Patricia Chapple Wright (Ph.D., Anthropology)
President’s Distinguished Alumni Medalist (2018)
Primatologist, professor, award-winning conservationist
Patricia Chapple Wright was a social worker with a young daughter when a paper she researched on the parenting habits of owl monkeys led her to The Graduate Center to study with world-renowned primatologists and pursue her Ph.D. in anthropology. With her new doctoral degree, she traveled to Madagascar to search for the greater bamboo lemur, a species thought to be extinct. She found it and then discovered the golden bamboo lemur, a brand-new species. With a passion to protect the lemurs and Madagascar’s biodiversity, she partnered with the government and local communities to create the Ranomafana National Park and, later, established the Centre ValBio, a sustainable research station for wildlife science, environmental arts, community health, and conservation education.
Wright’s story and work are the focus of the 2014 IMAX film Island of the Lemurs. She won the 2014 Indianapolis Prize, considered the Nobel Prize for conservationists, and was named a MacArthur Fellow.
Now a distinguished professor of anthropology at The State University of New York at Stony Brook, Wright told NPR that The Graduate Center’s philosophy of graduate education for the public good resonates with her. “I feel that my responsibility now is to use my Ph.D. to train the next generation of primatologists, tropical biologists, and conservationists.”