Percy Julian Award
The Percy Julian Award is named in honor of Dr. Percy Julian, an organic chemist with numerous scientific accomplishments and important figure in the social equality movement. A gift of $500 is awarded each year to an outstanding undergraduate student leader who is active in the promotion of diversity, social equality, or racial/ethnic and cultural understanding.
Percy Julian Award nominations take place in February and the winner is announced during the Percy Julian Graduation Reception, which takes place in April.
Dr. Percy Lavon Julian (1899–1975)
Percy Lavon Julian, an organic chemist, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1899. The grandson of slaves, he graduated with honors from DePauw University in 1920 and earned a master’s degree in chemistry from Harvard University in 1923. Teaching positions at Fisk University, West Virginia State College, and Howard University preceded his travel to Vienna for a fellowship in 1929. He received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Vienna in 1931 with research focused on the soybean.
As chief chemist and director of research for the Glidden Company beginning in 1936, Julian’s appointment became a watershed in the acceptance of African-American scientists. His entrepreneurship led to a research institute and the founding of Julian Laboratories, Inc. in 1953, with offices in Oak Park, Illinois and Mexico City, Mexico.
Over the course of his lifetime, Julian earned numerous awards, published over 200 journal papers, and held more than 100 patents, including synthetic applications of cortisone used in the treatment of arthritis, pharmaceuticals for glaucoma, and contributions toward inventions used in fire-extinguishing.
Beyond his scientific achievements, Julian involved himself in the movement for civic and social equality and received the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal in 1947. During the 1960s, he helped finance lawsuits for enforcement of civil rights legislation. Julian died in 1975; his life and work are a testament to the values of creativity, scholarship, commitment, and service.