Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone to Speak at Penn’s 256th Commencement

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Media Contact: | | March 20, 2012

PHILADELPHIA –- Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone, which provides educational, social and medical services to children in that New York City neighborhood, will deliver the address at the University of Pennsylvania’s 256th commencement on Monday, May 14.

Canada’s pioneering work with the HCZ Project has served thousands of Central Harlem children from the time they are born. The program is a model for other communities across thenation. His work was featured in the award-winning 2010 documentary “Waiting for Superman.”

“Geoffrey Canada has changed the landscape of American education,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said.  “By developing a groundbreaking program that provides youth living in one of America’s toughest neighborhoods with caring and comprehensive social, academic, health and moral support from cradle tocollege, he has created a pathway to success for thousands of students.”

Canada will also receive an honorary degree.  Other honorary-degree recipients will be David H. Petraeus, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and retired United States Army general; John R. Lewis, civil rights activist and U.S. congressman; Ruzena Bajcsy, professor emerita of computer science and engineering at Penn and a pioneering researcher in machine perception, robotics and artificial intelligence; Akira Endo, biochemist and pioneering statins researcher; Peter D. Lax, mathematical theorist; and Anna Deavere Smith, social activist and award-winning actress and playwright.

“Our slate of honorees istruly extraordinary,” said Andrea Mitchell, University of Pennsylvania trustee and chair of the Trustee Honorary Degrees Committee. “In their lives of discovery and service to others, through government and public service, education and the sciences and the arts, our honorees set a superb example for our graduates.”
 
 - Geoffrey Canada, a native of the South Bronx, is the author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America and Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America.  In 2011, Canada was named to Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
Canada will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
 
 - David H. Petraeus, U.S. Army General (Retired) and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has dedicated his life to public service, retiring from the Army in 2011 after a distinguished 37-year career. He is credited with the evolution of the Army toward a more educated, creative and innovative military force for the 21st century.  His many leadership positions include commanding the NATO International Security Assistance Force, the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and all coalition forces in Iraq.  Petraeus’ honors in the Army include four awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, three awards of the Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal for valor and the State Department Distinguished Service Award.
Petraeus will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws.
 
 - John R. Lewis, a leader of the American civil rights movement, has served as the representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District since 1986. Lewis was a participant in the 1961 Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. He was a keynote speaker along with Martin Luther King Jr. at the historic March on Washington in August 1963.  As a leader and organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lewis participated in one of the seminal moments of the Civil Rights Movement, the 1965 march in Selma, Ala., which came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”  He also directed the Voter Education Project, which added nearly 4 million minorities to the voter rolls.  President Obama presented Lewis with the Presidential Medal ofFreedom in 2011.
Lewis will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws.
 
 - Ruzena Bajcsy, an innovative educator and researcher whose more than 50 years of work created new areas of interdisciplinary study in robotics, artificial intelligence, engineering and cognitive and applied sciences, is a Penn professor emerita of computer science and engineering, the director emeritus of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. She was the first woman to serve as chair of Penn’s Department of Computer and Information Science.  In 1978, Bajcsy founded Penn’s General Robotics and Active Sensory Perception Laboratory, one of the world’s premier robotics research centers. She is the winner of a Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute for her development of improved robotic perception and the creation of better methods to analyze medical images.
Bajcsy will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Sciences
 
 - Akira Endo, a research scientist whose work led to the development of cholesterol-lowering drugs.  At the Japanese pharmaceutical company, Sankyo, Endo created statin drugs that revolutionized the prevention and treatment of heart disease, prolonging the lives of millions of people worldwide. He is the president of Tokyo’s Biopharm Research Laboratories, which he founded in 1997. Endo has been honored withprestigious awards from around the world, including the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, the Japan Prize, the Heinrich Wieland Prize, the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize, the Massry Prize and the Toray Science and Technology Prize. He was named a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government.
Endo will receive an honorary Doctor of Sciences.
 
 - Peter D. Lax, a mathematician whose work at the intersection of theoretical and applied mathematics has had important implications in weather forecasting, airplane design and telecommunications signaling. As a founder of modern computational mathematics, he has made significant contributions to areas such as wave theory and partial differential equations. A native of Budapest, Lax fled Hungary as a teenager during World War II.  Near the end of the war, Lax served in theUnited States Army at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Among many awards for his work, Lax has received the National Medal of Science and the Abel Prize, which is considered the “Nobel Prize of mathematics.”
Lax will receive an honorary Doctor of Sciences.
 
 - Anna Deavere Smith, an actress, author and playwright with a unique style of combining art and social commentary to create “documentary theater.” Smith creates her plays by interviewing people who experienced an event, repeating their words verbatim in the performance. In her performances on Broadway and around the world, she portrays as many as 46 individuals in the course of a one-woman show. Her most recent play, “Let Me Down Easy,” is a collection of testimonials about life, death and the care of the ailing body. Smith’s play “Twilight: Los Angeles” depicted the 1992 Los Angeles riots, exposing and exploring the devastating human impact of that event. She interviewed more than 200 people during nine months and selectedvoices that reflected a city in turmoil.
Smith will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
 
Additional information about commencement is available at:

http://www.upenn.edu/commencement/event/index.html

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