He's already got two Pulitzer Prizes, but John Noble Wilford will soon have an honorary doctorate to hang alongside them.
A 1955 journalism graduate, Wilford will receive an honorary doctorate of letters and science at the College of Communication and Information ceremony on May 7 at 4:30 p.m. inside Thompson-Boling Arena.
In the winter Board of Trustees meeting last week, the board approved the degree, making this year's ceremony UT Knoxville's sixth honorary degree.
After graduating from UT, Wilford started quickly in 1956 as a general assignment reporter for the Wall Street Journal, occasionally covering medical news. Six years later, he joined Time magazine as a contributing science editor. By 1965, Wilford was on the staff of the New York Times as a science reporter, going on to serve as a national news editor before being promoted to director of science news in 1975. Though he retired from the Times as a senior science correspondent in 2009, Wilford still writes occasional pieces on archaeology and paleontology, among other subjects.
"Mr. Wilford's words have allowed people around the world to experience history in the making, from traveling to the moon to discovering new planets," Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said in a university release. "His dedication to creating and sharing knowledge is at the heart of what we value at UT.
"And while he has made a profound impact on the world of science journalism, he has never forgotten his alma mater — generously donating his time, talent and treasure to UT."
Wilford wrote the Times' front-page story about the first walk on the moon, a story that is the most widely used account of the historic event. He also covered all three Apollo missions for the Times, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for his reporting of science and space exploration. His second Pulitzer came in 1987 as recognition for his work on the reporting team that covered the space shuttle Challenger disaster.
"Mr. Wilford is widely regarded as the best science journalist over the last 40 years and is our college's most distinguished alumnus," College of Communication and Information Dean Mike Wirth said in the university release. "His devotion to covering science and helping nonscientists gain a better understanding of the scientific world make him most deserving of this distinguished honor."
Wilford served on the College of Communication and Information's Board of Visitors and was the first to hold the UT-Knoxville Chair of Excellence in Science Journalism. He has also delivered the Alfred and Julia Hill Distinguished Lecture, and in 2009, received CCI's highest alumni honor, the Donald G. Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award.
His books include: "We Reach the Moon," "The Mapmakers," "Mars Beckons" and "The Mysterious History of Columbus." He also co-authored "Cosmic Dispatches."