Jimmy Donal Wales, Honorary Degree Recipient

Jimmy Donal Wales.

Doctor of Humane Letters

“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge,” writes Jimmy Wales. “That’s what we’re doing.”Wales is a founder of Wikipedia, now the world’s largest encyclopedia, and certainly one of the most innovative. In nine years,Wikipedia has grown to include more than 15 million articles in many different languages, written collaboratively online by thousands of people around the world; it is edited and maintained almost entirely by volunteers. (The word wiki describes a type of Website consisting of interlinked pages that can be created and edited easily by many different people.)

Wales holds a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and a master’s degree from the University of Alabama both degrees in the field of finance. He also attended Indiana University where he was a part of the doctoral program. In 1996, he co-founded the Web portal Bomis, on which he helped to develop a peer-reviewed encyclopedia called Nupedia. Wales and philosopher Larry Sanger launched Nupedia’s successor, Wikipedia, in 2001. Two years later, Wales established the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, which owns and operates Wikipedia as a charity. In 2004, he and Angela Beesley founded Wikia.com, now the 75th most popular Web destination. Wales is an advisory board member of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, a board member of the nonprofit copyright-licensing organization Creative Commons and a board member of the online decision-making system Hunch.com. In 2008, he traveled to Egypt to co-chair the World Economic Forum on the Middle East.

The revolutionary success of Wikipedia has garnered Wales many honors, including a listing among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, a 2006 Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Economist’s 2008 Business Process Award, the 2009 Monaco Media Prize and the 2009 Nokia Foundation Award “for his contributions to the evolution of the World Wide Web as a participatory and truly democratic platform.”