Distinguished Honorary Degree Recipients for 2022

Launch season is fast approaching, and across the country, colleges and universities are announcing final plans for the spring graduation ritual. This year, many are pulling out all the stops to resume live ceremonies on campus after consecutive years of the Covid-19 pandemic forcing graduation drills to be canceled, postponed, zoomed in or socially distanced.

In addition to booking a number of headliners as keynote speakers, colleges reveal their picks of those people—often, but not always, alumni of the institution—who will be honored with the award. an honorary degree at the start. Over the past few weeks, several institutions have announced the names of their honorary degree recipients. Here are some notable examples.

activists

Political activists, civil rights icons and advocates of various humanitarian causes are among this year’s honorary recipients.

Gloria Steinem, one of the leading figures in the American women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s and the founder of the Women’s Action Alliance, will receive an honorary degree from Wesleyan University.

Judith E. Heumann, a disability rights advocate, is honored by both Smith College and New York University. (NYU confers several other honorary degrees, described below.)

Haverford College to award honorary degree to civil rights activist Karen Korematsufounder and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute.

Russell Sage College will award an honorary degree to Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, one of the nation’s leading LGBTQ advocacy organizations. Russell Sage will also honor Brenda Robinsonfounder of the Black Nurses Coalition.

Authors

As one of five honorary degree recipients to be honored at its 233rd launch, Williams College will recognize Jon Meachamjournalist, presidential historian, commentator, and winner of the Pulitizer Prize for his biography of President Andrew Jackson. Meacham will also be Williams’ keynote speaker.

Isabelle WilkersonPulitzer Prize winner and author of The Heat of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, will receive honorary degrees from Northwestern University and Smith College.

Harvard author, journalist and historian, Jill Lepore will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters from New York University.

Novelist and literary scholar Charles Johnson and playwright and director Moises Kaufman both will receive honorary degrees from Skidmore College.

David Brooksbestselling author and columnist for the New York Timeswill be the first speaker at the University of Oklahoma, where he and four others will receive honorary degrees.

Clarence Page1989 Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary, longtime journalist at Chicago Grandstandand nationally syndicated columnist, will receive a doctorate in public affairs from Dickinson College.

Scholars

Cora Diamond, philosopher, and Kenan Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Virginia will be one of four distinguished scholars recognized by the University of Chicago. The others are Katherine H. FreemanEvan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences and Chemistry at Pennsylvania State University; Mercedes Garcia-Arenal, historian of religions and professor-researcher at the Institute of Languages ​​and Cultures of the Mediterranean and the Near East of the Spanish National Research Council; and Nergis Mavalvalaastrophysicist and professor of astrophysics Curtis and Kathleen Marble at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

A number of university presidents, each of whom has had academic careers marked by highly valued scholarships, are honored. The list includes the president of Amherst College Biddy Martin (Williams College), President of the University of Pennsylvania Amy Gutman (Penn), Fordham President Frank McShane (Bard College), President of Harvey Mudd College Maria M. Klawe (University of Michigan), former president of the University of Utah Ruth Watkin (University of Utah), University of Maryland, President of Baltimore County Freeman A. Hrabowski III (Wesleyan University), and President Emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Professor of Neuroscience Susan Hockfield (New York University).

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry Frances Arnold will receive a Doctor of Science and Technology from Carnegie Mellon University, where she will also deliver the commencement address at the Doctoral Graduation Ceremony.

Lonnie G. Bunch III, a renowned historian and 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, will receive an honorary doctorate from New York University. Bunch is the first African American to lead the Smithsonian.

Antoine Fauci will receive an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Michigan (UM). Fauci will also be the speaker at a “return event” for 2020 graduates who did not have an in-person debut due to pandemic restrictions. (Several other people are recommended for honorary degrees from UM, including the journalist Maria Shriver.)

Stars

Columbia University is awarding six honorary degrees this year. Among the recipients are the former US senator, secretary of state and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton; famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and singer-songwriter, punk-rocker Patti Smith.

Reflecting its many ties to famous Hollywood personalities, the University of Southern California is also awarding six honorary degrees this year, including to Brian Grazeran Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy and Grammy award-winning producer; Ron Howard, the Oscar-winning filmmaker; and film and television producer Straightforward price.

Taylor Swiftmultiple Grammy Award winner, will receive a Doctor of Fine Arts degree from New York University.

Wesleyan University honors singer, dancer and actress Rita Moreno.

Taraji P.Henson, a 1995 Howard University graduate, will deliver the 2022 kickoff speech and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from her alma mater. Henson is an award-winning film and television actress.

Award-winning actor, director, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen will be recognized by Williams College, and actor, singer, songwriter and author Billy Porter will receive a doctorate in fine arts from his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University. Porter will also deliver the keynote address at the start of CMU.

Actor and director Tyler Perry will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Emory University, which will also recognize the former United States Attorney General Sally Yates and longtime benefactor of Emory Lou Glenn.

The University of Pennsylvania will award a Doctor of Arts degree to its first lecturer, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. Burns will be one of eight people to receive honorary doctorates from Penn this year.

A number of athletes, whose achievements have earned them acclaim, will receive honorary degrees. They include:

  • Allyson Felixactivist and Olympic gold medalist, who will speak to graduates of her alma mater, the University of Southern California;
  • Joan Benoit Samuelson, famous distance runner who won the Boston Marathon twice as well as the first women’s Olympic marathon gold medal, recognized by her alma mater, Bowdoin College;
  • Baseball legend and Hall of Famer Henry “Hank” Aaron, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Tulane University. Aaron, who died last year, was scheduled to receive the award at the 2020 Tulane ceremony, but that event was postponed due to the pandemic. Accepting the award at this year’s ceremony will be his widow, Billye Aaron.

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