Honorary Degrees

Michael R. Bloomberg You have much in common with our founder, Benjamin Franklin.  A brilliant businessman, generous philanthropist, and selfless champion for the public good, you have improved lives while keeping a watchful eye for posterity … Soon after the devastation of September 11, 2001, you defied all odds by seeking and winning the “second toughest job in the country,” the mayoralty of New York City.  There you not only reinvented government; you also redefined our understanding of what government can accomplish … You have engineered improvements in housing, employment, and education for the people of New York.  Your lifelong devotion to public health has driven you to propose congestion pricing, to lower carbon emissions by retrofitting New York’s cab fleet, and to take the subway to work.  For a token annual salary of $1, you are giving the City of New York your two most valuable resources: your time and expertise.

Paquito D’Rivera Towering master of Latin jazz and world music, you have transcended genres and cultures for more than a half century.  As a composer, bandleader, and musical magician, you lift the human spirit with music that celebrates freedom and bewitches the soul … In your earthy memoir, appropriately titled My Sax Life, you write, “Cubans can switch directly and without notice from a flood of tears to dissolute and licentious laughter.”  Having experienced the anguish of exile, the joy of reuniting with your family, and heights of achievement marked by multiple honors including the 2007 Living Jazz Legend Award, you speak from experience.

Drew Gilpin Faust G’71 Gr’75 One of the foremost historians of the antebellum South and a daughter of the University of Pennsylvania, you have reshaped our understanding of Southern intellectual and social history.  Eminent scholar, unconventional feminist, and unifying leader, you have won universal esteem among your peers in higher education … Appointed Founding Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in 2001, you transformed the renowned women’s college into one of the world’s most formidable sciences and humanities research institutes.  In 2007 you smashed a 370-year-old glass ceiling to become the first woman president of Harvard, where you have become a champion of socio-economic equity in higher education. 

Lila R. Gleitman G’72 Gr’75 By rewriting the rules for studying language, you made seminal contributions to linguistics … As a young mother you broke new ground with your observations of “Motherese,” the sing-song speech mothers use to teach language to their babies.  Further work with deaf and blind children led to your bold hypothesis that children can “bootstrap” their way into learning language using their surprisingly sophisticated knowledge of grammar to learn the meaning of unfamiliar words … A former president of the Linguistic Society of America, you have been recognized with many prestigious awards and fellowships.

Bert W. O’Malley Medicine and humanity have been most fortunate to have a visionary scientist of your genius and courage enhance our fundamental understanding of steroid hormone actions and thereby revolutionize the treatment of endocrine diseases and cancer.  Recognized as the father of molecular reproductive biology, you have been praised as a pioneering giant in medicine and a preeminent mentor of young scientists … By showing how master genes account for temporal, spatial, developmental, and metabolic integration processes, you have accelerated advances in clinical medicine, particularly in oncology, that have benefited millions throughout the world.

Cyril Ramaphosa Revered as a patriot and architect for freedom in South Africa, you are one of the world’s most influential, skilled, and respected political leaders, statesmen, and business entrepreneurs …  Born and raised in the black township of Soweto, you were jailed as a university student for joining the political resistance movement against apartheid, and spent nearly a year in solitary confinement … During the mid-1990s, you became a leading figure in South Africa’s first national unity government … While you have retreated from the political limelight, you have made the world a stage for innovative business ventures and bold humanitarian endeavors, earning you the distinction from Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Neil deGrasse Tyson As a boy you became star-struck by the night sky in New York’s Hayden Planetarium.  As a distinguished astrophysicist, best-selling author and essayist, winning television host, and director of that same planetarium, you have introduced countless young people to the majesty and mystery of the cosmos … Your research on star formation, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way led to your appointment to Presidential and NASA advisory commissions.  Your scientific principles propelled you to challenge Pluto’s planetary status and to question the theory of intelligent design.  Yet it is your gift for “bringing the universe down to earth” … that sparks frequent comparisons to your mentor, the late Carl Sagan, and earned you NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2004.

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