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Honorary Degrees Awarded

Northwestern presents four leaders honorary degrees at 154th commencement

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June 15, 2012 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Keynote speaker Paul E. Farmer, the physician and Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard Medical School, who is known worldwide for his pioneering work in global health, was one of four distinguished individuals awarded honorary degrees during Northwestern University’s 154th outdoor commencement ceremony at Ryan Field on Friday (June 15).

University President Morton Schapiro conferred honorary degrees on Dr. Farmer; 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; Martha L. 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; 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.

As University Provost Daniel I. Linzer introduced each honorary degree recipient, University Chaplin Timothy S. Stevens hooded each candidate as each citation was read.

The citations of the honorary degree recipients follow:

• Ellen Ann Wartella, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of Communication, department of communication studies, School of Communication; professor, department of psychology, Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences; and professor, School of Education and Social Policy, presented Joan Ganz Cooney for the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters:

“As the creator of ‘Sesame Street,’ you have changed the face of television worldwide, proving that it can be a powerfully positive force in the lives of children. Your groundbreaking work has made a lasting impact on contemporary culture, dramatically enhancing preschool education and transforming our understanding of experimental learning. Your pioneering vision continues to inspire innovation and creativity in education and broadcasting. We are honored to salute your remarkable achievements.”

• Northwestern University Trustee Ann Lurie presented Paul E. Farmer for the honorary degree of Doctor of Science:

“Believing that health care is a basic human right, you have dedicated your medical expertise and indeed your life to fighting infectious diseases in impoverished nations. Your relentless work in bringing health care to the world’s poor has brought you prestigious honors and has inspired a best-selling book that, as a One Book One Northwestern selection, has inspired the entire Northwestern community. We thank you for all you have done to better our world.”

• Northwestern University Trustee Newton L. Minow proudly presented his daughter Martha L. Minow for the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws:

“One of your former students at Harvard -- Barack Obama -- has credited you with changing his life. His is but one example of the extraordinary influence you have exerted through your widely heralded achievements in scholarship and legal education and your worldwide efforts in public policy. We are proud to add to your many honors and to welcome you home as a former Cherub, a former Cherub instructor, and a member of the Northwestern family.”

• David N. Seidman, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, presented William D. Nix for the honorary degree of Doctor of Science:

“Through your seminal contributions to understanding the mechanical behavior of materials and your mentoring of numerous scholars who have gone on to illustrious careers, you have profoundly influenced a broad range of fields in science and engineering. Northwestern has experienced your brilliance firsthand in your appearances here as a visiting scholar, notably as the inaugural Jerome B. Cohen Distinguished Lecturer. We are proud to welcome you back as a member of the Northwestern community.”

Biographical sketches of the honorary degree recipients follow:

Joan Ganz Cooney (Doctor of Humane Letters)

Joan Ganz 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. Cooney 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 E. Farmer (Doctor of Science)

Paul E. 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.  Farmer co-founded Partners In Health, a multinational humanitarian organization that works with communities to fight disease and delivers 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 L. Minow (Doctor of Laws)

Martha L. 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 (Doctor of Science)

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.