Penn to award seven honorary degrees


Degree recipients include graduation speaker Geoffrey Canada




At Penn’s 256th commencement on May 14, the University will honor seven individuals with honorary degrees. In this feature, The Daily Pennsylvanian takes a look at those who will be receiving honorary degrees.

Geoffrey Canada will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for his work as a social activist. Canada founded the Harlem Children’s Zone, a comprehensive educational and health network for impoverished youth. His work was featured in the 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman. Canada will also deliver the commencement address at Penn on May 14.

David Petraeus, a retired United States Army General and director of the Central Intelligence Agency, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws. In his 37-year career, Petraeus led the NATO International Security Assistance Force, the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and all Iraq coalition forces. Petraeus has received numerous honors in the Army, including three awards of the Distinguished Service Medal.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights leader, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws. Lewis played an active role in the American civil rights movement, organizing the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He participated in the 1961 Freedom Rides and spoke along with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the August 1963 March on Washington.

Ruzena Bajcsy will receive an honorary Doctor of Sciences for her research and leadership in the study of robotics, artificial intelligence, engineering and cognitive and applied sciences. Bajcsy is a Penn professor emerita of computer science and engineering, and in 1978 she founded Penn’s General Robotics and Active Sensory Perception Laboratory.

Akira Endo is a Japanese biochemist who will receive an honorary Doctor of Sciences for his research on cholesterol and fungi, which led to a breakthrough in the development of statin drugs to fight heart disease. In additional to winning a number of international prizes, Endo was named a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government.

Peter Lax, a mathematician, will receive an honorary Doctor of Sciences. His findings have been applied in weather forecasting, airplane design and telecommunications signaling. Lax, who is known as the founder of modern computational mathematics, has received the National Medal of Science and the Abel Prize, often regarded as the “Nobel Prize of mathematics.”

Anna Deavere Smith will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for her work as an author, playwright and actress. She has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and two Tony Awards for her “documentary theater”-style plays. In 1996, Smith received the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship to pursue her creative work.

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