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Wolfram Earns State’s Highest Civilian Honor

Walt Wolfram, the William C. Friday Distinguished Professor at NC State, has been honored with the state of North Carolina’s highest civilian honor for his commitment to public service. Wolfram received the North Carolina Award at a ceremony hosted by Governor Pat McCrory.

Created by the General Assembly in 1961, the North Carolina Awards have been presented annually since 1964 to recognize significant contributions to the state and nation in the fields of fine arts, literature, public service and science.

The following is excerpted from the NC Department of Cultural Resources website for the North Carolina Awards:

Walt Wolfram is an internationally acclaimed linguist who has transformed the appreciation and understanding of the historical and social importance North Carolina’s rich language and dialect heritage.

Wolfram was appointed the William C. Friday Distinguished professor at NC State University in 1992, when he founded the North Carolina Language and Life Project that has become a national model for sociolinguistic engagement and the dissemination of knowledge to the public.

Walt Wolfram with Governor Pat McCrory.
Walt Wolfram with Governor Pat McCrory. Photo courtesy of the NC Dept. of Cultural Resources.

Wolfram developed the “principle of linguistic gratuity” emphasizing the importance of giving back to the communities where he collects data for his research studies. With a colleague, he developed the first statewide school curriculum in the United States on dialect and language that complements the study of state history for eighth grade students in North Carolina.

He continually engages the community through his work creating museum exhibits, appearing at the NC State Fair, serving as consultant to popular TV shows such as Sesame Street and creating eight documentaries on the dialects and languages of North Carolina.

Wolfram has been recognized for his outstanding work with many awards, including the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, the Holladay Medal for lifetime achievement at NC State University and the Linguistics, Language and the Public Award from the Linguistic Society of America. In addition, he has also been recognized with the NC State Alumni Association Research Award, the Graduate Professor Award and the Extension and Engagement Award.

NC State will light the Belltower red in honor of Wolfram on Thursday, January 16, when CHASS hosts a reception to celebrate his achievements. Join us in Caldwell Lounge at 5:00 pm.