The award was presented Saturday (May 8) during the university's commencement ceremony.
"This award honors Dr. Wilson for his scholarly contributions and his role in anticipating, inspiring and facilitating a field of interdisciplinary research known as Southern Studies," said Alice M. Clark, UM vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. "Dr. Wilson's scholarship - Southern religion, memory and culture - has elevated observances of life in the South to an area of academic inquiry."
Formerly director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Wilson is co-editor of the first important scholarly collection on religion during the Civil War, a revised edition of The Encyclopedia of Religion in the South and the forthcoming Mississippi Encyclopedia project. Wilson was also a primary scholar in the Religion and Region series and Southern Spaces online documentary project.
"I haven't received other research awards, thus making this especially meaningful," Wilson said. "Receiving this award is a humbling experience because there is so much excellent research going on across campus in so many departments and programs."
Wilson joined the UM faculty in 1981. During his tenure, he has published four monographs on Southern history, edited or co-edited eight books of essays, published 41 scholarly articles and made 62 presentations at conferences, symposia, workshops or lectureships. The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (which he co-edited with William Ferris in 1989) received the Dartmouth Prize from the American Library Association as best reference book of the year.
He has presented papers at conferences in Germany, Denmark, France and Turkey and was a visiting professor at the University of Mainz last summer.
Wilson also credited his successes to the continuing support he has received from history department chairs Bob Haws and Joe Ward, CSSC Director Ted Ownby, Associate CSSC Director Ann Abadie and College of Liberal Arts Dean Glenn Hopkins.
Admired and respected by his peers, Wilson holds memberships in the Southern Historical Association, American Society of Church History, American Studies Association and Mississippi Historical Society.
He actively conducts and directs basic and applied research projects in the interdisciplinary study of the South and regards the 24-volume New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture as his main achievement. Volumes of the encyclopedia began publishing in 2006 and will be finished in 2012. The total value of the research projects conducted and directed by Wilson is in excess of $200,000.
"Charles Wilson has been active and influential as an essayist, a great organizer and editor," Ownby said. "Collaborative works can be frustrating and time-consuming, but he has kept up an impressive record of publishing his own work and always having time for students and colleagues."
Sam Shu-Yi Wang, F.A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, was the inaugural recipient of UM's Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award in 2008. Larry A. Walker, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research, was the 2009 recipient.
Award recipients receive $7,500 and a personal plaque. Pharmaceutics International Inc. sponsors the annual award. The company's CEO, Syed Abidi, is a UM alumnus.
For more information about the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, visit olemiss.edu/depts/south or call 662-915-5993.