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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
Harvard will award 11 honorary degrees today as part of Commencement exercises.
The University recognized the recipients at an Annenberg Hall banquet last night, which featured a cello performance by Sarah M. Carter ’04 and a meal including jumbo shrimp salad, horseradish-encrusted filet of beef and milk chocolate mousse.
A group of 26 faculty members, including Dean of the College and Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science Harry R. Lewis ’68, were also recognized by the University as outstanding teachers.
From a distinguished economist to the former president of Mexico, the 11 honorary degree recipients span a variety of backgrounds and accomplishments.
Gary S. Becker
Gary S. Becker, a renowned economics professor, was awarded the Nobel Prize for economics in 1992 for his work applying microeconomic tools to analyze human behavior.
He has pioneered the study of social problems such as discrimination and crime through economics.
Becker has been at the University of Chicago since 1969, where he is currently the University Professor of Economics and Sociology.
He grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., attended Princeton University for undergraduate studies and received his doctorate from Chicago.
He taught at Chicago from 1955-57 before leaving for Columbia University and the National Bureau of Economic Research. In 1969, he returned to Chicago.
He has also served as president of the American Economic Association. He received its John Bates Clark medal in 1967 and won the National Medal of Science in 2000.
He will receive a Doctor of Laws degree.
Norman C. Francis
Norman C. Francis has long been one of the foremost advocates for blacks in higher education.
He has served as president of Xavier University in Louisiana. Francis began his career as an administrator at Xavier and rose through the ranks.
Francis has tripled the size of the student body at Xavier, enlarged the school’s curriculum and land holdings, and led a successful science and medicine program.
He has also served as chair of the board of the Educational Testing Services, president of the United Negro College Fund, chair of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and a member of the National Commission on Excellence in Education.
He studied at Xavier as an undergraduate before attending Loyola University Law School.
Francis will receive a Doctor of Letters degree today.
Elliot Forbes ’46
Forbes, who is Peabody professor emeritus of music, has been a fixture at Harvard for almost 50 years. In his time as a professor, he has made his mark on the state of music at the University.
After completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees here, Forbes joined the faculty of Princeton University.
Forbes came back to Cambridge in 1958 to become a professor of music. He also assumed the reins of both the Harvard Glee Club and the Radcliffe Choral Society (RCS).
Since his return—and especially because of his leadership of Glee Club and RCS—Forbes has guided scores of young singers to successful careers.
He has written histories of music at the University and edited The Harvard Song Book. Forbes has also published numerous works, including the 1964 version of Thayer’s Life of Beethoven.
Forbes will be awarded a doctor of music degree tomorrow.
Artist Ellsworth Kelly is known for his exuberance with color. The title of one of his more famous canvasses, Blue Green Yellow Orange Red, says as much. Instead of containing dense, Impressionist detail, his paintings are almost austerely abstract. In Blue, a bright solid shape stands confidently against a white background, setting off a contrast between the hues.
Born in 1923, Kelly studied art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and L’École des Beaux Arts in Paris. While studying in Paris under the G.I. Bill, Kelly became interested in Surrealism, which would inform his later work. He also befriended fellow artists Matisse, Miro, Giacometti and Braque.
Kelly also sculpts in various media and makes collages. In 1999, an exhibition of his drawings was shown at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum. His work also has been exhibited at MOMA, the Whitney and the Guggenheim in New York, MOCA in Los Angeles and the Tate Gallery in London.
Kelly will receive a Doctor of Arts degree.
Mary-Claire King, American Cancer Society research professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, was the first researcher to prove that breast cancer is genetically inherited in certain families.
She maintains a strong research interest in human genetic diversity as well.
A recipient of the Clowes Award for Basic Research from the American Association for Cancer Research and the Brinker Award from the Komen Foundation, King has served on such committees as the National Commission on Breast Cancer of the President’s Cancer Panel and the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Use of DNA in Forensics. She has worked as a consultant to the Commission on Disappearance of Persons of the Republic of Argentina.
King received her B.A. in mathematics from Carlton College and her doctorate in genetics from the University of California, Berkeley, where she taught from 1976 to 1995 before taking her present position at the University of Washington.
King will be awarded a Doctor of Science degree today.
