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Making History


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COMMENCEMENT 2008: Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipients
February 19, 2008, Volume 54, No. 22

The Office of the University Secretary has announced that at Penn’s 252nd Commencement on Monday, May 19, 2008, these seven individuals will be presented with honorary degrees as noted below.

Mr. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York: Doctor of Laws
Mr. Paquito D’Rivera, Musician and Composer: Doctor of Music
Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, G ’71 Gr ’75, President, Harvard University: Doctor of Humane Letters
Dr. Lila Gleitman, Gr ’67, Steven L. and Marsha P. Roth Professor of Psychology Emerita School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania: Doctor of Science
Dr. Bert W. O’Malley, Tom Thompson Professor and Chair, Molecular and Cellular Biology Baylor College of Medicine: Doctor of Science
Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, Founder and Executive Chairman of Shanduka Group, Former Secretary General, African National Congress: Doctor of Laws
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose Director, Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History: Doctor of Science

Commencement Speaker

Michael R. Bloomberg


Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder of Bloomberg L.P., is currently serving his second term as Mayor of the City of New York.

Mr. Bloomberg officially began public life in 2001, when he entered and won the race for Mayor of the City of New York. In his first term, Mr. Bloomberg is credited with reducing crime by 20 percent, creating jobs by supporting small businesses, and implementing ambitious public health strategies, including the ban on smoking in restaurants and bars.

Mr. Bloomberg was re-elected in 2005. In his second term, he has balanced the budget and driven unemployment to a record low. He has also undertaken PlaNYC, a far-reaching campaign to fight global warming and protect the environment. The plan focuses on five crucial dimensions of the city’s environment—land, air, water, energy, and transportation. A key pillar of the plan is reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in city-owned buildings and operations by 30 percent over the next 10 years. As co-founder of the bipartisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Mr. Bloomberg is also working with more than 200 mayors nationwide to ban illegal guns.

Mr. Bloomberg earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1964. After completing his undergraduate degree, he went on to receive an MBA from Harvard Business School. In 1966, he went to work for Salomon Brothers, where he quickly rose through the ranks.

Mr. Bloomberg’s vision for an information services company that would use emerging technology to bring transparency and efficiency to the buyers and sellers of financial securities led to the launching of a small start-up company called Bloomberg L.P. in 1981. Today, Bloomberg L.P. has over 250,000 subscribers to its financial news and information service. Headquartered in New York, the company employs over 10,000 people worldwide.

With the success of his company, Mr. Bloomberg began directing more of his attention to philanthropy, donating his time and resources to many different causes. He has served on the boards of numerous charitable, cultural, and educational institutions, including Johns Hopkins University, where, as chairman of the board, he helped build the Bloomberg School of Public Health into one of the world’s leading institutions of public health research and training.

Honorary Degree Recipients

Paquito D’Rivera


An extraordinarily versatile musician and composer, former child prodigy and Grammy award winner, Paquito D’Rivera’s 50 year musical career has crossed the boundaries of diverse styles from jazz to classical to Latin.

Born in Havana, Cuba, at an early age he performed with the National Theater Orchestra, studied at the Havana Conservatory of Music, and became a featured soloist with the Cuban National Symphony. Mr. D’Rivera established the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna as well as Irakere, the innovative group whose mixture of jazz, rock, classical and traditional Cuban music became a groundbreaking ensemble.

With more than 30 recordings to date, Mr. D’Rivera’s new quintet album, Funk Tango, won a 2008 Grammy award for Best Latin Jazz Album. His nine Grammy Awards include Best Classical Composition in 2004 for Merengue as interpreted by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. As a solo clarinetist and saxophonist, Mr. D’Rivera has performed with the London Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, the Costa Rica National Symphony, the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, and the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, among others.

Mr. D’Rivera has received widespread recognition as a dynamic composer. He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition in 2007, along with an appointment as 2007-2008 Composer-In-Residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

Numerous honors include the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award in 2005, the National Medal of the Arts in 2005, an honorary degree in 2003 from the Berklee School of Music, the Jazz Journalist Association’s Clarinetist of the Year in 2004 and 2006, and the International Association for Jazz Education President’s Award in 2008. He is the first artist to win Latin Grammys in both the Classical and Latin Jazz categories.

Mr. D’Rivera is the author of two books: My Sax Life, and a novel, Oh, La Habana. He currently serves as the artistic director of the Festival Internacional de Jazz de Punta Del Este in Uruguay and the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival in Washington, DC. 

