Honoris Causa

Two women and six men received honorary degrees at Harvard’s 354th 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:


David Baltimore. One of the world’s most influential molecular biologists, Baltimore won the Nobel Prize at age 37. He is the former president of Rockefeller University and is now president of the California Institute of Technology. Doctor of science: A venturesome virologist who transcended the dogma of genetic transcription; his life in science continues to shape the science of life.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Caroline Walker Bynum, R ’62, Ph.D. ’69. Her works have transformed understanding of the religious, cultural, and intellectual history of the Middle Ages. She is professor of European medieval history at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Doctor of laws: Superlative historian of body and soul, illuminating concepts of piety and identity, she has laid a feast of plenty for scholars of a distant time.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Edward Witten. The Simonyi professor of mathematical physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, he is best known for his preeminence in the branch of physics known as string theory. The goal is a “theory of everything” to describe all the fundamental forces of nature in one conceptual framework, and to reconcile quantum mechanics with relativity theory. Doctor of science: In the realm of 11 dimensions, amid gluons, quarks, and loops, a wizard of mathematical physics who gets the world by a string.

D. Ronald Daniel, M.B.A. ’54. The former managing partner of the global management-consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Daniel served as Harvard’s treasurer and chaired the board of Harvard Management Company from 1989 to 2004. Doctor of laws: Treasured counselor to presidents and deans, valued consultant on matters of management, by whose service and savvy Harvard has been smartly endowed.

Quentin Skinner. He holds the Regius professorship of modern history at the University of Cambridge. His works on Machiavelli and Hobbes are classics. His study of moral and political philosophy in the Renaissance and Reformation, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, was named one of the 100 most influential books of the second half of the twentieth century. Doctor of laws: Prince among historians of Renaissance political thought, an innovating ideologist who finds the meaning of text through the gleaning of context.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Mary Ellen Avery. For discovering the major cause of respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants and for her contributions to its treatment and prevention, Avery received the National Medal of Science. She is Rotch distinguished professor of pediatrics emerita at Harvard Medical School. She also served as physician-in-chief of Children’s Hospital in Boston, where she founded the Division of Newborn Medicine. Doctor of science: An eminent founding mother of newborn medicine, opening light on the genesis of breath, she holds nothing more precious than the life of each child.

Photograph by Stu Rosner

Charles Marstiller Vest. Vest served from 1990 until December 2004 as president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he continues as professor of mechanical engineering and a life member of the MIT Corporation. Doctor of laws: Resolute proponent of technology’s promise, pushing forward the endless frontier, he has engineered a bright future for a great university.

John Arthur Lithgow ’67. A star of stage, film, and television, he has been recognized with many honors for performances in The Changing Room, The Sweet Smell of Success, Terms of Endearment, and The World According to Garp, in which he portrayed former tight end Roberta Muldoon. For six seasons he played a space alien in 3rd Rock from the Sun. He has appeared as a dancing elephant with the New York City Ballet. A former member of the University’s Board of Overseers, he founded Harvard’s Arts First festival. Doctor of arts: Alien, pugilist, diplomat, pachyderm, scoundrel: a paramount player and virtuoso of versatility to whom Harvard owes its fondest terms of endearment.


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