Donald E. Knuth
Donald E. Knuth, professor emeritus of computer programming at Stanford University, is known throughout the world as one of the leading innovators in the field of computer science. He is the author of 19 books on subjects ranging from computer science to Biblical interpretation. Most recently, he has been working on The Art of Computer Programming, a seminal work of which three volumes have been published to date.
Knuth has garnered international recognition for his contributions to the development of digital typography, culminating in his creation of the programs TeX and Metafont, used to develop new fonts.
Knuth was born in 1938 in Milwaukee, Wis. He earned a B.S. and M.S. from the Case Institute of Technology in 1960 and a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology in 1963. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1968.
Since his retirement, Knuth has continued to write and to update his software. He gives occasional lectures and performances on the pipe organ.
He will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.
Linda Nochlin, who is currently the Wallace Professor of Modern Art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, is celebrated for opening the door to feminist perspectives in art history.
She specializes in 19th and 20th century art, focusing particularly on the work of Gustave Courbet, the Impressionists and the representation of women and the work of women artists.
Nochlin has authored numerous books, most notably Realism (1971), The Politics of Vision (1989) and Representing Women (1999).
In addition, she has published many articles on modern art and its creators, including studies of Cézanne, Degas, Manet, Cassatt, Seurat, Matisse and Picasso, and contemporary artists.
Nochlin has been awarded various fellowships and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and has been named Harvard’s Charles Eliot Norton Professor for 2003-04.
Today she will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.
Philip Roth first came to national attention with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus.
Set in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, the watershed literary work and its accompanying stories established a voice—raw, angry and unafraid to tackle the unpleasant and controversial. It went on to win the National Book Award.
The Pulitzer prize winning author may have topped the bravura performance of Columbus, at least in terms of notoriety, with 1969’s Portnoy’s Complaint. The book became a number-one best-seller, shocking many with its frankness about male sexuality.
Roth has written from the perspective of men, women, a fictional character who happens to be named Philip Roth and even a female breast (in The Breast).
“Satire,” Roth has said, “is moral outrage transformed into comic art.”
After teaching creative writing at the University of Chicago, Princeton, University of Iowa and the University of Pennsylvania, he retired in 1992 but has continued to publish fiction.
Roth will receive a Doctor of Letters degree.
Robert G. Stone, Jr. ’45-’47
As a member of the Harvard Corporation from 1975 to 2002 and its Senior Fellow for seven years, Robert G. Stone, Jr. ’45-’47 co-chaired a record-setting $2.6 billion University fund raising campaign and chaired the University presidential search committee in 2000-2001.
When he stepped down from the Corporation last year, former University President Neil L. Rudenstine described him as “a constant source of advice, support and friendship.”
He continues to serve as chair of the Committee on University Resources.
While at Harvard, Stone was captain of the world record-setting heavyweight crew team, and has served as a trustee of the National Rowing Foundation.
He concentrated in economics and graduated with the Class of 1947 after taking leave to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. He became an executive in the shipping and energy industries, and served as chair of the General Energy Company, the West India Shipping Company and the Kirby Corporation.
Stone will receive a Doctor of Laws degree.
P. Roy Vagelos
P. Roy Vagelos is currently the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. Vagelos served as the Chief Executive Officer of the pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co. from 1985 to 1994, where he became known for his leadership ability.
The executive formerly held positions in cellular physiology and biochemistry at the National Heart Institute, and was the chair of biological chemistry and director of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences at Washington University in Saint Louis. He has authored more than 100 scientific papers, specializing in studies of lipids and enzymes.
Vagelos was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, but has received a number of honorary degrees from other institutions, including Brown University, Washington University and Princeton University.
Today he will receive a Doctor of Laws degree.
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon
Ernesto Zedillo, who will address the Class of 2003 as Commencement speaker today, was president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000.
He helped Mexico make the transition from one-party rule, instituted political reforms, stabilized the nation’s economy and signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.
The next year, he worked with University President Lawrence H. Summers, then undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury, to rescue the Mexican banking industry with a $20 billion U.S. loan.
When his term in office over, Zedillo oversaw the peaceful transfer of power to opposition candidate Vicente Fox after 71 years of single party rule.
Zedillo was born in Mexico City and graduated from the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico.
He received a doctor in economics from Yale University in 1981 and is now a professor of international economics and politics there. He also directs the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.
He will receive a Doctor of Laws degree.
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