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Updated 11:00 AM March 22, 2004



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Commencement speaker, honorary degrees announced
'Dean' of auto journalists to address graduates

David E. Davis Jr., the founder and editor emeritus of Automobile Magazine who was dubbed the "dean of America's automotive critics" by Time Magazine, will give the main address and receive an honorary degree at Spring Commencement May 1.
Davis (Photo courtesy Automobile Magazine)

The ceremony starts at 10 a.m. in Michigan Stadium. Honorary degrees for Davis and five additional recipients were approved by the Board of Regents at the March 18 meeting.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman says she is delighted that Davis has agreed to deliver the commencement address. "The automobile has been such a defining characteristic of life in America and in the state of Michigan, and we're very pleased to be able to recognize an individual whose work has been so influential in the culture of the automobile," Coleman says. "His career is emblematic of how one creative, insightful writer can help shape an entire industry, and more."

The honorary degrees to be conferred, including four to U-M alumni, are: Davis, doctor of humane letters; Daniel Aaron ('33), professor emeritus of American literature at Harvard University, and founder and director of the Library of America series, doctor of humane letters; Julius Chambers ('59), director of the Civil Rights Center of the University of North Carolina Law School, doctor of laws; William Nelson Joy ('75), Internet pioneer and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, doctor of engineering; Helmut Stern, industrialist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and humanitarian, doctor of laws; and Karen Uhlenbeck ('64), the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents' Chair in Mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, doctor of science.

Chambers will be the main speaker for the University Graduate Exercises to be held at 3 p.m. April 30 in Hill Auditorium.

Rachel Fisher, a senior honors student in LSA, has been chosen as the student speaker for Commencement.

Besides founding and editing Automobile Magazine, Davis is past editor of Car and Driver and Motor Trend, and he held executive positions at Road & Track. Known widely as David E., he began his career as a racecar driver, but made his mark as an automotive journalist. For six decades he has been, says fellow journalist David Halberstam, "the most important and authentic voice of one of America's great industries—alternately enthusiast, scold, nag and lover, depending more on the performance of the industry itself than the whim and mood of the writer ... a great, uniquely American voice for a great, uniquely American industry." Davis also serves on the board of directors of U-M's Knight-Wallace Fellows Program.

Chambers founded North Carolina's first integrated law firm. He worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund on desegregation and equal employment opportunity cases throughout the state, winning several landmark civil rights cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. Most prominent among those cases was Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education, which upheld busing as a remedy for segregation. During his years with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Chambers faced numerous threats to his life. Chambers holds a master's degree in history from U-M. In 1993 he became chancellor of North Carolina Central University, his undergraduate alma mater. He retired from that position in 2001 and now is director of the University of North Carolina Law School's Civil Rights Center.

Aaron is an eminent critic of American literature and culture and the author of many articles and books, including "Men of Good Hope: A Story of American Progressives." He earned his bachelor of arts from U-M in 1933, followed by a doctorate from Harvard University. He was on the faculty of Smith College and Harvard University, where he was a founder of the field of American Studies. He also is a founder of the Library of America series, and has served for many years as its president and director, helping to make American literary works available to a wide audience. The library has published 125 authoritative editions of works by American authors.

Joy co-founded Sun Microsystems in 1982, and designed Sun's Network File System. He also initiated the Jini project, a revolutionary interconnection technology for networked computers. In September 2003, he stepped down as chief scientist of the company and is pursuing a career of independent commentary on the development of digital technologies and their impact on society. He earned a bachelor of science and engineering degree in computer engineering from U-M in 1975. He was the principal designer of Berkeley UNIX, which became the operating system standard for education and research and a foundation for the Internet. In 1997 President Clinton appointed Joy co-chair of the Presidential Information Technology Advisory Committee.

Stern is a refugee from Nazi Germany who became a highly successful businessman in his adopted country. He is president of Arcanum Corp., a company that conducts carbon research in an effort to clean the environment and allow the country to become more energy independent. He also is president of the Helmut Stern Foundation, which has made grants to many organizations in Michigan. He has long been active in many civic and community organizations. His deep love of the humanities and the arts is evident in the effort he has given to promoting their study on campus as well as in his munificent gifts to many campus units. He also has served on numerous U-M committees.

Uhlenbeck is considered one of the world's foremost researchers on non-linear differential equations and their geometric properties and has made a commitment to young women mathematicians. She was a founder of the Park City Mathematics Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where she has organized a mentoring program for women. In 1964 she earned a bachelor of science in mathematics from U-M. Uhlenbeck has made pioneering contributions in mathematical physics and the theory of partial differential equations and is recognized as an expert in theoretical physics. She has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a National Medal of Science, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was the first woman mathematician elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

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