Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed May 26, 1999
Contact: Tracie Sweeney

Commencement 1999

Brown will present 10 honorary degrees at Commencement May 31

At Commencement Monday, May 31, 1999, Brown University will present honorary degrees to Brian Dickinson, James Freedman, John Glenn, John Hume, Ruth Kirschstein, Queen Noor of Jordan, Romano Prodi, William Raspberry, Steven Spielberg and Julia Taft.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Brown University will present 10 honorary degrees at its 231st Commencement ceremony Monday, May 31. President E. Gordon Gee will confer the degrees during the University Convocation, which begins at approximately 11:15 a.m. on The College Green.

The recipients are Providence Journal editorial writer Brian Dickinson; James Freedman, president emeritus of Dartmouth College; Sen. John Glenn; Nobel Peace Prize recipient John Hume; Ruth Kirschstein, M.D., of the National Institutes of Health; Queen Noor of Jordan; Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission; Washington Post columnist William Raspberry; filmmaker Steven Spielberg; and Julia Taft, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.

Editors: Texts of the honorary degree citations with their Latin conferrals are available from the News Bureau or at the News Bureau's Web site.

None of the recipients is a Commencement speaker - at Brown, that honor goes to Erica Dillon and Jasmine Waddell, two students selected from the Class of 1999. However, six honorary degree recipients will speak during Commencement/Reunion Weekend:

Editors: For more information about the six lectures, or for detailed biographical information and photographs of the honorary degree candidates, please contact the News Bureau at (401) 863-2476.

Brian Dickinson
Doctor of Humane Letters

As a writer, columnist and Brown alumnus (A.M., 1972), Brian Dickinson's work has attracted a wide and loyal following in Rhode Island, where he is an editorial columnist for The Providence Journal, and nationally through syndication.

In 1992, Dickinson was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), which has paralyzed his entire body and left him unable to speak. But aided by special equipment that reads the movement of his eyes, Dickinson continues to write his columns. His insightful commentaries on a broad range of foreign and domestic topics earned Dickinson the Poynter Prize for Distinguished Commentary in 1994 from the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

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James Freedman
Doctor of Laws

James Freedman has played critical roles in higher education for 35 years, 16 of them as president of two major American universities - the University of Iowa (1982-87) and Dartmouth College (1987-98).

Upon ending his chapter as Dartmouth's president last June, the college's Board of Trustees praised him for transforming the college into a haven for intellectuals. Under Freedman, Dartmouth's endowment grew to more than $1.2 billion, and its curriculum underwent its first overhaul in more than 70 years. As one Dartmouth professor told The New York Times, Freedman "upped the intellectual ante. The students are brighter and brighter, and now they're not afraid to admit that they're bright. He's made it O.K. to talk about books and ideas."

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John Glenn
Doctor of Laws

John Glenn is the first American to orbit Earth and the oldest person to fly in space. He also served his native Ohio in four consecutive terms as a U.S. senator.

A Marine Corps pilot during World War II and the Korean War, then a military test pilot, NASA selected Glenn as one of its original seven astronauts. Glenn orbited Earth three times aboard Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962. He remained with NASA through 1964, serving as a specialist in control functioning and cockpit layout, including some of the early designs for the Apollo project.

In 1974, Glenn was elected to the U.S. Senate. As a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, he developed his plan to return to space as a guinea pig to test the effects of weightlessness upon the aging human body. In January 1998, he was named a payload specialist aboard the shuttle Discovery, which flew its mission Oct. 29-Nov. 7, 1998. He retired from the Senate in December 1998.

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John Hume
Doctor of Laws

John Hume is considered Northern Ireland's most influential mainstream Roman Catholic political leader. For more than 30 years, he has consistently advocated for a peaceful solution to the national, religious and social conflict that has cost more than 3,500 lives in his homeland.

In December 1998, Hume received the Nobel Prize for Peace for his work as one of the architects of the peace agreement in Northern Ireland, signed April 10, 1998. The Nobel Committee cited Hume, who shared the award with John Trimble, as the "clearest and most consistent of Northern Ireland's political leaders in his work for a peaceful solution."

