- Honorary Degree (2007)
- Doctor of Humane Letters
- Bloomington, Indiana
- Presenter: Adam W. Herbert
- Distinguished Alumni Service Award (2005)
IU alumna Jeri Taylor has had an enormously successful career in Hollywood as a writer, director, and producer of some of America's most popular television series for the past 30 years. In the process, she has influenced the cultural life of the nation.
Jeri Taylor graduated Phi Beta Kappa from IU with honors in 1959 earning an A.B. degree in English. She went on to earn an M.A. degree in English from California State University-Northridge, where she taught for a time before turning her hand to sports reporting and to raising a family.
Beginning in the early 1970s, she wrote for a broad range of television programs including Quincy, Little House on the Prairie, Blue Thunder, Jake and the Fatman, and Magnum, P.I. In addition, she wrote and produced several movies for television. In 1990, her career reached a new plateau of achievement when she agreed to write, produce, and in some cases create series for the enduringly popular Star Trek franchise, a popular culture institution from the late 1960s to the present. She was writer and producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), Star Trek: Voyager (1995-1998), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and, after her retirement, such projects as Star Trek: The Experience (2004) and Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force (2000).
Taylor also published novels based on characters she developed for Star Trek, including Pathways (1998), Mosaic (1996), and Star Trek: Unification (1991). Especially acclaimed is Mosaic, which provides the "backstory" or life of Star Trek: Voyager's Captain Kathryn Janeway, the first woman ever to command a starship.
Stephen Watt, former chair of the English department at IU Bloomington, notes that the various Star Trek series for which Taylor wrote and produced "have been applauded inside and outside the academy for their Utopian vision, commitment to a future of social justice and equality, and complex moral scope." He also writes: "Jeri Taylor is, for an adoring audience, the genius behind the most liberated and intelligent years of the cultural institution that Star Trek has become."
The editor of Science Fiction Studies, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., a faculty member at DePauw University, notes that Star Trek has been syndicated in most European languages, as well as Japanese and Chinese. He says of the series: "Star Trek is probably the single most watched work of science fiction that television has ever produced, the first to demonstrate the genre's power to express the central social and psychological concerns of our high-tech age." He specifically cites Taylor's work on Star Trek: Voyager, saying that with this series, "Jeri Taylor expanded the boundaries of Star Trek's powerful mythology."
Commenting on Taylor's achievements, Walter Gantz, chair of IU's Department of Telecommunications, writes that beginning in the 1970s she forged a career in an industry dominated by men, and that her "accomplishments paved the way for other women as committed and talented as she." Her creative work, he says, "is marked by its decency, its underlying commitment to tolerance, its identification with the less fortunate, and its focus on the importance of human relationships marked with mutual respect." Taylor has been widely honored for her work in television, including nominations for both Writer's Guild and Emmy Awards.
Throughout her career, Taylor has maintained close ties to Indiana University. In June 2005, the university named her a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, and she recently helped arrange Paramount Studio's donation of the scripts for all 178 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation to the Lilly Library.