Honoris Causa

Harvard’s 2024 honorary degree recipients

Honorary degree recipients Joy Harjo, Jennie Chin Hansen, and Sylvester James Gates Jr.

Joy Harjo, Jennie Chin Hansen, and Sylvester James Gates Jr. | Photographs by Jim Harrison; MONTAGE BY HARVARD MAGAZINE

Six guests received honorary degrees on May 23. Interim provost John F. Manning introduced the honorands in the following order, and interim president Alan M. Garber read the citations. Learn more about each at harvardmag.com/honorands-24.

Gustavo Dudamel, music and artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, his home country, and music and artistic director-designate of the New York Philharmonic (effective 2026). Doctor of Music: If music be the food of love, he is passion’s chef supreme; the dude who delights us with Bernsteinian gusto, he conjures sonic magic with the wave of his baton.

Jennie Chin Hansen, immediate past chief executive of the American Geriatrics Society, and past president of AARP—a pioneer in care for the elderly. Doctor of Humane Letters: Selfless in service to seniors in need, fervent in striving for systemic change, a venerated nurse who’s made caring her credo; her compassion for others never gets old.

Sylvester James Gates Jr., Clark Leadership Chair in Science and Distinguished University Professor and a University System of Maryland Regents Professor, a theoretical physicist who has worked on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. Doctor of Science: A first-string physicist whose mathematical forays help us to fathom the fabric of the universe; an educator who unlocks the gates to opportunity, he evinces how imagination can encircle the world.

Joy Harjo, twenty-third Poet Laureate of the United States, 2019-2022, the author of 10 books of poetry (plus plays, children’s books, and two volumes of memoir), and a performing musician who played for many years with her band, Poetic Justice, and has produced seven albums. Doctor of Literature: Searching for transcendence as she traces trails of tears, seeking hope amid struggle, light amid loss, an inspiriting paragon of poetic justice who hears in the night sky the birdsongs of dawn.

Lawrence S. Bacow, M.P.P.-J.D. ’76, Ph.D. ’78, Harvard ’s twenty-ninth president (2018-2023), who guided the University through the COVID-19 pandemic safely while accelerating development in Allston and investing in significant programs of discovery in quantum science and engineering, climate change and sustainability, and human and artificial intelligence—and supporting deep research into Harvard’s legacy of slavery. (Bacow is a lifelong sailor.) Doctor of Laws: His deft hand nimble on an often slippery tiller, his clear eye focused on the gleam of new horizons, his sharp mind buoyed by humility and heart, he steered the Crimson fleet through a time of change and storm.

Maria A. Ressa, co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 (with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov) for her brave, independent news coverage of her native Philippines. Doctor of Laws: Amid times of unrest, facing threats and arrest, she rivets her focus on facts, truth, and trust; an intrepid, innovative investigative journalist, irrepressible in pressing for freedom of the press.

Sub topics

You might also like

Former Women’s Hockey Coach Sues Harvard

Katey Stone alleges gender bias in handling of abuse allegations that led to her retirement.

Harvard Confers 11 Undergraduate Degrees

Protestors now found in “good standing.”

Remembering Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan

On a Radcliffe-Harvard memorial to remarkable figures

Most popular

Former Women’s Hockey Coach Sues Harvard

Katey Stone alleges gender bias in handling of abuse allegations that led to her retirement.

Mechanical Intelligence and Counterfeit Humanity

Reflections on six decades of relations with computers

Remembering Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan

On a Radcliffe-Harvard memorial to remarkable figures

More to explore

Broadway Director from Harvard Adapting Disney

Broadway music director Madeline Benson on art and collaboration

How Political Tension on Campus Creates Risk Aversion

How overheated political attention warps campus life

Harvard Professor on Social Psychology for Understanding War

Two scholars’ extracurricular efforts in the Middle East