Since 1979, Hume has led the Social Democratic and Labour Party, which he co-founded in 1970. He is a past or current member of the Northern Ireland Parliament, the European Parliament for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention.

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Ruth Kirschstein
Doctor of Medical Science

Ruth Kirschstein, M.D., is deputy director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she has worked for 42 years. From 1957 to 1972, she performed research in experimental pathology at the Division of Biologics Standards (now the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration). During that time, she helped develop and refine tests to assure the safety of viral vaccines for such diseases as polio, measles and rubella. Her work on polio led to selection of the Sabin vaccine for public use.

In 1972 she became assistant director of the Division of Biologics Standards. That same year, when the division was transferred to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), she was appointed deputy director. She subsequently served as deputy associate commissioner for science, FDA, before being named director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the first woman to hold such a post at NIH. From September 1990 to September 1991, she also was acting associate director of the NIH for research on women's health. She also was acting director of NIH from July to November 1993.

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Queen Noor of Jordan
Doctor of Humane Letters

For more than 20 years, Queen Noor of Jordan worked with her husband, the late King Hussein, to promote international exchange and understanding in Middle Eastern politics, Arab-Western relations and current global issues.

Most recently, Queen Noor has become an advocate in the international fight to ban antipersonnel mines, working with the Landmine Survivors Network and the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

In addition, Queen Noor is active with the United Nations and other international organizations working on issues of education, women and children, community development, human rights, and environmental and architecture conservation. The numerous projects she initiated in those fields in her country are administered by the Noor Al Hussein Foundation. Many have received international recognition as development models for the Middle East and the developing world.

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Romano Prodi
Doctor of Laws

On March 24, 1999, the prime ministers of the 15 European Union nations selected scholar and statesman Romano Prodi to be president of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union.

Prodi, Italy's prime minister until October 1998, describes himself as "dedicated to Europe," and is credited with having guided Italy into the euro, the new currency of the EU. Last month, Prodi told The Financial Times of London that his goal as president is to draw upon "the consequences of the single currency and create a political Europe" and to develop "a common European soul."

Prodi became Italy's prime minister in May 1996. He previously served Italy as its minister of industry, and twice as president of Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale.

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William J. Raspberry
Doctor of Humane Letters

The keen observations of William J. Raspberry, urban affairs columnist for The Washington Post, are read by millions, and his excellence was rewarded in 1994 when he won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Raspberry began his journalistic career with the Indianapolis Recorder, where he spent four years before joining the Army. Following his honorable discharge, he went to work at The Washington Post in 1962 as a teletype operator. He soon was promoted to reporter and, in 1966, began to write his own column. His writing proved so popular that the column was subsequently syndicated. It now appears in approximately 203 newspapers across the country.

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Steven Spielberg
Doctor of Humane Letters

Steven Spielberg is one of the world's most respected and successful filmmakers, having directed or produced seven of the top 20 grossing films of all time.

Last year, Spielberg directed and served as a producer on Saving Private Ryan, one of the year's most honored films. It brought Spielberg his second Academy Award for best director, and earned four additional Oscars. The film also won two Golden Globe Awards for best picture (Drama) and best director.

In 1994, Spielberg won two Academy Awards - one for best director and another for best picture for his work as a producer - for the internationally lauded Schindler's List.

Spielberg's experience making Schindler's List led him to establish the Righteous Persons Foundation with all his personal profits from the film. He also founded Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which has recorded more than 50,000 Holocaust survivor testimonies.

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Julia V. Taft
Doctor of Laws

As assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, Julia Taft is at the forefront of what she calls the "humanitarian catastrophe" unfolding in the Balkans for more than a year.

A leading authority on refugee and humanitarian affairs, Taft has held senior positions in both government and the private sector. She took office as assistant secretary in November 1997. Previously, she was president and CEO of InterAction (American Council for Voluntary International Action), a coalition of 156 U.S.-based private organizations working on international development, refugee assistance, and humanitarian relief around the world.

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