Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipients, May 2017



Cory A. Booker, Honorary Doctor of Laws and 2017 Commencement Speaker
United States Senator for New Jersey
Advocate for criminal justice reform and community empowerment


Cory A. Booker is a Democratic United States Senator representing the state of New Jersey. Born in Washington, D.C., he was raised in Harrington Park, New Jersey, and has lived his life as a proud New Jerseyan.  Senator Booker is a graduate of Stanford University, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and played varsity football. A Rhodes Scholar, Senator Booker also received a graduate degree from the University of Oxford, Queen’s College. After earning his J.D. from Yale Law in 1997, Senator Booker moved to Newark – where he still lives – and started a nonprofit organization to provide legal services for low-income families and tenants seeking to improve living conditions. In 1998, at the age of 29, he sought and won election to the Newark City Council. In 2006, he was elected the mayor of Newark. During his seven-year tenure, the city saw economic growth unmatched in decades and a significant decline in overall crime. Senator Booker also introduced new initiatives to improve education and public services and create new public parks and green space. Senator Booker was elected to the United States Senate in a special election in 2013, and then re-elected to a full six year term the next year. In the Senate, he has emerged as an across-the-aisle leader on issues like criminal justice reform, ensuring support and resources for local law enforcement, comprehensive immigration reform, and fostering economic opportunity for all Americans. Senator Booker serves on the Senate's committees on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Small Business and Entrepreneurship; Environment and Public Works; and Foreign Relations. Senator Booker is the author of “United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good.”

Isabel Allende, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
Writer, journalist, and women's rights activist
Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient


Chilean-American author and human rights advocate Isabel Allende came to worldwide acclaim in 1982 at age 40 with her bestselling first novel, The House of the Spirits. The book, based on a farewell letter to her grandfather, established her as a feminist force in Latin America’s male-dominated literary world. Chile’s 1973 military coup had forced Ms. Allende, a prominent journalist, to flee with her family to Venezuela, where they remained in exile for many years. She eventually emigrated to the United States and settled in California in 1987. Today, her more than 20 fiction and nonfiction books and three memoirs, all written in her native Spanish, have been translated into over 35 languages, with over 65 million copies sold. Her works, many adapted for film, theater, opera and ballet, include Of Love and Shadows, Maya’s Notebook, Ripper, and her latest, The Japanese Lover. Following the death of her daughter, Paula, Ms. Allende established the Isabel Allende Foundation in 1995 in her honor. The Foundation works on behalf of women and girls worldwide, supporting many nonprofit organizations that provide vulnerable women and children life-saving access to reproductive services, healthcare, education, and protection from violence. Among many honors, she has received France’s Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Chilean National Prize for Literature, the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction, and the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. The Times of London in 2009 named The House of the Spirits one of the “Best 60 Books in the Past 60 Years.” Ms. Allende received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. A U.S. citizen since 1993, Ms. Allende speaks internationally on women’s rights and empowerment, Latin American and world politics, writing, and spirituality. A member of the U.S. Academy of Arts and Letters, her work also appears in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Europe.

Clara Franzini-Armstrong, Honorary Doctor of Sciences
Emerita Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania


Clara Franzini-Armstrong is Professor Emerita of Cell and Developmental Biology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. A pathbreaking scientist and educator for over 50 years, she is recognized as the world’s leading electron microscopist, making seminal and fundamental contributions to the understanding of muscle biology, particularly the structural basis of excitation-contraction coupling. The concepts developed and electron micrographs generated by Dr. Franzini-Armstrong’s work are standard inclusions in all major physiology and cell biology textbooks. Dr. Franzini-Armstrong has also been a leading influence over many years in promoting a culture empowering women in science at Penn and in the field of cell biology, offering mentorship and training new generations of scientists. A native of Firenze, Italy, Dr. Franzini-Armstrong as a student was one of the two first electron microscopists at the University of Pisa. Her postdoctoral studies were completed with eminent Cell Biologist K.R. Porter at Harvard University, with physiologist R.J. Podolsky at the National Institutes of Health and with Nobel-winning biophysicist Sir Andrew Huxley in London. Before her arrival at Penn in 1975, Dr. Franzini-Armstrong held research and faculty positions at Duke University and the University of Rochester. She also served on the executive board of the Biophysical Society. In recognition of her and her husbands’ independent work, a lecture series named for Clay and Clara Armstrong was established in 2014 by the Society of General Physiologists. Dr. Franzini-Armstrong received the 1989 K.C. Cole and the 2007 Founder's Awards from the Biophysical Society and an honorary MD from the University of Pisa. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the European Academy of Sciences, she is also a foreign member of the Royal Society of London and Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei of Rome. Dr. Franzini-Armstrong continues her active electron microscopy and training of young scientists.

Terry Gross, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
Host and Co-executive Producer, Fresh Air, NPR
National Humanities Medal recipient


Terry Gross is the host and an executive producer of Fresh Air, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues and one of public radio's most popular programs.  Each week, over five and a half million listeners tune in to Fresh Air, which is broadcast on over 624 National Public Radio (NPR) stations across the country and Europe. In 2015 and 2016, the program was also the most downloaded podcast on iTunes. Ms. Gross is widely regarded for her insightful, in-depth interviews characterized by “a remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity, and sharp intelligence,” according to The San Francisco Chronicle. A native of Brooklyn, New York, she received a bachelor’s degree in English and a M.Ed. in Communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Ms. Gross began her radio career in 1973 at public radio station WBFO in Buffalo, where she hosted and produced several programs, including This Is Radio, a live, daily three-hour magazine program. In 1975, she joined Philadelphia’s WHYY-FM as the producer and host of Fresh Air. The program has been distributed nationally by NPR since 1985, first as a weekly half-hour program, and since 1987 in its daily, one-hour format. Ms. Gross has received many awards for her work, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Edward R. Murrow Award for her outstanding contributions to public radio, the Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation, and the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community. President Obama presented her with a 2015 National Humanities Medal in recognition of her “artful probing of the human experience.” Ms. Gross is the author of “All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians and Artists.”

