Honoris Causa

Three women and six men received honorary degrees at Harvard's 353rd Commencement. Provost Steven E. Hyman introduced them to the Commencement audience, and President Lawrence H. Summers read the citations. In order of presentation, the honorands were:


Sir Frank Kermode. The former Lord Northcliffe professor and King Edward VII professor of English literature at the University of Cambridge, Kermode is one of the world's foremost critics of English literature. Doctor of letters: Consummate connoisseur of the art of telling, he hears the motions of the spirit and the sound of what is secret in the supreme fictions that freshen life.


Shirley M. Tilghman. A pioneer in genetics research, Tilghman joined the Princeton faculty in 1986, led a seminal study of the career paths of life scientists, and helped shape the national effort to map the human genome. The recipient of this year's Radcliffe Medal, she now serves as the nineteenth president of Princeton University. Doctor of laws: Expert interpreter of genetic expression, resonant voice for progress in science, whose energizing and luminous leadership keeps the Tiger burning bright.

Carter, flanked by Tilghman and Kahneman
Photograph by Jim Harrison

The Honorable Robert L. Carter. He was general counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; argued 22 cases before the Supreme Court, winning all but one; and in 1972 began his distinguished service as a federal judge in New York. Doctor of laws: A driving force for simple justice, he has forged great milestones on the long road to equality, and reminds us the journey is not yet done.


Photograph by Jim Harrison

Daniel Kahneman. Princeton's Higgins professor of psychology and professor of public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, he shared a 2002 Nobel Prize for pioneering behavioral economics. Doctor of laws: Mapping the bounds of rationality while discerning uncertainty's subtle effects, he has transformed our view of economic choice by revealing how we really think.

Suzanne Farrell. She joined the New York City Ballet at age 16 and soon was captivating audiences as the prima ballerina who inspired and brought to life many of the greatest works of legendary choreographer George Balanchine. Doctor of arts: Enthralling audiences with exquisite grace, ennobling a legacy of brilliant invention, a ballerina for the ages whose leaps and turns have made hearts soar.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

J. Michael Bishop, M.D. '62. With colleague Harold Varmus, A.M. '62, S.D. '96, he discovered that normal cells contain genes capable of becoming cancer genes, work for which they shared a Nobel Prize. A former Harvard Overseer, he is University Professor and chancellor at the University of California, San Francisco. Doctor of science: Penetrating the black box of cancer, unlocking secrets of molecules and genes, a laureate and leader both literate and wise who pursues nature's mysteries wherever clues may lead.


Edward O. Wilson, Ph.D. '55, Jf '56. The world's greatest authority on ants, he has transformed understanding of the social behavior of insects. His ideas on how biology relates to human behavior have exerted enormous influence — and sparked intense controversy. Commencement day was the seventy-fifth birthday of the Pellegrino University Professor emeritus, who has studied and worked at Harvard for the past 53 years. Doctor of science: Incisive observer of social behavior boldly evolving the science of life, he beholds in each species a matchless masterpiece and knows the Earth has music for those who listen.

Photograph by Stu Rosner

Margaret E. Atwood, A.M. '62. Last year's Radcliffe Medal recipient, Atwood is widely regarded as Canada's foremost writer, and her works of fiction and poetry are acclaimed worldwide. Doctor of letters: Crossing genres and subverting conventions with biting wit and daring imagination, she probes the dark recesses of human nature and brings things haunting and telling to light.


Kofi Annan. A native of Ghana, he launched his career at the United Nations in 1962. His reputation for diplomacy, fairness, insight, and consensus-building led to his election as secretary-general in 1997, and he is now in his second five-year term. He shared the Nobel Prize for peace. Doctor of laws: Artful in diplomacy, calm in crisis, a seeker of ploughshares in preference to swords, he affirms the dignity of each individual while persevering for peace in a turbulent world.      

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