. A renowned scientist and leader in higher education, Wrighton is a Florida State alumnus who received a bachelor of science in Chemistry with honors in 1969.
The honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was awarded at Spring Commencement ceremonies, where Wrighton served as keynote speaker.
His chemistry professor from those days, Jack Saltiel, calls him "the best undergraduate student I have known in more than 40 years of teaching at this institution."
After receiving his Ph.D. from Cal Tech in 1972, Wrighton joined the faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, quickly establishing himself as a leader in the field, and rising to the rank of tenured full professor by 1977, at the tender age of 28. His research talents were recognized in 1983 with a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant."
As a faculty member Wrighton performed landmark studies on the conversion of solar energy into chemical fuels. His research became the standard for inorganic photochemistry, and he opened new vistas in photocatalysis and the use of solar energy in photovoltaics. His creative work in electrochemistry introduced the world to new concepts in electronic devices.
In recognition of his incredible accomplishments, MIT created the Ciba-Geigy Chair especially for him, marking the first time an endowment at MIT supported both a professor's salary and his laboratory research.
Wrighton compiled an astonishingly successful research record, publishing more than 300 articles in refereed journals, being awarded 14 patents and delivering 40 named lectureships. During the same time he graduated 70 doctoral students, making an indelible impression on the field, not only through his own scientific achievements, but also through the success of his students.
His list of awards is overwhelming, including election as a Fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Chemical Society award in Pure Chemistry in 1981, and the Award in Inorganic Chemistry in 1988.
Not only did he excel as a research chemist and teacher, Wrighton took on challenging administrative duties, demonstrating leadership as an outstanding department chair and provost. His national visibility, even outside the academic realm, was high.
In 1995 he moved to Washington University in St. Louis in 1995 to assume the chancellorship. In that new position, he was expected to lead an ambitious capital campaign while challenging all of the units of the university to improve their quality. His accomplishments included 165 new endowed professorships, improved curriculum and international reputation.
Winning the esteem of the presidents of this country's elite universities, Wrighton was elected to the chairmanship of the Association of American Universities.
Wrighton's service has been sought at the highest levels. He was a presidential appointee to the National Science Board, which serves as science policy advisor to the President and Congress and is the primary advisory board to the National Science Foundation.
Commenting on Wrighton's honorary degree, Saltiel noted, "Universities single out their most distinguished alumni and honor them in recognition of their outstanding achievements. What is rare is when the awardee's accomplishments are so remarkable, so spectacular, that the mere acceptance of the honor honors the university more than the awardee. That is supremely so in the case of Mark Wrighton."