Thousands of first-year students have laid their heads inside Wright Hall, but few likely know the illustrious history of the man whose name graces the brick building at the corner of Downing and Woodland streets. Carroll D. Wright, the first president of Clark University’s undergraduate college, enjoyed a renowned career as the first U.S. Commissioner of Labor and laid the foundation for the fledgling Bureau of Labor Statistics through “the fearless publication of the facts without regard to the influence those facts may have upon any party’s position or any partisan’s views.”
On Oct. 20, 2015, in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Wright was inducted into the U.S. Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor. “Carroll Wright was an extraordinary man,” said Clark University President David Angel in his remarks at the ceremony. “There was a desperate need for an organization to be created that could be an honest broker between employers, workers and unions at a time of dramatic change in industry and technology. And Carroll Wright emerged as one of the most dependable, thoughtful, insightful and effective leaders.”
Read more about Carroll Wright’s contributions to the U.S. Department of Labor in Commissioner of Labor Statistics Erica Groshen’s blog.
Among others offering remarks were Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, and Robbie Ann McPherson, Wright’s great-great-granddaughter. Also inducted at the ceremony was former Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Janet Norwood.
Wright, a Civil War veteran, was appointed by President Chester A. Arthur as the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Labor in 1885, a post he would hold for 20 years. Another president, Grover Cleveland, appointed him to chair the commission investigating the Pullman Strike that paralyzed rail service in the summer of 1894. Wright was a pioneer in the study of labor statistics during the Gilded Age, when labor conditions, immigration and increasing disparity between rich and poor were key concerns.
From 1873 to 1888 he was the director of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics and Labor, the first of its kind in the United States. During his time at Clark (1902-1909) he served as professor of statistics and social economics, and received the Cross of the French Legion of Honor in recognition of his efforts to improve industrial conditions throughout the world. Speaking of Wright and Norwood, Labor Secretary Perez said, “It may be that people outside this community may not have heard of our two inductees today, but for those inside this building we know them because for us they are Willie Mays — for us they are the gold standard and always will be.”