The News Service
The 237th Commencement
Brown University Will Confer 10 Honorary Degrees on May 29
Brown University will confer 10 honorary degrees during Commencement exercises Sunday, May 29, 2005. Candidates for honorary degrees include artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, writer David Eggers, philanthropist Sidney E. Frank ’42, astrochemist Wesley Huntress ’64, geneticist Mary-Claire King, actress Phylicia Rashad, financier William Rhodes ’57, human rights activist Sima Samar, and the Rev. Philip Smith, president of Providence College.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University will confer 10 honorary degrees during the University’s Commencement ceremony Sunday, May 29, 2005, on environmental artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, author Dave Eggers, philanthropist Sidney E. Frank ’42, astrochemist Wesley Huntress ’64, geneticist Mary-Claire King, actress Phylicia Rashad, financier William Rhodes ’57, human rights activist Sima Samar, and the Rev. Philip A. Smith, president of Providence College.
None of the honorees is the Commencement speaker for graduating seniors. At Brown, that honor goes to two members of the graduating class. Candidates for honorary degrees will speak at various times on Saturday. Eggers, Huntress, Rhodes, Smith and Samar will present Commencement forums. Times and locations of those presentations will be announced. Rashad will deliver the 2005 baccalaureate address at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the First Baptist Church in America.
Swaths of fabric – whether floating around islands off Florida’s coast, wrapped around Berlin’s Reichstag, or flowing from gates in New York City's Central Park – are the hallmarks of environmental artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
The couple (born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon) met in Paris in 1958 and began their professional collaboration in 1961 with an outdoor temporary work titled Dockside Packages, Cologne Harbor. In 1963 they moved to New York City. Since then, their portfolio has grown to include installations in Europe, Japan, Australia and the United States. Each work is temporary, and most of the materials are recycled after the exhibition ends.
Years of work go into each project. For example, planning for The Gates – 7,500 vinyl gates with free-flowing nylon fabric panels anchored to 15,000 steel bases on 23 miles of Central Park walkways in New York City – began in 1979 with what Christo and Jeanne-Claude call the “software” part of their work: the preparatory drawings, collages, scale models, site research, and permitting and licensing processes. The actual installation is the “hardware” part of their process. The couple has two works in development: Mastaba of Abu Dhabi, Project for United Arab Emirates, begun in 1977, and Over the River, Project for the Arkansas River, Colorado, begun in 1992.
Eggers, described by The Times of London as “J.D. Salinger, Ken Kesey and Jack Kerouac rolled into one,” is the acclaimed writer of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a memoir about raising his younger brother after their parents died of cancer within weeks of each other. The book – his first – was a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist and won the 2000 Book of the Year award. The memoir was followed by a novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity!, winner of the 2003 Independent Book Award. He currently is working on a biography of Valentino Ashak Deng, a refugee from the Sudan now living in Atlanta.
Eggers is the founder of McSweeny’s, an independent publishing house that publishes books, a quarterly literary journal, and a Web site. A frequent contributor to a wide variety of magazines, Eggers runs writing workshops for high-school students in San Francisco and Brooklyn, N.Y., and, with their help, edits The Best American Nonrequired Reading, a collection of fiction, essays and journalism.
Frank began his studies at Brown University as a member of the Class of 1942. He left for a wartime assignment in Asia, where he represented Pratt & Whitney Motors during World War II.
Upon his return to the United States in 1945, Frank found work with Schenley Distillers, beginning a long career in the importation and marketing of distilled spirits. In 1972, he founded Sidney Frank Importing Co. Inc., of which he continues as chairman. His reputation and skill as a brand builder led to the American marketing success of Jägermeister Liqueur, Grey Goose Vodka and Gekkeikan Saké.
Frank is chairman of the board of the Sidney and Louise Frank Foundation. He has given two major gifts to the University in the last twelve months: a $100-million gift for undergraduate financial aid, and a $20-million gift to build a new academic building. A former board member of the Riverdale Country School, he has established scholarships for scholar-athletes there.
Huntress, who graduated with honors from Brown University in 1964 with a degree in chemistry, is director of the Geophysical Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. There, he develops new lines of interdisciplinary research in geobiology and astrochemistry, and serves as a spokesman and strategist for the scientific exploration of space.
