May 5, 2014
Albion College Distinguished Alumnus James Curtis, '44, an esteemed psychiatrist whose published works include important insights into affirmative action policy and practice, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by his graduate alma mater, the University of Michigan, during its Commencement ceremony on May 3.
Curtis, who received an honorary doctorate from Albion in 1992 following his 1968 Distinguished Alumni Award, enjoyed a long and illustrious career, beginning at Wayne County General Hospital in 1947 and culminating as director of psychiatry at New York's Harlem Hospital Center and clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
In 1971, Curtis published the book Blacks, Medical Schools, and Society, which chronicled the beginning of affirmative action to increase the enrollment of African-Americans in U.S. medical schools. Nine years later, he wrote a book-length progress report evaluating outcomes in affirmative action's first decade of practice, outlining the still-formidable racial barriers. In 2003, he wrote Affirmative Action in Medicine: Improving Health Care for Everyone.
Born in Jeffersonville, Georgia, Curtis majored in biology at Albion and was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa/Mortar Board. An engaged and loyal Briton alumnus, Curtis returned to Albion upon his retirement in 2003 and established the James L. Curtis, M.D., '44 Endowed Scholarship Award in 2007. The scholarship provides African-American students at Albion College with the encouragement and opportunity needed to start their paths on successful professional careers.