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Sketches of the Honorary Degree Recipients

Commencement Speaker: Jodie Foster

  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • Shirley Ann Jackson
  • Lawrence R. Klein
  • Judith Klinman
  • Stephen A. Wynn
  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

    Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

    Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the W.E.B. Professor of the Humanities at Harvard  and chair of its department of African and African American Studies and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

    Dr. Gates is the author of several works of literary criticism, including “Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the ‘Racial’ Self,” “The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism,” and “Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars.” He has also authored Colored People: A Memoir, which traces his childhood experiences in a small West Virginia town, “The Future of the Race,” co-authored with Cornel West, and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man.” Dr. Gates discovered and authenticated the manuscript of the first novel by an African American slave, and possibly the first written by a black woman anywhere, which was published as “The Bondwoman’s Narrative.” He has edited several anthologies and encyclopedias, including “The Norton Anthology of African American Literature,” “The Oxford-Schomburg Library of Nineteenth Century Black Women Writers,” “Encyclopedia Africana” (co-edited with K. Anthony Appiah), and “African American Lives” (co-edited with Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham). He has also produced and narrated three PBS television series, “Wonders of the African World” (1999), “America Beyond the Color Line” (2004), and “African American Lives” (2006). In addition, Dr. Gates has written for Time magazine, The New Yorker, and The New York Times, among other publications.

    Dr. Gates earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge, and his B.A. (summa cum laude) from Yale. His honors and grants include a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” (1981), the George Polk Award for Social Commentary (1993), a National Humanities Medal (1998), and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1999).

    Shirley Ann Jackson

    Shirley Jackson

    Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, and Hartford, CT, the oldest technological research university in the U.S., has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe.

    Dr. Jackson is immediate past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and currently chairman of the AAAS Board of Directors, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Physical Society, and has advisory roles and involvement in other prestigious national organizations. She serves as a trustee of the Brookings Institution, a life member of the M.I.T Corporation, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Council on Competitiveness and serves on the boards of Georgetown University and Rockefeller University. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the New York Stock Exchange, the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, and is a director of several major corporations.

    She was appointed chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), 1995-1999, by U.S. President William J. Clinton. At the NRC, Dr. Jackson reorganized the agency, and completely revamped its regulatory approach, by articulating, and moving strongly to, risk-informed, performance-based regulation. Prior to that, she was a theoretical physicist at the former AT&T Bell Laboratories and a professor of theoretical physics at Rutgers University. 

    Dr. Jackson holds an S.B. in physics and a Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics from M.I.T., and 32 honorary doctoral degrees.

    Lawrence R. Klein

    Lawrence Klein

    Dr. Lawrence R. Klein is Benjamin Franklin Professor of Economics (emeritus) at Penn, where he has been a faculty member since 1958.  Dr. Klein previously was affiliated with the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, Oxford University, and the National Bureau of Economic Research. He holds degrees from the University of California (B.A.), M.I.T.  (Ph.D.) and Oxford University (M.A.) and honorary degrees and honorary professorships from more than 30 universities worldwide.

    He was a founder of The Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics (Michigan), of Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates, a principal investigator of Project LINK, and of the International Economic Review (Pennsylvania/Osaka).  He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and a corresponding member of the British Academy.  He is an honorary fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford and a foreign associate of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He has advised many U.S. and foreign governments. In 1976 he was the coordinator of Jimmy Carter’s Economic Task Force in a successful bid for the Presidency of the United States. He has served on the editorial board of many scholarly journals and many learned societies. He is a fellow of the Econometric Society, and serves of the board of directors of W.P Carey & Co., and is chairman of the Economic Policy Committee. In 1980 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.

    Judith Klinman

    Judith Klinman

    Dr. Judith Klinman received her B.A. in 1962 and her Ph.D. in 1966, both from Penn and carried out postdoctoral research with Dr. David Samuel at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, and Dr. Irwin Rose at the Institute for Cancer Research, Philadelphia.  She was an independent researcher at the Institute for Cancer Research for many years, before moving to the University of California at Berkeley, where she is now a professor of chemistry and of molecular and cell biology.

    Dr. Klinman has had a long, highly innovative and distinguished career in the sciences. Two ground-breaking discoveries have come from her group in the last decade. The first concerns protein cofactors, which traditionally have been ascribed to low molecular weight molecules that bind reversibly to proteins. Dr. Klinman’s spectacular demonstration in l990 of the presence of a neurotoxin, 6-hydroxydopa (referred to as TPQ), at the active site of a copper-containing amine oxidase from bovine plasma overcame years of incorrect speculation regarding the nature of the active site structure and opened up the currently active field of protein-derived cofactors. 

    A second major breakthrough from the Klinman laboratory concerns the nature of enzyme catalysis. In the course of her detailed studies on the mechanism of dehydrogenases, Dr. Klinman observed kinetic anomalies that were inconsistent with the prevailing view of enzyme catalysis via transition state stabilization. In more recent studies she has begun to amass evidence for a totally new picture of hydrogen transfer in condensed phase. As previously postulated by theoreticians, this involves a view of catalysis in which hydrogen is transferred as “a wave” and the heavy atoms of the surrounding environment represent the barrier to catalysis. This provides one of the first experimental approaches to demonstrate how dynamical motions within a protein can be coupled to the bond making/bond breaking processes that they catalyze.

    In conjunction with her research accomplishments, Dr. Klinman has served as a mentor and model for others. She was the first female faculty in the physical sciences at UC Berkeley and the first female chair of the department of chemistry at UCB. She also served as president of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She has worked toward diversifying the faculty at Berkeley and encouraging female and minority students to pursue careers in academia. Many of her former graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have pursued productive and visible positions in academia and industry.

    Stephen A. Wynn

    Steve Wynn

    Casino developer Stephen A. Wynn is widely credited with transforming Las Vegas into a world-renowned resort and convention destination. Mr. Wynn envisioned and built the Mirage, Treasure Island, and Bellagio, and conceived resorts that set higher standards for quality, luxury, and entertainment. As Chairman of the Board and CEO of Wynn Resorts, Limited, Mr. Wynn recently developed Wynn Las Vegas, one of the world's preeminent luxury hotel resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. Currently, Wynn Resorts is developing its Asian flagship casino resort in Macau, China where the company has been awarded a 20-year concession by the Macau government.


    Over the last 30 years, Mr. Wynn has created many of the landmark hotels and casinos that Las Vegas is known for, including the Mirage, which features an erupting volcano and South Seas theme, Treasure Island, establishing a new paradigm by which casino theme resorts are designed and the opulent Bellagio, a $1.6 billion resort considered among the world’s most spectacular hotels. Visitors line the street in front of the hotel to watch another Steve Wynn attraction, the “Dancing Waters”—shooting fountains, choreographed to music, that “dance” on the hotel’s 8.5 acre man-made lake.

    In 1999, Mr. Wynn brought Mirage Resorts’ standard of style to beautiful and historic Biloxi, Mississippi where he oversaw development of the 1,835-room Beau Rivage. Blending Mediterranean beauty with Southern hospitality, the resort was the centerpiece of a building boom that established Biloxi as a regional tourism center along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

    Mr. Wynn graduated with a B.A. degree in English Literature from Penn in 1963. Mr. Wynn is active in the community and has received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Sierra Nevada College in northern Nevada.  He is chairman of the University of Utah’s Moran Eye Institute, serves on the Board of the George Bush Presidential Library and is a former Penn Trustee.



      Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 24, February 28, 2006


    February 28, 2006
    Volume 52 Number 24


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