U-M awards honorary degrees to four leaders
The University will award honorary degrees to four national leaders in the fields of science, business, art, education and philanthropy during Winter Commencement Dec. 18.
Freeman Dyson, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree, will serve as the commencement speaker. Dyson is a professor emeritus of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. He has made extraordinary contributions to the field of quantum electrodynamics.
Sam Zell, a U-M graduate and commercial real estate entrepreneur, will receive a Doctor of Laws, along with former Johns Hopkins University President William Richardson, who now is president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Landmark American artist Elizabeth Catlett will receive a Doctor of Fine Arts.
The ceremony is at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18 at Crisler Arena.
Dyson is a mathematician and physicist. His influence extends far beyond the world of science through his abundant publications that ask probing questions about the nature of the universe and the life that inhabits it. One of his seminal books is "Disturbing the Universe.'
Born in Berkshire, England, in 1923, Dyson devoured books of calculus and science fiction with equal enthusiasm. His undergraduate studies at Cambridge University were interrupted by service as a civilian scientist in the Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force in 1943, after which he completed his degree in mathematics. He made several visits to U-M to participate in summer seminars in physics that drew together leading scientists from around the world. He served as a professor of physics at Cornell University, then the Institute for Advanced Study.
Zell is a visionary business leader who has accurately predicted and successfully weathered major shifts in the economy. Fortune Magazine describes him as the person who "controls more commercial real estate than anyone else in the country," a status he has maintained for many years. He has urged U-M business students to "make no small plans," and those four words summarize his aggressive approach to life and business.
A first-generation American whose father escaped Poland hours before the Nazi invasion in 1939, Zell grew up in Chicago. He attended U-M for his undergraduate and law degrees, where he became the lifelong friend of his classmate and future business partner, Robert Lurie. Together, they ventured into real estate by managing apartments in Ann Arbor while they were still students.
As chairman of Chicago-based Equity Office Properties Trust, Sam Zell has become the dominant real estate proprietor in several major cities. At U-M, he has had a significant impact on several fields of study. He created a strategic fund for the Law School, and his wife Helen Herzog Zell generously endowed Michigan's creative writing program. To commemorate the life of his partner Lurie, who died at age 48, Zell set up a professorship in the College of Engineering, and he and Lurie's widow, Ann, created the Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.
Richardson heads one of the nation's leading philanthropic organizations and has been a leader in education and health care. Born in New Jersey, he graduated from Trinity College in Connecticut with a major in history, then earned an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in business at the University of Chicago, specializing in the delivery of health care, an issue he has championed for decades. Richardson held administrative posts at the University of Washington before moving to Pennsylvania State University as executive vice president and provost in 1984, then to The Johns Hopkins University as president in 1990.
In 1995, he accepted the presidency of the Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation from which he will retire later this year. He supported many programs in the State of Michigan through the foundation, such as the renowned Voices of Detroit Initiative, which has examined the problems regarding the issue of access to health care for the citizens of Michigan and recommended new strategies.
Catlett's art examines tumultuous events she has experienced. She earned her bachelor's degree at Howard University then worked as a muralist for the Works Progress Administration, a relief measure established in 1935 that offered the unemployed pay for work on highways and building construction, slum clearance, reforestation and rural rehabilitation. Catlett went on to graduate school at the University of Iowa where she conveyed the African-American experience through art.
She married Mexican painter Francisco Mora, and became an advocate for social causes, depicting the conditions of Mexican life in her art. Because of her advocacy of a progressive social agenda, she was investigated by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the 1950s. She became a Mexican citizen in 1962, while continuing to champion the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
For a graduate's guide to commencement, visit: www.umich.edu/~gradinfo/