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Commencement 2007: Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipients
March 13, 2007, Volume 53, No. 25

  • James A. Baker III
  • Aaron Temkin Beck
  • Caroline W. Bynum
  • Mildred S. Dresselhaus
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Shirley Franklin
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • Commencement Speaker James A. Baker III

    James Baker

    Former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III served at the highest levels of American government. As Secretary of State in the George H.W. Bush administration, he traveled to more than 90 countries as part of the United States’ diplomatic efforts in the post-Cold War era and also formed a coalition of 34 countries opposed to Iraq’s intervention in Kuwait. Under President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Baker served as Treasury Secretary, Chairman of the President’s Economic Policy Council, and White House Chief of Staff. He began his career in public service as Under Secretary of Commerce to President Gerald Ford.

    Long influential in American presidential politics, Mr. Baker led campaigns for Presidents Ford, Reagan, and Bush in five consecutive elections from 1976 to 1992.

    More recently, Mr. Baker has served as Personal Envoy of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the issue of the sovereignty of Western Sahara and as Special Presidential Envoy for President George W. Bush on the topic of Iraqi debt. He co-chaired the Commission on Federal Election Reform as well as the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan committee established by Congress to assess the conflict in Iraq.

    Currently a senior partner in the law firm of Baker Botts, Mr. Baker is Honorary Chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and serves on the board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is the author of The Politics of Diplomacy and the memoir Work Hard, Study . . . and Keep Out of Politics! He graduated from Princeton University in 1952. After service in the United States Marine Corps, he entered the University of Texas School of Law, where he graduated with honors. He then joined the Houston law firm of Andrews Kurth, where he was employed until 1975.

    Mr. Baker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, in 1991. His other awards include Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Award, the American Institute for Public Service’s Jefferson Award, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Award, the Hans J. Morgenthau Award, the George F. Kennan Award, the Department of the Treasury’s Alexander Hamilton Award, and the Department of State’s Distinguished Service Award.

    Honorary Degree Recipients

    Aaron Temkin Beck

    Aaron Beck

    Internationally renowned psychiatrist and researcher Aaron Beck is University Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the Center for the Treatment and Prevention of Suicide and the Psychopathology Research Unit.

    With his development of cognitive therapy in the early 1960s, Dr. Beck transformed psychiatry and psychology around the world. Cognitive therapy, a counseling technique in which patients learn to head off or defuse self-defeating thoughts before reacting to them, has proven invaluable in treating a wide variety of disorders. In a profession where Freudian-based therapy had reigned supreme, its impacts have been extraordinary.  Today, it is the fastest growing and most widely studied field of psychotherapy in the world.

    Dr. Beck also has been instrumental in changing the psychological understanding and treatment of several pervasive conditions such as depression, anxiety and panic disorders. In addition, he has developed sophisticated instruments for assessing the severity of specific syndromes and has made seminal additions to the understanding and prevention of suicide. He has been listed among the “10 individuals who shaped the face of American psychiatry” and the “five most influential psychotherapists of all time.”

    He is President of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy, a Past President of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, and a Senior Member of the Institute of Medicine. The only psychiatrist ever to receive research awards from both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association, he has administered more than 20 research grants, published more than 500 articles, authored or co-authored 18 books, and lectured around the world. 

    Dr. Beck’s numerous honors include the Sarnat International Award in Mental Health and Lienhard Award of the Institute of Medicine; the Grawemeyer Award for his role as “a revolutionary in psychology”; and the Lasker Award for Medical Science, which is considered by many to be the “American Nobel Prize.” He graduated from Brown University in 1942 and received an honorary M.D.S. degree in 1982.  In 1946 he graduated from Yale Medical School.

    Caroline W. Bynum

    Caroline Bynum

    Caroline W. Bynum, Professor of Medieval European History at the Institute for Advanced Study’s School of Historical Studies, is a scholar of medieval religious thought and practice with a special interest in women’s piety. Her influential work in medieval religious studies, medieval cultural and intellectual history, as well as on Western ideas of body and self, incorporates religion, art history, philosophy, comparative literature, and anthropology. She is credited with creating the dominant paradigm for the study of medieval women’s piety and with bringing the history of the body to the forefront in pre-modern European Studies.

    Dr. Bynum has taught at Harvard University, the University of Washington, and Columbia University, where she was Dean of the School of General Studies and Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Education. At Columbia, she was the first woman to be named a University Professor, the university’s most prestigious recognition. She also has been named a Jefferson Lecturer, the highest honor the federal government bestows on scholars in the humanities.  Her other awards include a MacArthur Fellowship, the Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate Society, and the Distinguished Career Award from the American Society of Church History.  She is a Fellow of the American Philosophical Society and the Medieval Academy of America and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has served as President of the American Historical Association and the Medieval Academy of America. 

    Wonderful Blood, Dr. Bynum’s latest book, recently published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, is a study of the saving power attributed to Christ’s blood in northern Germany in the 15th century. Her previous books and articles have won numerous awards.

    Dr. Bynum received her B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1962 and her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1969. 

    Mildred Dresselhaus

    Mildred Dresselhaus

    National Medal of Science recipient Mildred Dresselhaus, a pioneer in solid-state electronics, is an Institute Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been a leader in physics for more than 40 years, having conducted groundbreaking research in condensed matter and material physics. Her current work focuses on carbon-based nanostructures, as well as other nanostructures of particular relevance to energy-related applications. 

