Long before Research Professor Jefferey Cole became the director of the Center for the Digital Future, he studied history at UCLA. Today, he is forging his own legacy as an expert in technology and emerging media. He serves as an adviser to governments and leading companies worldwide as they craft digital strategies.
During a gala held in Ellis Island's Great Hall last month, Cole was recognized for his professional contributions to American society by the Ellis Island Honors Society (EIHS) with their Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Ranked among the nation's most renowned awards, the Medal was established in 1986 by EIHS to honor diverse Americans who have distinguished themselves through their significant philanthropic, artistic, intellectual and humanitarian contributions. Past recipients have included eight U.S. presidents, Nobel laureates, Supreme Court justices, secretaries of state, and cultural icons.
"As a student who majored in history, receiving this extraordinary award in the Great Hall on Ellis Island is especially meaningful,” Cole said. “I felt a strong connection to all the immigrants, including members of my own family, who passed through that hall to be part of the American dream of hope and democracy."
Cole founded the World Internet Project, the longest-running longitudinal study of the effects of digital technology on Americans and partner countries around the world. As director of the Center for the Digital Future, he leads deep examinations of entertainment, sports media, transportation and banking to identify where the next wave of disruption will occur.
When the World Internet Project launched in 1999, Vice President Al Gore praised Cole as a “true visionary providing the public with information on how to understand the impact of media.” Cole has since testified before Congress on television issues and has been a keynote speaker at more than 750 conferences on media and technology. He speaks to more than 100,000 people a year at major conferences around the world.
“Professor Cole’s work in pioneering digital strategies for government organizations and leading companies is important to the security of our nation,” said Nasser J. Kazeminy, EIHS’ chair. “His leadership has not only shaped internet culture but is also paving the way towards developing best practices on how society and technology will interact.”
EIHS also praised Cole for his dedicated work as a teacher and mentor who has educated the next generation of internet scientists, developers and creators of social applications.
Other 2023 medal recipients include Retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Chef Rachael Ray, Actor Liev Schreiber, and Academy Award-winning Director Robert Zemeckis.