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Former Sen. George Mitchell, Author Joan Didion, Columbia President-Elect Lee Bollinger to Receive Honorary Degrees, May 22

George Mitchell

Former Senator George Mitchell, author Joan Didion, and Columbia President-Elect Lee C. Bollinger are among those scheduled to receive honorary degrees at Commencement Exercises marking Columbia University's 248th academic year on Wednesday, May 22, 2002.

Also scheduled to receive honorary degrees are Brown University President Ruth Simmons, Latin American literary scholar Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, neuropsychologist Brenda Milner, and Jack Beeson, Columbia University's MacDowell Professor Emeritus of Music. Neuroscientist George Yancopoulous will receive the University Medal for Excellence, which is given each year to a Columbia alumnus who has made significant contributions to society.

In addition to the awarding of honorary degrees, more than 9,000 Columbia students will graduate before tens of thousands of their family and friends during a ceremony that will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Low Library Plaza.

Lee C. Bollinger, the former University of Michigan president who will become Columbia's 19th president this summer, will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. At Michigan Bollinger's achievements included: advancing undergraduate education, launching a $700-million Life Sciences Initiative, attaining record levels of research funding and private giving, and developing a major campus revitalization plan.

Lee C. Bollinger

A former provost of Dartmouth College and dean of the Michigan Law School, Bollinger is a legal scholar whose primary interests are free speech and the First Amendment. He led the legal battles to uphold the University of Michigan's affirmative action policies in student admissions.

Former Senator George Mitchell will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. Mitchell, a Democrat, served as United States Senator from Maine from 1982 to 1995 and as Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. He joined the Washington, D.C., law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand in 1999.

As special advisor to President Bill Clinton and secretary of state for economic initiatives in Ireland, Mitchell played a pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process, which concluded on April 12, 1998 with the signing of a multilateral peace agreement. For his service in this process he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor that the U.S. Government can give; the Philadelphia Liberty Medal; the Truman Institute Peace Prize; and the United Nations Peace Prize.

He also served as chair of the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact Finding Committee on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and in July Mitchell will join Columbia as a senior fellow at the School of International and Public Affairs.

Joan Didion, who will receive an honorary doctor of letters, is a journalist and novelist. Collections of her magazine essays include "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" (1968) and "The White Album "(1979) and her critically acclaimed novels include "Play It As It Lays" (1970) and "A Book of Common Prayer" (1977).

Ruth J. Simmons will be awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree. After serving as president of Smith College from 1995 to 2001, she became the 18th president of Brown University, where she also holds an appointment as professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Department of Africana Studies. She is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

(Courtesy of KNOPF)
Joan Didion

Brenda Milner, who will receive an honorary doctor of science degree, is Dorothy J. Killam Professor at the Montreal Neurological Institute, where she served as head of the neuropsychology research unit from 1953 to 1990. The recipient of more than two dozen honorary degrees and professional awards, she is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, International Brain Research Organization, and British Society of Experimental Psychology.

Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria will be awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree. He is Sterling Professor of Hispanic and Comparative Literature at Yale University, where has spent most of the last 30 years. He has also taught at Cornell University. Echevarria is the author of more than a dozen books, including his most recent, "The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball," which was published in 1999.

Jack Beeson, who will be awarded an honorary doctor of music degree, has been associated with Columbia since 1945 and became MacDowell Professor Emeritus of Music in 1988. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and has been a recipient of both Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships.

George Yancopoulos, the University Medal for Excellence recipient, received his B.A. (1980), Ph.D. (1986) and M.D. (1987) degrees from Columbia. He is currently president of Regeneron Research Laboratories and CSO of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., where he has worked since 1989. Yancopoulous also spent four years at Columbia as Howard Hughes Fellow (1987), Lucille P. Markey Scholar (1988-89), and adjunct professor (since 1990).

Columbia, one of the world's leading universities and a member of the Ivy League, was founded in 1754, making the University the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth oldest in the country.

Published: Apr 22, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002


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