This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page.

  May 14, 2001

Seven to Receive Honorary Degrees

Seven international leaders spanning the fields of human rights, the arts, science, the environment, and government, will receive honorary degrees during Commencement Exercises on May 19 and 20.

Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and former head of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Thomas D. Ritter, a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1981-1999; and Charles H. Thornton, chairman of The Thornton-Tomas etti Group, an engineering firm involved in construction projects worldwide, will receive honorary degrees during the University's undergraduate ceremonies at 10 a.m. on May 19.

That afternoon, during undergraduate ceremonies at 3 p.m., Mary Frances Berry, chairperson of the United States Commission on Civil Rights; Ray Neag, founder and director of Arrow International and namesake of the Neag School of Education; and Philip Roth, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of more than a dozen novels, including six in the past decade, also will receive honorary degrees.

On Sunday, May 20, Lester R. Brown, founder and chairman of the board of the Worldwatch Institute and president of the newly established Earth Policy Institute, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Brown also will speak during the 3 p.m. graduate ceremony.

Jackson, who ran the NRC from 1995 until assuming the presidency of Rensselaer in 1999, was one of the first two African-American women to receive a doctorate in physics in the country, and the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate in any field from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A theoretical physicist, she is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering. Prior to being named head of the NRC by President Clinton, Jackson conducted research for 15 years for AT&T Bell Laboratories, and served for four years as a professor of physics at Rutgers University. Jackson will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Ritter, who served six years as Speaker of the state House of Representatives, was instrumental in creating support for the UConn 2000 legislation, a 10-year, $1 billion program to improve the University's infrastructure. A staunch proponent of education, social justice, economic growth, and the rational allocation of the state's resources, he graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1977. A recipient of the UConn Medal in 1999, Ritter is now a partner in the law firm of Brown, Rudnick, Freed & Gesmer. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Thornton's firm was a key player in the construction of the Swiss Bank Headquarters in Stamford, the United Airlines Terminal at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, and the world's tallest buildings, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. One of the world's foremost forensic engineers, he has assisted in investigations surrounding the collapse of the Hartford Civic Center Coliseum, the L'Ambiance Plaza, and the bombed federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Thornton is founder and chairman of the Architects Constructors and Engineers Mentor Program, a wide-ranging consortium that guides inner-city students toward careers in engineering and related fields. He also is president of The Salvadori Center, a non-profit organization that educates more than 2,000 New York City middle schools students annually in mathematics and science, using architectural and engineering principles. Thornton will receive an honorary Doctorate of Science.

Berry, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, has headed the nation's Commission on Civil Rights for the past eight years. Serving in the administration of President Jimmy Carter as assistant secretary of education in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, she was appointed to the Civil Rights Commission in 1993. The author of seven books, she served in 1990-91 as president of the Organization of American Historians. Today, she is the Geraldine R. Segan Professor of American Social Thought, a professor of history, and an adjunct professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania.

Neag, UConn Class of 1956, last year donated $23 million to UConn and its Health Center, including $21 million to the School of Education - the largest gift ever to an education school in New England. Neag and three partners in 1975 purchased Rockwell International's medical products division, growing the new firm - now Arrow International Inc. - from 200 people producing textile and hypodermic needles to a major enterprise that today employs 3,000 people in plants in the United States and abroad. The firm produces a wide range of life-saving and health-enhancing products. Before his recent gift to the University, Neag had made contributions to various libraries, hospitals, community organizations and higher education institutions, including an earlier gift of $1.5 million to establish the Neag Center for Gifted and Talented Development at UConn, and another gift to establish UConn's Lynn Wood Neag Distinguished Visiting Professorship in British Literature.

Roth, a resident of Litchfield County since 1971, this month will publish The Dying Animal, followed in September by Shop Talk, his 25th book. He received the National Medal of Arts at the White House in 1998, and also has earned a Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Circle Award, and the Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union. Among his more recent works are Sabbath's Theater (1995); American Pastoral (1997); I Married a Communist (1998); and The Human Stain (2000). He will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters.

Brown, the graduate commencement speaker, also will receive a Doctor of Science degree. As chairman of the board of the Worldwatch Institute and president of the newly established Earth Policy Institute, Brown is recognized as one of the central figures in the global environmental movement. During the course of four decades, his crusade has brought environmentalism to all corners of the world.

A prolific writer, the annual State of the World reports he initiated through Worldwatch in 1984 have been characterized as the 'bible' of the global environmental movement. They are translated into all the world's major languages. Brown has won a MacArthur Fellowship, the United Nations' Environment Prize, and the World Wide Fund for Nature Gold Medal.

Richard Veilleux

Issue Index