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Alumni to Honor Two Faculty for Research, Teaching Advancements During Founders' Weekend

Blake Wilson and Leonard White to receive awards for their contributions to society

Blake Wilson and Leonard White
Blake Wilson and Leonard White have advanced teaching and research on hearing and brain development.

Duke professors Blake S. Wilson B.S.E. ’74, Ph.D.’15 and Leonard White will be honored for their contributions to advancing research in the fields of hearing loss and brain development, respectively.

The awards will be presented by President Vincent E. Price and the Duke Alumni Association during Founders’ Weekend Sept. 26-28.

Wilson will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, the Duke Alumni Association’s highest honor given to alumni who have made outstanding contributions in service to Duke and toward the betterment of humanity through their field of work.

White will receive the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, a student-selected award sponsored by the Alumni Association for a Duke professor who has excelled as a teacher, advisor and leader of undergraduate students.

As an electrical engineer, scientist and adjunct professor in Duke’s Department of Surgery, Wilson is credited with inventing many of the sound-processing capabilities of the modern cochlear implant, which allows individuals with profound deafness to hear again.

The cochlear implant uses electrical signals that circumvent damaged hair cells of the inner ear and instead are sent directly to the auditory nerve.

In addition to his Distinguished Alumni Award, Wilson is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the 2013 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for his contributions to the modern cochlear implant.

White, an associate professor in neurology and psychology and the director of education for the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, is particularly interested in how the early stages of cognitive development for infants and children influences the formation of the brain later in life.

The field of neuroscience has been made even more fascinating for Duke students in White’s class because of the hands-on experience they get. As one undergraduate noted in White’s nomination, White’s class is the only one where the student could “hold a human brain in my hands.”

The Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, solely selected by Duke undergraduates via a competitive nomination process, recognizes professors who are creative and clear in the classroom and who foster an environment for learning that promotes intellectual curiosity, personal growth and achievement.

Founders’ Weekend, which celebrates the founding of Duke and provides an opportunity each year for the university to reflect on its history, also recognizes major contributions by students, faculty, administrators and employees.