Hugh B. Price


Honorary Degree (2002)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Myles Neil Brand


For some, a degree from Yale Law School is the ticket to a lucrative career in a major law firm. For Hugh B. Price, it was the springboard to a long career dedicated to community service. From his beginnings as a neighborhood attorney with the New Haven (Connecticut) Legal Assistance Association to his current position as president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League (NUL), Price has exhibited an extraordinary commitment and compassion toward all humankind.

"Although he was born into a privileged family (his father was a physician and my teacher in medical school), Hugh has always had a deep concern about the poor and minorities," writes longtime family friend James P. Comer, M.D., Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry, Yale Child Study Center, and associate dean, Yale School of Medicine. "We have often discussed the damage that is being done to society through our failure to adequately address their needs. But more than talk, he has been a man of action."

A brief glance at his career trajectory attests to Price's take-charge style. His many community oriented positions include jobs as varied as human resources administrator for the city of New Haven; member of the The New York Times editorial board, where he wrote editorials on such topics as education, criminal justice, and urban policy; senior vice president of the nation's largest public television station, WNET /Thirteen; and vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation. In addition, Price writes a weekly column, "To Be Equal," for African American newspapers across the country.

Perhaps it is as head of the National Urban League that Price has made the greatest impact. Founded in 1910, the League is a social service and civil rights organization serving African Americans and others who are striving to enter the economic mainstream. In addition to its national office, the League has 115 affiliates in 34 states, including Indiana-which may hold a special place in Price's heart: it was at the 1994 national conference in Indianapolis that he was named the organization's seventh president. In his eight years at the League, Price is credited with fiscal improvements that ensure the organization's continuing effectiveness in championing its causes.

And that's not all. "Hugh took over an organization rich in heritage, but facing tremendous challenges in the areas of finance and strategic vision," writes Judge James S. Kirsch, Court of Appeals of Indiana. "In an amazingly short time, the League was restored to fiscal health, its endowment was grown substantially, its vision clearly set forth, and its role in promoting racial equality across the country restored. Throughout his life and at each stage of his incredibly diverse career, Hugh Price has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in everything he has undertaken and a commitment of service to his community, his state, his nation, and his world."

Recently at the League, Price conceived and developed the concept of "Achievement Matters," a public service campaign recognizing minority students for their achievements. It has been shown that many members of minority groups, because of peer pressure, do not aspire to work to their full capacity and achieve academically. "Achievement Matters," however, applauds students for their successes.

Writes Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Chancellor Gerald L. Bepko, "In a speech about education at the Indianapolis Economic Club speaker series three years ago, Mr. Price emphasized that the key to success in encouraging academic achievement lies not only in efforts made by schoolteachers and administrators but also in the values expressed in the community. He urged that we 'preach this gospel of achievement until it reaches every household, every organization, every pulpit and place of worship, every publication, and every broadcast program,' until the gospel of achievement 'permeates the consciousness' of every child and every educator."

Price himself is an outstanding role model for achievement. In addition to setting a worthy example of selfless service, he has garnered numerous honors, including the Medal of Honor from the Yale Law School and honorary degrees from Amherst College (his 1963 alma mater) and Long Island University's C. W. Post campus. Price's efforts have won him fans around the world- especially among the African American community. Writes Kweisi Mfume, president and chief executive office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, "Hugh is a person worthy of the utmost respect and admiration. His formidable intellect, keen sense of professionalism, and compassion for his fellow man have enabled him to assume successfully a wide range of responsibilities. His humanitarian efforts have earned him the gratitude of millions of Americans."