David M. Walton is the recipient of the Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship, made possible through a generous donation from TIAA-CREF in honor of the late Dr. Ruth Simms-Hamilton.

Thanks to a gift from financial services organization TIAA-CREF, Michigan State University doctoral candidate David M.Walton will study black liberation organizations in the United States and South Africa that were active from the mid-1960s through early 1980s.

With research interests in African American and South African history, Walton will use the Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship to explore the experiences and contributions of Black Power and Black Consciousness Movement participants during the civil rights movement in the United States and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa during the second half of the 20th century. His research builds directly upon the scholarship and legacy of the late Dr. Ruth Simms Hamilton.

A dual major in African American and African Studies and History, Walton will receive $34,000 to conduct his field research in the United States and South Africa. He anticipates conferral of his dual doctorate in December 2016.

In addition to selecting Walton as recipient of this fellowship, the awards committee named a runner-up for the award for the first time this year. Crystal Eddins, a doctoral candidate pursuing a dual doctorate in African American and African Studies and Sociology, received an $8,000 Graduate Office Fellowship. Her dissertation research focuses on the ritual roots of the Haitian revolution.

Named after longtime MSU Sociology professor, and leading scholar in the study of the vast African Diaspora, Ruth Simms Hamilton, who died in 2003, the Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Merit Fellowship provides tuition, stipends, and research costs. Doctoral students whose research is related to the African Diaspora are eligible to apply.

“In 1986, Hamilton founded the African Diaspora Research Program (ADRP) and was involved in countless other organizations on and off campus. Her interests and concerns were wide reaching, from various places in the ever-expansive African Diaspora to the urban settings where African Americans often reside,” says Professor Pero Dagbovie, Graduate Director of the Department of History. “She was nationally and internationally respected. She received numerous awards and was a mover and shaker in the Association of Black Sociologists.” During her 35-year career at MSU, Hamilton was also a core faculty member of the African Studies Center and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

In addition, she served as an executive board member for TIAA-CREF, also sitting on the board’s corporate governance and social responsibility committees.

In 2005, TIAA-CREF established the Ruth Simms Hamilton Research Fellowship at TIAA-CREF. The fellowship supported students throughout a six-year period, awarding fellowships to one or more graduate students studying the African diaspora at an accredited U.S. college or university. By establishing the new endowment at MSU in 2012, TIAA-CREF brought the fellowship back to Hamilton’s home university.

TIAA-CREF is a national financial services organization with $851 billion in assets under management and is the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.

This story originally appeared on Chittenden Commons, the Graduate School blog, on April 16, 2015.

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