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Female graduates Quillen GS ’91, Hobson ’91 receive top U. alumnus awards

Less than one week after the end of the celebration of women in She Roars, two University alumnae were named the recipients of the University’s most prestigious awards for alumni.

On Friday, the University announced President of Davidson College Carol Quillen GS ’91 and President of Ariel Investments Mellody Hobson ’91 as the recipients of the James Madison Medal and the Woodrow Wilson Award, respectively.


According to the Alumni Association website, the James Madison Medal is awarded to a graduate alumnus who has “had a distinguished career, advanced the cause of graduate education or achieved a record of outstanding public service.”

Similarly, recipients of the Woodrow Wilson Award are chosen because their achievements exemplify Woodrow Wilson’s unofficial motto, “In the nation’s service and in the service of humanity,” Wilson School dean Cecilia Rouse wrote in an email statement.  

Quillen, the recipient of the Madison Medal, expressed in a phone interview how humbled she felt by the recognition, saying that she went to school with people whom she would have nominated for the award before herself.

“Dr. Quillen has shown exceptional academic leadership and an abiding commitment to advancing higher education,” Dean of the Graduate School Sarah-Jane Leslie GS ’07 wrote in an email statement. “She is a terrific example of how our graduate alumni find all sorts of ways to make the world a better place.”

As president of Davidson since 2011, Quillen has pushed for student-centered original research and innovation initiatives. Additionally, she served on former president Obama’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, and still serves on the board of directors of several organizations, including American Council of Education and the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.

Quillen described the University as “the land of opportunity.”


“At Princeton, some of the most creative and thoughtful people I have ever met worked with me, even though I was not qualified or prepared to do graduate work in their fields,” said Quillen, who focused on American history. “Their willingness to let me study and learn was incredible.”

Quillen said that the memory of her time at the University guides her approach as an educator and administrator.

“That’s the kind of experience I want my students to have,” she said.

Like Quillen, Hobson expressed enduring love and gratitude toward the University.

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In addition to being president of Ariel Investments, Hobson is also a regular financial contributor on CBS News, and Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of After School Matters, a nonprofit that provides after-school and summer program opportunities to Chicago high school students. 

Hobson credits the University with much of her professional success.

“Princeton opened my eyes to possibilities of the world and gave me a world-class foundation to solve problems,” she said.

Most impactful to Hobson, above academics, was the University’s diverse environment.

“I learned to focus on the ideas, not the messengers of the ideas,” she explained.

Hobson added one final piece of advice: “Trust your gut. Don’t conform. Those who have done great things in society did so without permission.”

According to the Alumni Association website, the Woodrow Wilson Award is awarded annually to a graduate of the undergraduate college. Established in 1956 by an anonymous donor, the award’s recipients are selected by a committee composed of the chair of the Alumni Council, the Vice President and Secretary of the University and the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. 

The Madison Medal, established in 1973 by the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni, is awarded to a graduate school alumnus or alumna each year upon the recommendation of the APGA Committee on Nominations and Awards and the Madison Medal Selection Committee.