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COMMENCEMENT 2004:
Sketches of the Honorary Degree Recipients

Elizabeth Blackburn | Lee Friedlander | Jaroslav Pelikan | Max Roach

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Elizabeth Blackburn

E. Blackburn

A cell and molecular biologist, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn is best known as a world leader in the research of telomerase, the ribonucleoprotein enzyme she co-discovered in 1985. An understanding of telomeres--the structures located at the tips of chromosomes--could hold the key to perhaps one day stabilizing cancer cells. 

"I love the challenge of deciphering the complexity of cells," Dr. Blackburn said in the interview with The Scientist. "When we figure out something about them, it's a real high."  Within the scientific community, Dr. Blackburn's initial research into telomeres is considered all the more challenging--not to mention remarkable --because it occurred in the late 1970s, years before the development of advanced DNA cloning and sequencing procedures. 

The daughter of two physicians, Dr. Blackburn's "passion for biology" emerged when she was a teenager growing up in Australia. She received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from the University of Melbourne. Dr. Blackburn earned her Ph.D. in 1975 from the University of Cambridge in England and conducted postdoctoral work in molecular and cell biology at Yale University.

After 12 years with the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Blackburn in 1990 joined the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology, and Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco. She chaired the Department of Microbiology and Immunology there from 1993-99. Dr. Blackburn was the first woman to head the UCSF School of Medicine's Department of Microbiology and Immunology. She is currently a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Dr. Blackburn also serves as a Non-Resident Fellow of the Salk Institute.

Her achievements have earned Dr. Blackburn dozens of honors, including the Australia Prize (1998), the National Academy of Science's Molecular Biology Award (1990), the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor (2000) and the Bristol Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Cancer Research (2003).

Dr. Blackburn was named the California Scientist of the Year in 1999 and, until February, 2004, served as a member of the President's Council on Bioethics. Dr. Blackburn was elected Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences in 1993, and was elected as a Member of the Institute of Medicine in 2000. She is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991), the Royal Society of London (1992), the American Academy of Microbiology (1993), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2000).

Lee Friedlander

L. Friedlander

Best known by the general public for his album cover portraits of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and other Atlantic Records jazz artists of the 1950s, Lee Friedlander is hailed throughout the photography world as a master technician whose work challenged and ultimately changed conventional theories about picture-taking.

The Aberdeen, Washington, native's initiation into photography came at the age of 14.  Within five years he was studying under Edward Kaminsky at the Art Center of Los Angeles. 

Upon completing his assignments for the Atlantic Records jazz series in the late 1950s, Mr. Friedlander trained his cameras on the American social and physical landscape. His stark black-and-white portraits of 1960s and 1970s American street scenes--influenced by the Depression-era photographer Walker Evans--stand among the most vivid images of the era.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mr. Friedlander embarked on a different path, immortalizing obscure memorials at equally esoteric  American historic sites on film. He later embarked on a portrait series depicting industrial workers and, later--as technology took hold--computer operators.

Although he served as a photography instructor at UCLA, the University of Minnesota and other institutions, Mr. Friedlander's photographs transcended classroom learning. "(Mr. Friedlander) has shown how Americans reveal themselves and their beliefs through their self-made environments," said the photographer and sculptor Edward Coppola.

Mr. Friedlander's work has earned him five National Endowment for the Arts grants, two John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowships and, in 1999, the French Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. In 1990, he received a MacArthur Foundation prize.

Exhibits of his work have been mounted in galleries and museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and the Seibu Museum of Art in Tokyo. The Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London are among the museums permanently displaying Mr. Friedlander's photography. Mr. Friedlander has published his work in nearly 20 books.

Jaroslav Pelikan

J. Pelikan

In a distinguished career spanning more than five decades, Jaroslav Pelikan has linked the past with present through a body of work considered the definitive exploration of Christian tenets. The Sterling Professor Emeritus at Yale University, Dr. Pelikan's examinations of Christian tradition--filling more than 40 volumes--have earned him numerous honors, including recognition as the first senior distinguished visiting scholar at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. His five-volume The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine places him among the ranks of the world's top church scholars.  

Lawrence S. Cunningham, the John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, said of Dr. Pelikan's 2003 work, Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition: "...Credo proves once again--if proof were needed--why Jaroslav Pelikan, learned, passionate, and literate, is the premier historical theologian of our time."

Born in Akron, Ohio, Dr. Pelikan received his post-secondary education at Concordia (Junior) College in Fort Wayne and Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. 

He began his faculty career at Valparaiso University in 1946 before moving first to the Concordia Theological Seminary and then the University of Chicago. Dr. Pelikan's tenure at Yale University from 1962-96 included five years as dean of the graduate school.  Dr. Pelikan is currently a visiting scholar with the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

From 1958-69, Dr. Pelikan was the departmental editor for the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  He also edited the World Treasury of Modern Religious Thought (1990). He has served as the president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Political and Social Science and served on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities from 1994-97. He is the founding chairman of the Council of Scholars at the Library of Congress.

Dr. Pelikan holds honorary degrees from over 40 institutions, including Yale University, Harvard University and the University of Notre Dame and in 1997 the Presidential Medal, awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was bestowed upon him.

Max Roach

The arc of Max Roach's life and career has served as a major influence on American music and, indeed, American society. A man for all seasons, as a musicologist Mr. Roach's scores have provided the backdrop for numerous dramatic presentations. Praised as the "Duke Ellington of the drums,"  he has collaborated with leading choreographers, including Alvin Ailey and Bill T. Jones. And he stood at the forefront of the civil rights movement.

"Art is a powerful weapon that society, or the powers that be, use to control or direct the way people think," he once said. "Culture is used to perpetuate the status quo of society. Even though I'm involved in music for the sake of entertainment, I always hope to offer some enlightenment."

Mr. Roach's life began 80 years ago in New Land, North Carolina. His family moved to New York when he was four; Mr. Roach subsequently attended the Manhattan School of Music.  Upon graduation, in 1942, Mr. Roach's life changed when he was summoned to sit in with the Duke Ellington Orchestra during a performance at New York's Paramount Theatre. He soon joined with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to provide the backbeat for a nascent style of jazz known as be-bop.

Mr. Roach later teamed with Miles Davis during the "birth of cool." The Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quartet pushed the genre to new levels, dominating jazz during the 1950s. In the 1970s, Mr. Roach founded the percussion orchestra, "M'boom."

"Over no other instrument has the influence of one man been as decisive as Roach's over drums," said the jazz critic Rafi Zabor. Mr. Roach's influence extended to the academy, thanks to his tenure as a professor in the University of Massachusetts Department of Music and Dance.

He holds honorary degrees from the Eastman School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, the University of Maryland, the Manhattan School of Music and Wesleyan University. In 1989, Mr. Roach was awarded France's highest cultural honor when he was named the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters. He was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and is the recipient of the Duke Ellington and Harlem Renaissance Award.

The recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant, Mr. Roach is an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Letters and has been recognized with National Endowment for the Arts Masters Award.

 

 


  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 25, March 16, 2004

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