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Paul Farmer, Three Others to Receive Honorary Degrees

Northwestern to give four leaders honorary degrees at 154th commencement

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May 14, 2012 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University will award honorary degrees to four distinguished individuals -- including keynote speaker Paul Farmer -- at the University’s 154th commencement ceremony.

They are Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of the Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), creator of Sesame Street and now chair of the Workshop’s executive committee; Farmer, the physician and Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard Medical School, who is known worldwide for his pioneering work in global health, particularly in Haiti; Martha Minow, the Dean and Jeremiah Smith Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, who has written extensively about human rights, with a focus on racial and religious minorities as well as on women, children and persons with disabilities; and William D. Nix, the Lee Otterson Professor Emeritus of Engineering at Stanford University, who is a pioneering researcher in the mechanical properties of materials. 

Northwestern’s 2012 commencement will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 15, at the University’s Ryan Field.

Biographical sketches of the honorary degree recipients follow:

Joan Ganz Cooney

Cooney co-founded the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), serving successively as its executive director, president and CEO and creating its flagship program, Sesame Street. When it debuted in 1969, Sesame Street was an immediate critical and popular success; it has won 126 Emmy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. Under Cooney's leadership, the company also launched The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact, Square One TV, Ghostwriter and other programs. She stepped down as CEO in 1990 but continues to chair the Workshop's executive committee. Her many honors include a 1995 Presidential Medal of Freedom and 17 honorary degrees. A graduate of the University of Arizona, she began her career as a reporter and publicist before becoming a producer for New York's public television station and then a television consultant for the Carnegie Corporation, where she began to lay the groundwork for the Children's Television Workshop.

Paul Farmer

Farmer, the celebrated medical anthropologist and physician, is known worldwide for his pioneering work in global health -- particularly in Haiti. He is the Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, the chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and United Nations Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti, under Special Envoy Bill Clinton. He is the co-founder of Partners In Health. The multinational humanitarian organization works with communities to fight disease and to deliver health care in resource-poor areas of the world; it includes 12 sites throughout Haiti and 12 other countries around the world. Farmer’s relentless work on behalf of the poor, whether in Haiti or at Harvard, is the subject of Tracy Kidder’s best-selling book “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World”; the book was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book and as a One Book One Northwestern selection.

Martha Minow

Minow, the Dean and Jeremiah Smith Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, has written extensively about human rights, with a focus on racial and religious minorities as well as on women, children and persons with disabilities. She also writes and teaches about privatization, military justice and ethnic and religious conflict. She has produced 16 books and over 150 articles. Active in policy as well as in academia, Minow served on the Independent International Commission Kosovo, helped launch Imagine Coexistence under the auspices of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and is currently vice chair of the Legal Services Corporation. Her many honors include the Holocaust Center Award, the American Society of International Law Certificate of Merit, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and four honorary degrees. After receiving a J.D. from Yale Law School, she began her legal career as a clerk for Judge David Bazelon. She then clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court.

William D. Nix

William D. Nix, the Lee Otterson Professor Emeritus of Engineering at Stanford University, is a pioneering researcher in the mechanical properties of materials. At Stanford, he directed the Center for Materials Research, chaired the materials science and engineering department and mentored 77 Ph.D. graduates, many of whom hold prestigious appointments in universities worldwide.  He has coauthored nearly 450 scholarly publications, including the textbook “The Principles of Engineering Materials.” Nix enjoys the rare distinction of election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. His many other honors include the Materials Research Society’s Von Hippel Award, the Acta Metallurgica Gold Medal, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Nadai Medal, the Metallurgical Society’s Robert Franklin Mehl Award and ASM International’s Gold Medal. In 1963, he joined the faculty of Stanford, where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees.

Topics: University