Such exploration was at the core of Huntress’ work as associate administrator for space science (1993-1998) at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. During that time, the rate at which science missions were launched increased dramatically, along with public awareness of space sciences. Huntress was responsible for NASA’s robotic science missions to observe the universe and to explore the solar system. He originated many new research and flight programs, including NASA’s astrobiology program, the Discovery line of low-cost planetary flight missions, and the current line of Mars Exploration Missions. He also had a key role in creating and implementing the Cassini/Huygens mission.
King, the American Cancer Society Professor of Medicine and Genomic Sciences at the University of Washington, is the pioneering geneticist who proved the existence of the first gene for hereditary breast cancer, now known as BRCA1. Her research continues to offer insights into the genetics of breast and ovarian cancer, hereditary deafness and autoimmune diseases.
She has written and spoken extensively about the ethical, political and societal implications of genetic research, and she advocates for the use of genetics as a means of helping those who have been oppressed. Her laboratory’s expertise in forensic genetics often is called upon to help human rights organizations provide evidence for use in international war crimes trials.
In 2004, King won the Peter Gruber Foundation’s Genetics Prize, the highest honor granted by the international genetics community.
Rashad may be known to millions of television viewers as Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show, but she is also an award-winning stage actress. In 2004, she won the Tony Award for best performance of a leading actress in a play for her portrayal of Lena Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, becoming the first black actress to win a Tony for a dramatic leading role. She is a 2005 Tony Award nominee in the category of best performance by a leading actress in a play for her portrayal of Aunt Ester in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, 10-play cycle chronicling the black experience in 20th-century America.
After graduating magna cum laude from Howard University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Rashad headed to New York City to work in theater. She has appeared in a variety of Broadway productions, including The Wiz, Dreamgirls, and Jelly's Last Jam, and works regularly in regional and off-Broadway theater.
Rhodes is the senior vice chairman of Citigroup and chairman of Citicorp and Citibank.
As the senior international officer for Citigroup, he has specific responsibilities for client relationships in emerging markets worldwide, relationships with governments and other official institutions and appointments of Citigroup’s senior country officers outside the United States.
He served in a variety of senior positions in Latin America and the Caribbean for 20 years before returning to New York in 1977 as head of the Latin American corporate business. During the 1980s, he chaired Citibank’s Restructuring Committee and headed the advisory committees of the international banks that negotiated debt-restructuring agreements for Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. In early 1998, when the Republic of Korea experienced liquidity problems, he chaired the international bank group that negotiated the extension of short-term debt of the Korean banking system.
Rhodes, an alumnus of the Brown Class of 1957, is a member of the Board of Overseers of the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University and a trustee emeritus of the University. He is the recipient of the Brown University Independent Award and the William Rogers Alumni Award.
Samar is the chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the first in Afghanistan’s history. In this position, she oversees the conduct of human rights education programs across the country, implementation of a nationwide women’s rights education program, and monitoring and investigation of human rights abuses.
Previously, Samar was the deputy prime minister and minister of women’s affairs for the interim administration of Afghanistan, one of only two women cabinet ministers in the transition government. During the interim administration, Samar established the first Afghanistan Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Under her leadership, the ministry began advocacy, training and service programs to help restore the rights of women and to improve their economic, political, legal and social status. Among other accomplishments, the ministry won the right of women government employees to return to their jobs and to keep their seniority, secured the representation of women as 11 percent of the Loya Jirga delegates, and oversaw the re-entry of girls to schools.
Samar founded and directs the Shuhada Organization, which runs health, education and income-generation projects for women and girls in Afghanistan and those living as refugees in Pakistan.
Since assuming the presidency of Providence College in 1994, Smith has worked to advance Providence College’s academic reputation and transform the campus environment. Under his leadership as Providence College’s 11th president, academic merit scholarships were introduced, enrollment in the Liberal Arts Honors program grew significantly, and the average test scores of incoming students have increased.
In the fall 2004 semester, the College opened two new buildings: a suite-style residence hall and the Smith Center for the Arts, a performing arts venue named in Smith’s honor. Other campus infrastructure improvements initiated during his term include the construction of St. Dominic Chapel, refurbishment of the Raymond Hall dining facility and the Phillips Memorial Library, the opening of a student entertainment center and major advances in classroom instructional technology.
Smith will retire from the college presidency on June 30.