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May 5, 2008

University Names 2008 Honorary Degree Recipients

Columbia University will confer seven honorary degrees and one Medal for Excellence at its commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 21. Recipients include a contributor to the Human Genome Project, a trailblazing female engineer, and the president of Barnard College, as well as other historians, scientists and professionals who stand out in their fields.

The 2008 honorary degree recipients are:

Fazle Abed

Fazle Hasan Abed, Doctor of Laws
Fazle Abed is the founder and chairperson of BRAC (formerly the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), one of the largest non-government anti-poverty organizations in the world. Abed formed BRAC in his native Bangladesh shortly after the 1971 Liberation War to provide assistance to millions of returning refugees. Abed’s organization then took on the challenging mission of alleviating poverty and empowering the poor. Today it supports 34,000 schools and is helping to improve the lives of 100 million Bangladeshis. Abed is the recipient of the first Clinton Global Citizenship Award, the Ramon Magsaysay Prize and the UNICEF Maurice Pate Award.

Emanuel Ax

Emanuel Ax, Doctor of Music
Emanuel Ax is an award-winning pianist who performs regularly with several orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, London Philharmonic and the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester in Berlin. He holds the Avery Fisher Prize, the Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists, and in 1974 he was the first winner of the Arthur Rubenstein International Piano Competition. Recipient of several Grammy Awards, Ax has been an exclusive Sony Classical recording artist since 1987. He has performed with Yefim Bronfman, Edgar Meyer, Myung-Whun Chung, Sir Simon Rattle and Yo-Yo Ma. He attended Columbia College.

Alicia Graf

Alicia Graf, Medal of Excellence (Awarded annually to an outstanding graduate of the University under the age of 45.)
Alicia Graf is a modern dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She earned high praise as a teenage ballerina and at age 17 joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem. When injuries and subsequent surgeries forced her off stage, Graf became the associate artistic director of A Time to Dance, Inc., overseeing a collegiate dance-ministry team that performed in local churches and other spiritual spaces. During that time she enrolled in Columbia, where she eventually graduated magna cum laude. Now fully recovered from her injuries, Graf has returned to dancing and recently was named by Smithsonian magazine one of 37 young American innovators of the arts and sciences. The New York Times recently named her one of ten most influential dancers of the year.

Dawn Greene

Dawn Greene, Doctor of Laws
Dawn Greene is president and CEO of the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, a philanthropic organization founded by her late husband, a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School and a major donor to the University. Through the foundation, Jerome and Dawn Greene made notable contributions to the health care field, with gifts in support of the Jerome L. and Dawn Greene Medical Arts Pavilion and Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center. Dawn Greene’s interest in social health issues stems from her degrees in sociology, social work and clinical counseling. She has served on the boards of Inwood House and Planned Parenthood of New York City.

Eric Lander

Eric Lander, Doctor of Science
Eric Lander is the founding director of the Broad Institute, a collaborative disease-prevention research organization associated with MIT and Harvard. It is credited with making progress toward identifying the molecular taxonomy of cancer. A principal leader of the Human Genome Project—a 13-year program that identified and assessed the functions of more than 20,000 genes in human DNA—Lander helped develop the precepts of human and mammalian genomics, pioneering new ways of understanding cancer. Lander is a professor of biology at MIT, professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School and member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. In 2004, he was named one of the world’s most influential people by TIME magazine.

William Leuchtenburg

William Leuchtenburg, Doctor of Letters
William Leuchtenburg is the William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of History Emeritus at the University of North Carolina and a former professor at Columbia, where he held the DeWitt Clinton chair. He served as president of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians and the Society of American Historians. He has lectured in the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. Supreme Court and the French Senate. During the 1977 Silver Jubilee in London he delivered the inaugural lecture to Queen Elizabeth II. He is the first recipient of the Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Award for distinguished writing in American history of enduring public significance. Leuchtenburg has also served as presidential election analyst for NBC and has covered inaugurations for CBS, C-SPAN and PBS. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia.

Gertrude Neumark

Gertrude Neumark, Doctor of Science
Gertrude Neumark is a pioneering engineer and one of the world’s foremost experts on blue and ultraviolet light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and lasers. The Henry Marion Howe Professor Emerita of Materials Science and Engineering at Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, she is the first woman to be given a chair by the school. Neumark has amassed several patents, and her research has led to improved consumer products, including sharper laser printers, increased DVD storage capacity, and advanced traffic lights, mobile-phone screens and flat-screen TVs. Neumark served as a fellow of the American Physical Society, a panelist for the National Research Council, and a top researcher for Sylvania Research Laboratories and Philips Laboratories. She received her Ph.D. from Columbia.

Judith Shapiro

Judith Shapiro, Doctor of Laws
Judith Shapiro is a cultural anthropologist who in 1994 became the sixth president of Barnard College. A pioneering researcher and a prominent voice on women’s education, Shapiro in 1970 became the first woman appointed the University of Chicago’s Department of Anthropology. She has written extensively on gender differentiation and social theory based on her field research in South America. During her time as president, Barnard has become the most sought-after private liberal arts college for women in the U.S., and its endowment has doubled. Shapiro served as president of the American Ethnological Society, fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. In 2002 she received the National Institute of Social Sciences’ Gold Medal Award. Shapiro, who will step down as Barnard president this summer, received her Ph.D. from Columbia.