University of Pennsylvania to Award Honorary Degrees to Seamus Heaney, Five Others, at May 22 Commencement

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Media Contact:Ken Wildes | | 215-898-8721April 4, 2000

PHILADELPHIA --- The University of Pennsylvania will confer honorary degrees on six men and women at the 244th Commencement on Monday, May 22, according to University President Judith Rodin.

Seamus Heaney, who received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature for "...works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past," will deliver the Commencement address and receive the Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa.

Five other honorary degrees will be awarded at the ceremony:

  • John N. Bahcall, Ph.D., Richard Black Professor of Natural Sciences, The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; a noted astrophysicist and expert on the elusive form of radiation called neutrinos, "...who has changed the world through innovative acts of scientific discovery, broadening the definition and understanding of the universe." His areas of expertise include models of the Galaxy, dark matter, atomic and nuclear physics applied to astronomical systems, stellar evolution, and quasar emission and absorption lines. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of the nation's highest recognition in science and technology, the National Medal of Science. Dr. Bahcall will receive the Doctor of Science, honoris causa. 
  • Mary Douglas, D.Phil., retired professor of social anthropology, London University; professor emerita of humanities, Northwestern University; whose "...classic path-breaking contributions to anthropology, her synthesis of Western philosophical ideas, social scientific theories, and the thoughts of the Lele people of Central Africa, and particularly her insights into the way humans classify phenomena such as food and attach symbolic significance to the classifications has had great impact on anthropology and many other fields such as psychology, religious studies, economics, folklore, and literature." Dr. Douglas will receive the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. 
  • Ronald Dworkin, LL.B., Quain Professor of Jurisprudence, University College London; Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy, New York University; a prolific writer, who is considered to be the leading legal philosopher of our time, "...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 also is one of the outstanding writers on American constitutional law. Professor Dworkin will receive the Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. 
  • Wynton Marsalis, musician, composer, and educator; artistic director, Jazz at Lincoln Center; who is considered the most accomplished and acclaimed jazz artist and composer of his generation, and who, "...through the force of his intellect, creativity, and charisma, has succeeded in bringing jazz to the forefront of American culture." He was the first jazz musician to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in Music, which he won in 1997 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. His achievements as a musician and composer of both jazz and classical music have won him nine Grammy Awards. Mr. Marsalis will receive the Doctor of Music, honoris causa. 
  • The Honorable Edward G. Rendell (C '65), former Mayor of Philadelphia; whose "...commitment, dedication, civic responsibility, and his numerous achievements have distinguished him throughout his career." He was elected the 121st Mayor of the City of Philadelphia and restored fiscal stability to a municipal government that was near bankruptcy, and brought new meaning to the term "Reinventing Government." The cornerstone of the Rendell Administration was the unprecedented "public-private partnership" that developed between the city government and the local business community. His revenue-generating initiatives increased the City of Philadelphia revenue collection by approximately $70 million a year without an increase in taxes. Mr. Rendell will receive the Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.