Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed May 11, 1998
Contact: Tracie Sweeney

Commencement 1998

Brown will present eight honorary degrees at Commencement May 25

At Commencement Monday, May 25, Brown University will present honorary degrees to author Chinua Achebe, composer John Harbison, philanthropist H. Anthony Ittleson, Mamphela Ramphele of the University of Cape Town, mathematician Kenneth Ribet, educator Theodore R. Sizer, U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro and Janet Yellen of the Council of Economic Advisers.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- On Monday, May 25, Brown University will present honorary degrees to eight individuals who have earned acclaim in their fields. Brown President E. Gordon Gee will confer the degrees during the University convocation, which begins at approximately 11:15 a.m. on The College Green. By tradition, the University does not award honorary degrees in absentia or by proxy.

The recipients are author Chinua Achebe; composer John Harbison; philanthropist H. Anthony Ittleson; Mamphela Ramphele, vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town; mathematician Kenneth A. Ribet; Theodore R. Sizer, a leader in education reform; U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro; and Janet Yellen of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Three of the eight will present Commencement Forums Saturday, May 23:

Their sessions and all other Commencement Forums are free and open to the public.

Editors: Please contact the News Bureau for more detailed biographical information and photographs of the honorary degree candidates.

Chinua Achebe, Doctor of Humane Letters

Chinua Achebe has been described as Nigeria's foremost literary ambassador. As a student at the University of Ibadan, Achebe vowed to write something that viewed his country from the inside. That vow yielded his first novel, Things Fall Apart, an account of the gradual destruction of a traditional Igbo village. First published in 1958, the novel has sold more than 3 million copies. Later novels include Arrow of God (1964) and A Man of the People (1966).

Achebe also is an educator. Currently a professor at Bard College in New York, he previously taught at the University of Nigeria, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Connecticut.

John Harbison, Doctor of Music

John Harbison is one of the nation's most prominent composers and conductors. His works range from string quartets and symphonies to operas and cantatas, including The Flight into Egypt, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1987. He has conducted many of the nation's leading orchestras and choral groups.

He currently is working on The Great Gatsby, a work commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and scheduled to premiere in December 1999. His next project is a piece for the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera Chorus celebrating the 50th anniversary of the state of Israel.

Harbison is Institute Professor of Music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

H. Anthony Ittleson, Doctor of Humane Letters

H. Anthony Ittleson, a 1960 graduate of Brown, is chairman and president of The Ittleson Foundation, which focuses on the areas of AIDS, the environment and mental health.

Most recently, he was chair of the board of Travel Ventures, which organizes and supports bicycle and walking tours in the United States and Europe. He began his business career in 1961 with The CIT Group, from which he retired June 1992.

Ittleson, a former member of the Brown Corporation's Board of Fellows, has played key roles in University fund raising. He was executive chairman of the recent $534-million Campaign for the Rising Generation, and served a four-year term as national chair of the Brown Annual Fund.

Mamphela Ramphele, Doctor of Laws

Mamphela Ramphele became vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, South Africa's oldest university and its leading research institution, in 1996. She is the first black and the first woman to hold this position at the university, and the only black woman vice chancellor in South Africa.

Ramphele was one of the founders of South Africa's anti-apartheid Black Consciousness Movement in the 1960s. Trained as a doctor and an anthropologist, she founded several community health centers in South Africa. Even during her banishment by the Nationalist government from 1977 through 1983, she continued to work for the rural poor by raising enough money to open a day-care center and establish an adult literacy program.

She has received numerous awards for her leadership in development issues and for spearheading projects to improve life for the most disadvantaged sectors of her country.

Kenneth Ribet, Doctor of Science

Kenneth Ribet, professor of mathematics at the University of California-Berkeley, is known internationally for his work on problems in number theory and arithmetical algebraic geometry. He may be best known for his role in the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem: He proved the theorem is a logical consequence of the Shimura-Taniyama conjecture.

Ribet received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Brown in 1969, and his doctorate in 1973 from Harvard University. Before arriving in 1978 at Berkeley to teach, he taught at Princeton University and the University of Paris and pursued research at the Institut des Hautes Etudies Scientifiques as a Sloan Foundation fellow. He recently was named vice chair for instruction in the Berkeley math department.

Theodore R. Sizer, Doctor of Humane Letters

Brown University Professor emeritus Theodore R. Sizer is arguably the nation's leading educational reformer. Since the late 1970s, he has worked with hundreds of high schools, studying the development and design of the American education system. His research was first published in 1984 in the acclaimed Horace's Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School. The book was followed in 1992 by Horace's School: Redesigning the American High School and in 1996 by Horace's Hope: What Works for the American High School.

Sizer came to Brown's Education Department in 1983. The following year, he founded the Coalition of Essential Schools. That organization, which Sizer still directs, has grown into an international network of some 1,000 schools organized around a set of common principles. Sizer also was director of the Brown-based Annenberg Institute for School Reform from 1994 through 1996, when he retired from Brown.

This fall, Sizer will become acting principal of the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School in Devens, Mass.

Joseph L. Tauro, Doctor of Laws

Joseph L. Tauro, who received a bachelor of arts degree from Brown in 1953, was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in 1972 by President Richard M. Nixon, and was named chief judge in January 1992.

He spent two years in the Army after graduating in 1956 from Cornell University's law school, then became assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts. From 1960 through 1971, he practiced law with his own Boston-based firm. From 1965 through 1968, he also was chief legal counsel to the governor of Massachusetts.

Tauro is an adjunct professor at the Boston University School of Law and a trustee emeritus of the Corporation of Brown University.

Janet L. Yellen, Doctor of Laws

Janet Yellen, a 1967 graduate of Brown, was appointed chair of the Council of Economic Advisers by President Clinton and confirmed on Feb. 13, 1997. She previously was a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, named by Clinton to that position in February 1994.

Before becoming a member of the Federal Reserve Board, Yellin was a professor in the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. She also served on the Panel of Economic Advisers for the Congressional Budget Office, as senior adviser to the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity, and as an economist with the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, specializing on issues of international trade and finance, including stabilization of international currency exchange rates.