University awards three honorary degrees
Authors Philip Levine and Nellie Y. McKay will receive doctorates of humane letters, and composer Roy Hamlin Johnson will receive a doctorate of music at commencement, 2 p.m. Dec. 15 at Crisler Arena. The Board of Regents approved the degrees at a meeting Nov. 14.
Levine, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, author and essayist, will speak at the commencement exercises in addition to receiving his degree. He is recognized for his devotion to exploring issues of race and class through his writings. Levine has earned two National Book Awards for his poetry collections "What Work Is" (1991) and "Ashes" (1979), as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award for "Ashes" and "7 Years From Somewhere" (1979). Born in Detroit in 1928 to Russian-Jewish immigrants, Levine graduated from Wayne State University with bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature, and then completed a master of fine arts degree at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He taught literature at California State University, Fresno, from 195892, and currently he teaches at New York University.
McKay, a force in shaping the discipline of African American studies, is a teacher, author and editor known for her own research and as a master of weaving together the African American social fabric through literature. One of her best-known works is the 2,665-page "Norton Anthology of African
American Literature" (1996), which she edited with Henry Louis Gates Jr. She is a prominent scholar in the works of Toni Morrison, of whom she has edited critical essays and written casebooks of her novel "Beloved." A New York City native, McKay received her bachelor's degree in English at Queens College, and her master's and doctorate degrees in English and American Literature at Harvard University. She taught at Simmons College in Boston for five years before joining the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she currently is the Evjue-Bascom Professor of American and African-American Literature.
Johnson, America's foremost living composer of carillon music, has been
a pioneer in deriving music exclusively for the unique nature of the carillon
bells. His best-known and widely performed work, "A Carillon Book
for the Liturgical Year," is a two-and-a-half-hour collection of
Hymn-Preludes inspired by the Chorale Preludes of J.S. Bach. His debut
piece, "Summer Fanfares" (1956), was played at the dedication
of the University's Ann and Robert H. Lurie Tower Carillon in 1996. A
native of Fayetteville, W.Va., Johnson earned an artist's diploma in piano
and a doctorate in musical arts at the Eastman School of Music, and has
studied in Paris as a Fulbright Scholar. After serving as the official
pianist for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and teaching piano for
11 years at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Johnson now is a professor
emeritus of piano at the University of Maryland, College Park.