Yale Honors Harvardians

Darnton, Marshall, Wilbur, Wilson receive honorary degrees

Yale awarded nine honorary degrees on Monday at its 311th Commencement, and four went to Harvard affiliates. The citations below were read aloud by Yale president Richard C. Levin.

Robert Choate Darnton, Doctor of Humanities

An innovative historian and director of Harvard’s library, you have been a scholar of the impact of books, a connoisseur of their contents, and an advocate for the democratization of knowledge through digital dissemination. By studying the books of the Enlightenment in their social context, your approach to the history of ideas has brought together two previously separate strands of thought. You have acted on your commitment to the cause of books by advancing on-line publishing and free digital access to information.  Because you have taught us why books mattered in the past and why—in all their forms—they matter now, we are pleased to name you Doctor of Humanities.


  • Lecturer on law Margaret H. Marshall, Ed.M.’69, Ed ’77, L ’78, who served for 11 years as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, will receive the Radcliffe Medal this Friday and deliver the keynote address at the annual Radcliffe Day luncheon. (For her views on leadership traits she admires, read this tribute to Harvard president Neil L. Rudenstine from the Harvard Magazine archives.)

Margaret Hilary Marshall ’76 J.D., Doctor of Laws

You have devoted your life to the pursuit of justice, from your native South Africa as a student protesting apartheid to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, as the first woman to serve as its Chief Justice. You changed the legal landscape with your courageous decision to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry—opening the door for other states to follow. You have graciously and generously offered your wise counsel to Yale as an engaged and devoted Fellow of the Yale Corporation and as a trusted advisor on matters of consequence. You are a mentor and role model, a respected jurist, and a friend. We are delighted to award your second Yale degree: Doctor of Laws.


  • Richard Wilbur, A.M. ’47, JF ’50, whose works have won the Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a National Book Award, and two Pulitzer Prizes, among other honors, was profiled in "Poetic Patriarch,” from the magazine’s archives.

Richard Wilbur, Doctor of Letters

Master craftsman, for 65 years, with penetrating eye and faultless ear, you have added poem after poem to the company of those that will last, illuminating with wit and invention the “things of this world.” Elegant poet of depth and finish, superb translator from French to English, and from life to art, Yale is honored to name you Doctor of Letters.


  • Geyser University Professor William Julius Wilson joined the Harvard faculty in 1996, the year Time magazine named the sociologist one of America’s 25 Most Influential People. His honors include a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Medal of Science, and the Talcott Parsons Prize in the Social Sciences, awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (The Harvard Magazine archives include a review by Nicholas Lemann of his 2006 book  There Goes the Neighborhood, written with Richard P. Taub, Ph.D. ’66, and a brief discussion of some of his research on the impact of Hispanic immigration on the African-American community.)

William Julius Wilson, Doctor of Social Science

You have made the study of inequality your life’s work. Your scholarship, spanning four decades, has sparked major debates about how we as a nation can address some of our most vexing problems: urban poverty, joblessness, and industrial decline. With unflinching fairness, you have challenged conventional wisdom with wisdom of your own–grounded in research and tempered by extensive knowledge of cities. By identifying the tragic impact of deindustrialization, you have issued a call to rethink policy and practice to best serve our society. Generations of scholars have built upon your work. We are proud to award you the degree of Doctor of Social Science.


The Yale News account provides full biographies of all the honorands.

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