The Massachusetts senior senator was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor two weeks ago, and is recovering from surgery at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., making travel difficult.
In a highly unusual arrangement, Kennedy will be awarded the honor at “an appropriate future occasion,” said a Harvard spokesman, who added that the senator had originally been slated to attend the event.
Also receiving degrees will be spiritual leader Karim Aga Khan ’58; Yale developmental psychologist James P. Comer; Princeton art historian Wen C. Fong; Columbia neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel ’52; federal judge Damon J. Keith, women’s historian Gerda Lerner, Stanford computer scientist John McCarthy, University of Chicago biologist Janet D. Rowley, author J. K. Rowling, and former Harvard Medical School Dean Daniel C. Tosteson ’46.
The recipients were celebrated at an elegant evening event on Wednesday in Annenberg Hall, where attendees supped on “Encrusted Filet of Beef with Port Wine Sauce.” Planned entertainment included a string quartet from the work of 19th century Russian composer Alexander Borodin.
Including Kennedy, at least four of this year’s 11 honorary degree recipients boasted strong Harvard ties. Kandel, famous for his study of the brain, was a history and literature major as a Harvard undergraduate but found himself interested in discovering more about the brain after an encounter with a fellow student at the College whose parents were psychoanalysts, according to a biography posted by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he serves as an investigator.
Tosteson, also a College alumnus, graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1948 and later returned as the school’s dean from 1977 to 1997.
The Aga Khan, whose 50th Harvard reunion is this week, has donated millions to the University in the past, endowing a professorship and a chair, and supporting library and museum programs.
Rowling, the renowned children’s author who made her name with the wildly popular “Harry Potter” series, will also be the keynote speaker at Thursday’s Commencement ceremonies.
—Staff Writer Christian B. Flow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.