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Yale Confers 10 Honorary Doctorates at Commencement 2007


New Haven, Conn. — Yale University President Richard C. Levin conferred honorary degrees at its Commencement on May 28 to 10 extraordinary individuals.

They were Fazle Hasan Abed, Meyer Howard Abrams, Emanuel Ax, John Arthur Ferejohn, Richard Gilder, Julie Harris, Mary-Claire King, Pius Nkonzo Langa, Robert Langer and Peter Matthiessen. The citations follow.

Your work has improved the lives, livelihood, and lifespan of many millions of Bangladeshis, particularly girls and women. Beginning by supplying seeds to farmers and fishing nets to fishermen, you created BRAC, one of the world’s large humanitarian organizations, providing education, health services, and financial support. With single-minded determination, you have given the poor the means to achieve economic independence, always demon rating respect for the dignity of every citizen. Your organization is now offering hope for developing nations throughout the world. For your dedication to your country, and your pioneering work in alleviating poverty and human suffering, we are proud to award you the degree of DOCTOR OF HUMANE LETTERS.

You are one of our greatest literary critics, possessing the rare capacity to see at once the whole and the parts, explicating both with astonishing clarity. Your masterpiece, The Mirror and the Lamp, stands among the great monuments of modern literary scholarship, illuminating the world of English Romanticism for further interpretation by others. Your influence on scholars has been profound, and your influence upon your fortunate students has been warm, generous, and free of any desire to brand them with your own ideas or create disciples. We are honored to name you DOCTOR OF HUMANITIES.

Widely recognized for your poetic sensitivity, pristine technique, and intelligent interpretation, you are internationally acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest pianists. As a soloist and chamber musician, the breadth of your musical interest is incomparable. From Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, and Chopin to contemporary composers such as Claude Bolling and Paul Hindemith, you perform with virtuosity and grace. You have worked tirelessly and passionately as an advocate of new music and music education. Your supreme talent is universally praised, and we are pleased to add our own tribute with this degree of DOCTOR OF MUSIC.

One of the preeminent political scientists of our time, you have linked the humanities and the social sciences and, in so doing, given us deeper insight into our political systems. Your work shimmers with new ideas, displaying breadth and intellectual agility, while ranging from highly mathematical to historical in method. Many of your modeling techniques have become the standard for political science, and your study of Congress and the courts has given us new understanding of the workings of government and collective decision making. Students and younger scholars have benefited from your mentorship and collaboration. For your contributions to the study of politics and law, we are pleased to name you DOCTOR OF SOCIAL SCIENCE.

Your passion for American history led you to create, along with your longtime friend Lewis Lehrman, the largest collection of American historical documents ever amassed by private citizens. And your generosity and patriotism then led you to make the entire collection available to the public. You are the most creative of philanthropists, envisioning and then supporting the renaissance of Central Park and the superlative renovation of and addition to the American Museum of Natural History. At Yale, you convinced your classmates to invest modest sums at the time of their twenty-fifth reunion, creating the largest fiftieth reunion gift in Yale’s history. We are proud to count you as a son of Yale and so very pleased to express our admiration for your life’s work by awarding you a second Yale degree, DOCTOR OF HUMANE LETTERS.

You are one of the most accomplished artists in the history of the American theater. By embodying such remarkable characters as Frankie Addams, Sally Bowles, Joan of Arc, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emily Dickinson, you have enriched our understanding of the human condition, of the ways of women, and of how the special living presence of a gifted actor may ennoble the legitimate age. Your brilliance is an enduring treasure: on film in East of Eden, on television in Knots Landing, and also in the memories of all who have seen you perform. No matter the medium, your remarkable imagination, luminous command, and generosity of spirit have won you the hearts of innumerable audiences and countless collaborators. Nominated for ten Tony awards, and winner of an unprecedented five, you are America’s leading lady. We are honored that you began your study of drama at Yale and are delighted to recognize your achievements by conferring upon you the degree of DOCTOR OF FINE ARTS.

Your pioneering genetic research has had a profound effect on public health. Persevering in the face of skepticism, you demonstrated the existence of inherited mutations that cause breast cancer, and thus you have enabled countless women to receive needed screening, early diagnosis, and preventive care. A scientist with a passion for justice, you used DNA forensics to identify stolen children in Argentina and reunite them with their families. You brought together Palestinians and Israelis to search for the causes of inherited deafness. An advocate for women in the sciences, you are a gifted teacher, researcher, and role model. We are pleased to name you DOCTOR OF MEDICAL SCIENCES.

From humble beginnings in the yoke of apartheid, you attained the highest judicial seat in South Africa, that of Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court. You are deeply respected as one devoted not to party or politics, but to human dignity and the rule of law. You have worked as a guarantor of democracy, protecting and defending your country’s new constitution and helping to transform the courts from agents of oppression into guardians of justice. You have devoted your entire judicial career to righting society’s wrongs and advancing human rights in South Africa and throughout the world. In recognition of your courage and commitment, we are proud to name you DOCTOR OF LAWS.

With more than six hundred patents granted and pending, your contribution to the field of biomedical engineering is unequaled. A prolific and gifted scientist, you have pioneered new technologies that have transformed the treatment of disease and injury. From transdermal patches, to microchips that deliver precise drug doses, to “manufactured” muscle and organ tissue, you have created what others could not even imagine. Your innovative use of methods and materials has revolutionized medicine, enabling new treatments, and holding great promise for those suffering from spinal cord injuries and cancer and those awaiting organ transplants. We honor your accomplishments with this degree of DOCTOR OF SCIENCE.

From your classic history of wildlife in America, to your studies of the Himalayan snow leopard and the Siberian crane, you have shown us the beauty of species and the importance of biodiversity. From Tibet, to Antarctica, to the Florida Everglades and America’s western wilderness, you have chronicled changes in the earth’s landscape, the fragility of life, and the wonder of nature. You have also probed deeply the landscape of humanity, with accounts of those whose traditional ways are threatened: fishermen, migrant workers, and native Americans. Your graceful and luminous writing reveals the mysteries of the natural world and the human soul. We are pleased and proud to award you your second Yale degree, DOCTOR OF LETTERS.


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