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University Selects 4 To Get Honorary Degrees

From The Chronicle Online
April 17, 2007

By Caroline McGeough

Duke will award four honorary degrees during this year's commencement ceremony May 13, President Richard Brodhead announced Monday.

The recipients will be computer scientist Anita Jones, South African church leader Peter Storey, Tony Award-winning dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp and Florence Wald, who started the American hospice movement.

Every year, Duke gives out honorary degrees to recognize extraordinary professional and personal achievement within a variety of fields.

"Each of those we honor was once upon a time starting out his or her own career, full of hope and promise," Brodhead said in a statement. "Having these accomplished individuals with us at commencement gives our students wonderful images of how they might put their own learning to use in the future."

A Christian minister and leader in South Africa, Storey served as professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke's Divinity School from 1999 to 2006.

"Duke has come to mean a great deal to me, therefore to be honored by this fine University is both humbling and gratifying," Storey wrote in an e-mail. "Apart from anything I may have done I would like to think that this degree recognizes the positive transforming role faith can play in the lives of individuals and society."

In South Africa, Storey was active in the opposition to apartheid, writing sermons and organizing church resistance campaigns alongside Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Storey said these experiences provided him with the faithfulness and perseverance to achieve his humanitarian goals.

"I see those ingredients as still very much needed in the world our graduating students will be entering with the immense privilege of a Duke education," he said.

Jones, who served as director of defense research and engineering for the U.S. government until 1997, is now a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Virginia. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the MIT Corporation and was a visiting lecturer in Duke's Department of Computer Science in 2002.
Jones has written two books on computer software and systems and has won several awards, including the 2007 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Founder's Medal and the Department of Defense Award for Distinguished Public Service.

Tharp, a nationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer, founded Twyla Tharp Dance in 1965 and served as lead choreographer with the American Ballet Theater until 1991.

She has created more than 120 works throughout her career, written two books and won three Emmy Awards and a Tony Award for the play "Movin' Out."

Wald founded the first hospice in the United States and served as dean of Yale University's School of Nursing from 1959 to 1968. She has been called a "living legend" by the American Academy of Nursing and enacted reforms as dean that helped to define nursing education as a scholarly clinical field.

Wald, who is turning 90 Thursday, remains a world-renowned leader in nursing research and hospice care. She was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1996 and the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998.

The Committee on Honorary Degrees, a group of Trustees and faculty members, spends more than a year evaluating nominations from faculty, deans and Trustees, which are then approved by the Academic Council and the Board of Trustees.

"The group runs a whole gamut of things that people can do, yet every one of these individuals was judged to have made great contributions," Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, professor of medicine and cardiology and member of the committee, said of this year's honorary degree recipients.

Members of the committee added that they seek nominees who can represent not only the undergraduate commencement experience, but also that of the graduate schools and the University as a whole.

"The University is a big and complex place and finding distinction in individuals who reaffirm Duke's connection to all of those kinds of communities is an interesting job," said professor of economics Roy Weintraub, who is also a member of the committee.

Although Duke usually awards an honorary degree to its commencement speaker, this year's speaker Richard Wagoner-Trinity '75 and chair and CEO of General Motors Corporation-is a Duke Trustee and is therefore ineligible to receive a degree.


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