Ada Sue Hinshaw, Honorary Doctor of Sciences
Inaugural Director, National Institute of Nursing Research, NIH
Groundbreaking researcher in the science of nursing


Nursing research pioneer Ada Sue Hinshaw, with a career that spans over 50 years, is known as one of her field’s most impactful leaders. Named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing in 2011, she is Dean Emerita of the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences as well as the University of Michigan’s School of Nursing. Her research on quality of care, patient outcomes, and positive nursing work environments has led to fundamental policy improvements in her field. Dr. Hinshaw received her undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas, an MSN from Yale University, and an MA and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. The first permanent Director of the National Center of Nursing Research and the first Director of the National Institute of Nursing Research at NIH, she was instrumental in establishing and securing dedicated nursing research funding for the nation. In 2008, Dr. Hinshaw left retirement to head USU’s Graduate School of Nursing, launching the Faye Glenn Abdellah Center for Military and Federal Health Care Research. The Center supports research and evidence based practices for the care of the deployed, the wounded, and their families. A member of the Institute of Medicine, now the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), and its Governing Council, she is the recipient of many awards, including the Health Leader of the Year Award from the United States Public Health Service, the Distinguished Leader Award from the National Institute of Nursing Research and the Walsh McDermott Award from the NAM. Dr. Hinshaw was named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing in 2011, and is a past President of the American Academy of Nursing, and a member of the American Nurses’ Association. Dr. Hinshaw also taught at the University of Arizona’s College of Nursing; the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Kansas. A prolific academic author, Dr. Hinshaw is a frequent speaker in her field.

Robert P. Moses, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
Founder and President, The Algebra Project
Educator and civil rights champion


American educator and civil rights activist Robert Parris Moses is President and Founder of the Algebra Project, Inc., which prepares students who have performed in the lowest quartile on standardized exams to graduate from high school on time and ready to take on college mathematics. Mr. Moses received a B.A. in Philosophy from Hamilton College in 1956, and an M.A. in Philosophy from Harvard University in 1957. Mr. Moses directed the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s Mississippi Voter Registration Project from 1961-1964 and served as co-Director of the Council of Federated Organizations. He was instrumental in organizing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which in 1964 challenged that state’s all-white delegation to the National Democratic Convention. Having formerly taught mathematics in Tanzania, Mr. Moses used his 1982 MacArthur Fellowship award to begin the Algebra Project. He is the recipient of numerous other awards and honors, including the Heinz Award for the Human Condition and the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Mr. Moses is co-author of the 2001 book “Radical Equations—Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project” and co-editor of 2010’s “Quality Education as a Constitutional Right—Creating a Grassroots Movement to Transform Public Schools.” An adjunct lecturer at the NYU School of Law from 2012 – 2016, he was named a Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of '56 Professor at Cornell University in 2006 and served as a Distinguished Visitor for Princeton’s Center for African American Studies in 2011-2012. Mr. Moses has served on the Education Advisory Committee of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute since 2004. A frequent keynote speaker nationwide, he is the subject of Dr. Laura Visser-Maessen’s 2016 biography “Robert Parris Moses – A Life in Civil Rights and Leadership at the Grassroots.”

Paul Muldoon, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
Poet, Howard G.B. Clark '21 University Professor in the Humanities,
Princeton University, and Poetry Editor, The New Yorker


A native of County Armagh, Northern Ireland, poet, professor, and critic Paul Muldoon has been described as "one of the great poets of the past 100 years.” On the faculty at Princeton University since 1987, Mr. Muldoon is the Howard G. B. Clark '21 Professor and Founding Chair of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts. He has also been the poetry editor of The New Yorker since 2007. A former radio and television producer for the BBC in Belfast, Mr. Muldoon served as Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, where he is an honorary Fellow of Hertford College. His first book, New Weather, was published when Mr. Muldoon was just 21 and a student at Queen’s University, Belfast. Today, he is the author of twelve major collections of poetry, including Moy Sand and Gravel, for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, 2015’s One Thousand Things Worth Knowing, as well as MaggotHorse LatitudesHay, Mules, and Quoof. He has also published a great many smaller collections, works of criticism, opera libretti, children’s books, song lyrics, and radio and television drama. Mr. Muldoon’s work has been translated into twenty languages. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Muldoon has received many honors, including an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in literature, the T. S. Eliot Prize, the Griffin International Prize for Excellence in Poetry, the American Ireland Fund Literary Award, the Shakespeare Prize, the Aspen Prize for Poetry, and the European Prize for Poetry. Much in demand as a reader and lecturer, he also occasionally appears with a spoken word music group, Rogue Oliphant.

Nominating an Honorary Degree Recipient

The Office of the University Secretary manages the honorary degrees process at Penn. All members of the University community are welcome to submit nominations. For information about qualifications and nominating honorary degree candidates, visit the University Secretary's Honorary Degrees website.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the Office of the University Secretary.