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Seven to be honored
during Commencement ceremonies
April 6, 1998

Seven people who have contributed to the health, culture or well-being of the international community will receive honorary degrees in recognition of their accomplishments, as the University celebrates its 115th Commencement ceremonies on May 16-17.

Honorary Degrees

May 16: (undergraduate)
  • George W. Bush
  • Beverly Sackler
  • Raymond Sackler
May 17: (graduate)
  • Varro E. Tyler
  • Alphonse Chapanis
  • Frank McCourt
  • Jose A. Cabranes
May 20 (Stamford gala)
  • Jack Paar

The weekend of events features former President George W. Bush, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and deliver the commencement address during twin undergraduate ceremonies May 16. Joining Bush in Storrs, and visiting ceremonies in Farmington and Hartford, will be a group of distinguished leaders representing a variety of field.

With Bush at the undergraduate events will be philanthropists Beverly and Raymond Sackler, whose foundation has helped fund more than 50 museums, hospitals or theaters, as well as dozens of colloquia and lecture series in a variety of countries and at UConn. The Sacklers each will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

On Sunday, Varro E. Tyler, a retired professor of pharmacognosy who specializes in herbal and natural medicine, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree and deliver the keynote speech to this year's master's and doctoral degree candidates.

Joining Tyler, who received his master's degree and Ph.D. from UConn in 1951 and 1953, respectively, will be Alphonse Chapanis, another UConn alumnus (B.A. 1937), considered the father of ergonomics. Chapanis also will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Frank McCourt, a poet and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Angela's Ashes, which has sold more than 1.6 million copies, also will be on the podium Sunday. McCourt will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

Also Sunday, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Jose A. Cabranes, who was appointed in 1994 to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and deliver the commencement speech to aspiring attorneys during a ceremony at the School of Law.

On May 20, UConn will celebrate the completion of the first semester held at the new downtown Stamford campus by honoring television legend Jack Paar, presenting the talk-show pioneer with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. The event will be held on the campus, at One University Plaza.

And on May 21, David A. Kessler, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1990-1997, who is now dean of the Yale University School of Medicine, will offer words of encouragement to the crowd of soon-to-be doctors and dentists during graduation exercises at the Health Center.

Raymond and Beverly Sackler are among the nation's most generous supporters of the arts, medical research and education. Raymond Sackler is president and co-owner of Purdue Frederick Co., an international pharmaceutical manufacturer based in Norwalk. Besides their dozens of philanthropic efforts in the arts and medicine, he and his wife also have contributed funding for six archaeological digs in the Middle East, and they fund the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecture Series at UConn, which brings internationally renowned speakers to campus each year to discuss human rights issues. They also funded the University's artist-in-residence program.

Frank McCourt, whose prize-winning book chronicled his childhood of deprivation in Limerick, Ireland, rose from the depths of poverty to journey to the United States, serve during World War II and then, after benefiting from the G.I. Bill to earn a degree at New York University, taught in that city's public schools for 28 years. He is currently working on a sequel to Angela's Ashes.

Tyler, who holds the first doctoral degree granted by UConn's School of Pharmacy, is an emeritus professor of pharmacognosy at Purdue University, where he has been a faculty member since 1966. A prolific writer who has contributed more than 300 journal articles and several texts to the field, he is currently the Lilly Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Pharmacognosy at Purdue. During his tenure at Purdue, Tyler also served for 20 years as dean of the School of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Sciences..

He followed that appointment with a term as executive vice president for academic affairs..

Alphonse Chapanis, a 1937 UConn graduate and native of Meriden, is the author of the first systematic test in the area of human factors research, or ergonomics. Chapanis joined The Johns Hopkins University's Research Field Laboratory in Jamestown, R.I., in 1946, moving to the university's main campus in Baltimore, Md., one year later. He continued his work at Hopkins for the remainder of his academic career and, in 1974, formed his own ergonomic consulting firm, working from his Baltimore base.

Richard Veilleux