COMMENCEMENT 2000: Sketches of the Honorary Degree Recipients


John N. Bahcall

Dr. John N. Bahcall, Richard Black Professor of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, is one of the world's most distinguished astrophysicists. Dr. Bahcall is an expert on the elusive form of radiation known as neutrinos. Neutrinos have the potential to map the heavens in a new and unique way. They pass almost unhindered through vast amounts of matter-including the Earth-and so can escape from dense regions of the cosmos where light cannot penetrate. They also are undeflected by the magnetic fields that criss-cross the universe, and so can point straight back at their origin. Dr. Bahcall's work has included studies of solar models, neutrino oscillations, nuclear fusion reactions, and, most particularly, neutrinos from the sun. Not only is he a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Academia Europea, in 1993 he won the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal for his observational studies using the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1998, he was awarded the nation's highest science honor, the National Medal of Science, for his pioneering efforts in neutrino astrophysics and his contributions to the development and planning of the Hubble Space Telescope. Dr. Bahcall's brilliance and his dedication to his work distinguishes him as one of the truly great scientific minds of our time.

For more about Dr. Bahcall, click here.

 Mary Douglas

Dr. Mary Douglas, retired professor of social anthropology, London University; Honorary Fellow, University College London; and Professor Emerita of Humanities, Northwestern University, is an intellectual path-breaker. She forged a synthesis of Western philosophical ideas, social scientific theories, and the thoughts of the Lele people of Central Africa, and has enabled us to have new ways of observing and understanding the implicit meanings in everyday life. In her work, Dr. Douglas has explored the cognitive processes in cultures and societies seeking to unravel the principles by which people order their world. Classification, a central concept in her work, has become key for the understanding of the symbolization process in modern and ancient societies. Her first major book, Purity and Danger (1966), developed an important insight about the relationship between schemes of cultural categories and ideas about practices regarding pollution and purity. It received instant and wide spread recognition in the field, and has since become a classic. Dr. Douglas' interests have been broad and her impact outside the discipline of anthropology has been considerable. Her work has had influence in the fields of economics, psychology, politics, risk analysis, and biblical criticism. Dr. Douglas is certainly one of the most outstanding scholars of her generation and a person who has contributed to her field in seminal ways.

For more about Dr. Douglas, click here.



Ronald Dworkin

Ronald Dworkin is Quain Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London and Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy at New York University. He is considered one of the most perceptive legal philosophers of his generation and is substantially responsible for the connections that exist between legal theory and moral and political philosophy, which scholars believe have expanded the reach of both disciplines and affected the methods of judicial interpretation. He has produced numerous brilliant and highly influential books and articles on a variety of subjects related to legal philosophy. His books, Taking Rights Seriously, Law's Empire, Life's Dominion, Freedom's Law, and A Matter of Principle, contain a wealth of ideas and arguments that have generated a tremendous amount of responsive literature. He has served as the co-chairman of the Democratic Party Abroad and he is a member of the Council of Writer's and Scholar's Educational Trust, the Index on Censorship, and the Programme Committee of the Ditchley Foundation. He has served as a consultant on human rights to the Ford Foundation. Ronald Dworkin is widely regarded as one of the most eminent scholars in the field of legal and political philosophy and he is a highly respected public intellectual in both the United States and England.

For more about Professor Dworkin, click here.

 Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney, the 1995 Nobel Prize winner in Literature is the Ralph Waldo Emerson Poet in Residence at Harvard and former professor of poetry at Oxford.

For Seamus Heaney's background see Almanac, March 28 on-line at

For more about Dr. Bahcall, Dr. Douglas, Professor Dworkin, Mr. Marsalis and Mr. Rendell, click here.


Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis is lauded as the most accomplished and acclaimed jazz artist and composer of his generation. Through the force of his intellect, creativity, and charisma, he has succeeded in bringing jazz to the forefront of American culture. In 1997, he became the first jazz musician to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in music, which he won for Blood on the Fields, his epic oratorio on the subject of slavery. Mr. Marsalis also is widely respected for his work as a classical musician. As an exclusive classical artist for Sony Classical, he won critical acclaim for the recording In Gabriel's Garden, which featured Baroque music for trumpet and orchestra. Mr. Marsalis' other Sony Classical recordings include concert, chamber, and solo music for trumpet from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and twentieth-century repertoires. His achievements as a musician and composer of both jazz and classical music have won him nine Grammy Awards. In conjunction with several important commissioned debuts and an international tour, Mr. Marsalis released an unprecedented eight albums on Columbia Jazz and Sony Classical. His most recent release, The Midnight Blues, debuted at the top of Billboard Magazine's Jazz Chart, and remained in the Top Ten for 25 weeks.

Mr. Marsalis has not limited himself to composing and playing music. He is internationally respected as a teacher and spokesman for music education. He has received honorary doctorates from no less than eleven universities and colleges. Mr. Marsalis serves as Artistic Director for the internationally-acclaimed Jazz at Lincoln Center program, which he co-founded in 1987. His achievements in the field of music have brought him not only fame, but worldwide respect for his talents. He is one of the great figures in twentieth-century music.

For more about Mr. Marsalis, click here.

 Edward G. Rendell

In January 1992, Edward G. Rendell was elected the 121st Mayor of the City of Philadelphia. During his tenure he restored fiscal stability to a municipal government that was near bankruptcy, and brought new meaning to the term "Reinventing Government." When Mayor Rendell was sworn into office, the City of Philadelphia faced an annual structural budget deficit of more than $200 million and a projected cumulative budget deficit of $1.4 billion by the end of his first term. In his first year in office, Mayor Rendell implemented the city's first balanced budget in seven years, and was able to design a five-year Financial Plan for the City of Philadelphia that wiped out the projected deficit.

The cornerstone of the Rendell Administration was the unprecedented "public-private partnership" that developed between the city government and the local business community. This partnership included the creation of the Mayor's Private Sector Task Force, composed of more than 300 volunteer loaned executives, which engaged in a comprehensive management overview of the operations of the City of Philadelphia government. This task force generated over 400 recommendations for changes, virtually all of which have been implemented.

Mayor Rendell's revenue-generating initiatives increased the City of Philadelphia's revenue collection by approximately $70 million a year without an increase in taxes. Key management and productivity initiatives included renegotiations of all city leases, consolidation of the city's fleet operations into a centralized Office of Fleet Management, and competitive bidding of the city's insurance contracts. In addition to his tremendous achievements as the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, Ed Rendell has found time to devote to many charitable and nonprofit endeavors, including the Community Home Health Service of Philadelphia, The White-Williams Foundation, Soviet Jewry Council, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish National Fund, and "Philly Kids Play It Safe."

Ed Rendell's commitment, dedication, civic responsibility, and his numerous achievements have distinguished him throughout his career. His accomplishments have brought praise and admiration from others. In the fall of 1999, President Clinton recommended that Ed Rendell serve as the General Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The recommendation was confirmed by the full Democratic National Committee, noting that Rendell has the necessary ability to build consensus and work with those of differing views, while still keeping a positive outlook.

For more about Mr. Rendell, click here.  

Commencement Hotline & Website

The Office of the Secretary has a website and hotline that provides 24-hour information (geared toward degree candidates and their guests) about Commencement, Baccalaureate, and the school graduations. The website is and the hotline is (215) 573-GRAD. In addition, informational brochures for degree candidates can be obtained through their schools. Brochures for parents and guests are available through the Office of the Secretary. Faculty and staff also should direct their Commencement questions to that office at (215) 898-7005.

For more about Dr. Bahcall, Dr. Douglas, Professor Dworkin, Mr. Marsalis and Mr. Rendell, click here.

Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 27, April 4, 2000