Harvard today awarded honorary doctorates to two women and five men, including MIT President Jerome B. Wiesner, novelist Ralph Ellison, world renowned cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, and opera star Beverly Sills.
Also cited by the University were the Most Rev. Helder Camara, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil; Chien-Shiung Wu, an experimental nuclear physicist; and Clifford Geertz, a social anthorpologist.
The seven awards are the fewest Harvard has conferred in honorary degree ceremonies in at least a decade. The University last year granted 12 honorary degrees--three to women and nine to men.
In another unusual action, the University awarded no Doctor of Arts degree this year, but instead conferred two Doctors of Music.
Wiesner became president of MIT in March 1971--two months after the appointment of President Bok--and, like Bok, was considered to be part of a swing by academic institutions toward younger, more aggressive leadership. MIT's 13th president, he previously served as its provost and dean of the MIT School of Science.
An outspoken critic of the antiballistic missile system, Wiesner served as national science adviser to Presidents John F. Kennedy '40 and Lyndon B. Johnson. He was instrumental in obtaining Senate passage of the 1963 treaty banning nuclear testing in the atmosphere, oceans and outer space.
President Bok awarded Wiesner a Doctor of Laws degree. The citation read: "In education a scientist gifted and humane, in the nation's service a counsellor wise and moderate, in Cambridge our warm friend and good neighbor."
Ellison, who received a Doctor of Letters, is best known for his novel Invisible Man. The book details the odyssey of a Southern black who moves North in an attempt to find freedom and instead finds oppression rooted in the structure of American society. The book won the National Book Award and the National Newspaper Publishers Russwurm Award, as well as wide critical acclaim.
In 1969, Ellison received the Medal of Freedom--the nation's highest civilian honor--from President Johnson. He has collected a number of other honoraria, including the Chevalier de l'Ordre Arts et Letters of France, honorary degrees from eight institutions, and several fellowships.
Ellison has called the writer's morality "one which expresses a vision of human life. It contains a sense of what's right and wrong--what is life-preserving against that which is life-destroying."
"If Negro writers ever become the mainstay of American literature," he has said, "it will be because they have learned their craft and used the intensity both emotional and political of their group experience to express a greater area of American experience than other writers of other groups."
The citation on Ellison's award reads: "Out of experience proudly inherited and thoughtfully observed, this deeply American writer asserts with clarity and power man's eternal search for his humanity."
Rostropovich, who received a Doctor of Music, is one of the Soviet Union's leading cellists, and is regarded by many music critics to be the late Pablo Casals's heir to the title of foremost cellist of modern time.
The Soviet musician has been an outspoken defender of artistic freedom in the USSR, and he sheltered novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn prior to the author's exile.
Rostropovich learned piano from his mother and cello from his father. He composed his first piece at age four.