    In 2000, President Bill Clinton named her Director of the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy, for which she later co-chaired the study, “Basic Research Needs for the Hydrogen Economy,” which led to renewed emphasis on broadening the scope of basic energy research.

    She is a member of many scholarly organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  She is the co-author of four books on carbon science and has two books forthcoming: Applications of Group Theory to the Physics of Condensed Matter and Carbon Nanotubes: New Topics in the Synthesis, Structure, Properties and Applications.

    She is co-chair of a National Academy Decadal Study of Condensed Matter and Materials Physics and Chair of the governing board of the American Institute of Physics. She has served as President of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as Treasurer of the National Academy of Sciences. She has been honored by numerous organizations, including the American Institute of Physics, the American Carbon Society, the American Physical Society, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and the Federation of Materials Societies.  She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1958 after earning a master’s degree at Radcliffe College. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Hunter College and received a Fulbright Fellowship to attend the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University. 

    Aretha Franklin

    Aretha Franklin

    Aretha Franklin is a legendary vocalist whose five-decade career helped give voice to the Civil Rights Movement and has since been an inspiration to countless music lovers. Widely known as “The Queen of Soul,” she is an R&B, soul, and gospel singer, as well as a songwriter and pianist. 

    Ms. Franklin personified an era in which woman and African Americans were beginning to widely perceive the possibility of real social and political change and opportunity.

    Her 1967 hit “Respect,” which portrayed the changes brewing for women and African Americans at the time, became a much-hailed social and political anthem, and Ms. Franklin correspondingly rose as a symbol of the movement.  The empowering lyrics were complemented by the example she set with her own life and career, between her strong, powerful performances and the fact that she often wrote her own material. 

    The daughter of the late Reverend C.L. Franklin, Ms. Franklin began singing gospel music as a child and recorded her first album, The Gospel Sound of Aretha Franklin, at the age of 14.  Having received 18 Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, she is the second most-honored female singer in Grammy history with an unprecedented 11 awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, eight of them consecutive.

    Considered one of the top vocalists of all time, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and was the second woman to be inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.  She has performed at two presidential inaugurations and received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1999 and the National Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005.  Her voice has been declared a natural resource by the State of Michigan, where Ms. Franklin grew up and began her career.

    Shirley Franklin

    Shirley Franklin

    Hon. Shirley Franklin, G ’69, has received national attention for her many contributions as mayor of Atlanta.  She is the first woman to hold that position, as well as the first female African-American to serve as mayor of any major southern city. 

    Now in her second term, Ms. Franklin has already succeeded in balancing the city’s budget, conducting sweeping ethics reform, and improving the city’s ailing infrastructure. She also has worked to repair foundering relationships between the city of Atlanta and regional, state, and national officials.  In addition to these efforts, she was recently acclaimed for leading a corporate and community partnership that swiftly raised $32 million to secure for the people of Atlanta a collection of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous writings, returning them to Dr. King’s hometown for public display.  For her many accomplishments, she was included among U.S. News and World Report’s Best Leaders of 2005 and in that same year was named one of the five best big-city American mayors by Time magazine. She received the 2005 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and the Ethics Advocate Award from the Southern Institute for Business and Professional Ethics in 2006.

    Ms. Franklin, who became mayor in 2000, entered public service in 1978 as the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson. She went on to such senior positions as Executive Officer for Operations and later Chief Administrative Officer and City Manager. She also served as Senior Vice President for External Relations for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. Her influence has extended beyond Atlanta as a member of former Georgia Governor Roy E. Barnes’s transition team and as Vice Chair of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. 

    Ms. Franklin holds an undergraduate degree in sociology from Howard University and a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, which she earned in 1969.

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg

    Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States. The photograph may not be used for any advertising or commercial endorsement purposes, or in any way convey a false impression of Supreme Court sponsorship or approval.

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has played an instrumental role in advancing women’s rights throughout her legal and academic careers. She has also written extensive commentary relating to court procedures, private international law, and comparative law. 

    Justice Ginsburg’s judicial career began in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  In 1993, she was named to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton. During her years on the Supreme Court, her most notable opinion is widely considered to be United States v. Virginia. The decision, which Justice Ginsburg penned in 1996, held that the Virginia Military Institute (a public institution) had violated the equal protection clause by limiting admission to male applicants. The decision further elevated the legal standard in cases of gender discrimination. 

    In 1954, Justice Ginsburg received her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, graduating at the top of her class. She enrolled at Harvard Law School, before transferring to Columbia Law School, where she tied for first in her class. After completing her education, she served as a law clerk for Edmund L. Palmieri, Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. 

    In 1963, she became the second woman to join the law faculty of Rutgers University and in 1972 she returned to Columbia as its first tenured female law professor. While at Columbia, she co-authored the first law school case book on sex discrimination, founded the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and served as a General Counsel to the Union.  In the 1970s, she argued six major gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court. Her work has been credited with helping to transform the legal and social landscape to open doors to greater opportunities for women, and to advance the equal citizenship stature of men and women.






    For Commencement information see www.upenn.edu/commencement.


    Almanac - March 13, 2007, Volume 53, No. 25