On Sept. 1, Michigan State University Press released “Privilege and Prejudice,” an autobiography of former MSU president Clifton Wharton Jr.
In his own words, Wharton documents the challenges of competing in a society in which obstacles, negative expectations and stereotypical thinking prevailed.
Wharton was just 43 years old when he became president of MSU in 1970, and the first African-American to lead a major research university. He later became chancellor of 64-campus State University of New York System.
Wharton entered Harvard University at age 16 and was the first African-American student accepted to the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. He went on to receive a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago—another first.
For 22 years Wharton promoted agricultural development in Latin America and Southeast Asia, earning a post as chairperson of the Rockefeller Foundation. As chairperson and CEO of TIAA-CREF, he was the first African-American CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Wharton’s commitment to excellence culminated in his appointment as deputy secretary of state during the Clinton administration.
Wharton held appointments under six U.S. presidents. He served as a member of the advisory panel on East Asia and the Pacific of the U.S. Department of State; he was a member of the Presidential Task Force on Agriculture in Vietnam; a member of Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s President Mission to Latin America and a member of President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on World Hunger.
Wharton also was appointed by Carter and President Gerald R. Ford to serve as chairperson of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development of the State Department’s AID Program. He was co-chairperson of the Commission on Security and Economic Assistance, U.S. Department of State, and was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Advisory Commission on Trade Policy and Negotiations.
Wharton and his wife, Dolores, were avid supporters of the arts, often admiring the arts’ ability to draw together people of all cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. As such, in 1982, MSU’s Board of Trustees named a new performing arts facility the Clifton and Dolores Wharton Center for Performing Arts, which is now Michigan’s largest performing arts venue.
He will return to campus on Nov. 2 to reflect on his career as part of Wharton Center’s Signature Lecture Series, hosting a discussion at Wharton Center with MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.
MSU Press is one of only 130 academic book publishers in the United States, publishing 140 books each year. In 2014, 17 books published by MSU Press received prestigious scholarly and industry awards resulting in a record-setting year.