This prize was established in 1956 during the centennial year of Woodrow Wilson's birth and has been conferred annually upon an alumnus or alumna of the undergraduate college whose achievements exemplify Woodrow Wilson's memorable phrase "Princeton in the nation's service." A winner is chosen annually in the fall, and is presented at Alumni Day.
The Woodrow Wilson Award, unlike either the College or the School, is the result of a gift. When the University accepted the gift, it took on a legal obligation to name the prize for Wilson and honor his “conviction that education is for ‘use’ and … the high aims expressed in his memorable phrase, ‘Princeton in the Nation’s Service.’” The University will continue to recognize extraordinary public service by conferring the award as currently named. The award explicitly honors specific and positive aspects of Wilson’s career, and it, unlike the School or the College, does not require students to identify with the Wilson name in connection with their academic or residential programs.
2020 Award Recipient: Anthony D. Romero ’87
Romero, a public interest attorney, took the helm of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2001, one week before the Sept. 11 attacks. He quickly launched the Keep America Safe and Free campaign to help protect civil liberties and basic freedoms. He created the ACLU’s National Security Project, focusing on illegal practices associated with the Patriot Act.
Under Romero’s tenure, the ACLU has filed hundreds of legal actions, including some 200 against the Trump administration’s policy proposals, especially regarding immigration and blocking the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Romero has overseen the ACLU’s expansion of advocacy efforts and political work to challenge injustices. For example, the ACLU lobbied to win the freedom to marry for same-sex couples and launched a nationwide campaign to reduce prison populations and combat racial disparities within the criminal justice system.
In 2017, the ACLU launched People Power, a grassroots effort to push local governments across the United States to protect immigrants, expand voting rights and education, and inform the public about civil liberties issues.
Romero was born in New York City to parents from Puerto Rico and was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He has a J.D. from Stanford Law School and is a member of the New York Bar Association. In 2005, Romero was named one of TIME magazine’s 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America. In 2007, he and NPR correspondent Dina Temple-Raston published the book “In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror.”
Previous Award Recipients
View a list of previous recipients of the Woodrow Wilson Award.
We invite you to submit nominations for the Woodrow Wilson Award. The Woodrow Wilson Award selection committee meets in the fall to review all nominations and make the annual selection. The committee is currently accepting nominations for the 2021 Woodrow Wilson Award.