Drew Gilpin Faust


Drew Gilpin Faust became Harvard’s first woman president on July 1, 2007. Dr. Faust, a historian of the Civil War and the American South, is also the Lincoln Professor of History in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Faust was the founding dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, where she guided the transformation of Radcliffe from a college into a wide-ranging institute distinctive for its multidisciplinary focus. Under her leadership, Radcliffe emerged as one of the nation’s foremost centers of scholarly and creative enterprise. Prior to her work at Radcliffe, Dr. Faust was Annenberg Professor of History and director of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, on whose faculty she served for 25 years.

She is the author of six books, including Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, for which she won the Francis Parkman Prize in 1997.  Her most recent book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, has been widely acclaimed.

Dr. Faust serves as a trustee on the boards of Bryn Mawr College, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the National Humanities Center.  She also sits on the Educational Advisory Board of the Guggenheim Foundation. She was president of the Southern Historical Association, vice president of the American Historical Association, and executive board member of the Organization of American Historians and the Society of American Historians. Dr. Faust has also served on numerous editorial boards and selection committees, including the Pulitzer Prize history jury in 1986, 1990, and 2004.

Dr. Faust’s honors include awards in 1982 and 1996 for distinguished teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994, the Society of American Historians in 1993, and the American Philosophical Society in 2004.

Dr. Faust received her bachelor’s degree in history from Bryn Mawr College in 1968, and her master’s degree and doctoral degree in American civilization in 1971 and 1975, respectively, from the University of Pennsylvania.

Lila R. Gleitman


A giant in the areas of linguistics and psychology whose research has come to define the field of language learning, Lila Gleitman is professor emerita of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

She is the co-founder of the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Research in Cognitive Science and served as its co-director from 1988 to 2000. Her research has mainly focused on psycholinguistic questions concerning the structure of the mental lexicon, language acquisition and processing, and the relations between language and thought.

Dr. Gleitman received her BA in literature from Antioch College in 1952 and her PhD in linguistics in 1967 from the University of Pennsylvania. Following three years as an assistant professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, she became a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. She has remained at the University of Pennsylvania since that time, with several visiting professorships at other universities. In 1990 she was named Steven L. and Marsha P. Roth Professor of Psychology and held the position until 1994. She is currently a visiting professor at Rutgers University.

Dr. Gleitman expresses appreciation to two important mentors during her graduate school career, Z. S. Harris and Henry Hoenigswald.  She particularly credits two individuals who contributed to her intellectual themes and approaches: her husband and frequent collaborator, Henry Gleitman, and Noam Chomsky, whose linguistic and psycholinguistic theories were the foundation on which much of her research builds.

Dr. Gleitman is a former president of the Linguistic Society of America and the current president of the Language Development Society and the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.  She is a fellow of the Cognitive Science Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences. She has received awards for her writing and research from the Blue Dragons, the Fyssen Foundation, the American Psychological Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Bert W. O’Malley


The Tom Thompson and Distinguished Service Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine, Bert O’Malley has had a major impact on the fields of endocrinology, reproduction, genetic disease, and endocrine cancers. His research on the primary actions of steroid hormones and nuclear receptors has led to molecular understanding of how hormones and hormonal antagonists work.

Dr. O’Malley received his BS from the University of Pittsburgh in 1959 and his MD from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1963. He finished his internship and residency at Duke University department of medicine in 1965. He was a clinical associate at the National Institute of Health from 1965 to 1967, and from 1967 to 1969 he served as head of the Molecular Biology Section of the Endocrine Branch at the National Cancer Institute. In 1969, he moved to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where he was professor and occupant of the Birch Chair and director of the Reproductive Biology Center. In 1973, Dr. O’Malley moved to Baylor College of Medicine as chairman of molecular and cellular biology. At Baylor, Dr. O’Malley established the college’s first cell biology department and reproductive center and led it to become one of the top-ranking departments of its type in the country.

Among Dr. O’Malley’s awards and honors are the Ernst Oppenheimer Award, Gregory Pincus Memorial Medal, Distinguished Achievement in Modern Medicine Award, Axel Munthe Award in Reproductive Biology, British Endocrine Society Medal, Fred Conrad Koch Medal, Pasarow Award in Cancer Research, Endocrine Transatlantic Medal, George W. Beadle Award, Rodbell Award, Feltrinelli International Prize for Biology, Bowman Award, Brinker Award and the Carl G. Hartman Award. He has also been elected to the Royal Academy of Medicine of Ireland, the US National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. O’Malley has also served as president of the Endocrine Society. He has received honorary degrees from New York Medical College, the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, the National University of Ireland, and the University of Maryland.

Cyril Ramaphosa


One of the significant leaders in South Africa’s transition from apartheid, Cyril Ramaphosa has led his nation forward as a brilliant negotiator and leader. He is currently executive chairman of Shanduka Group, a black-owned and managed investment company with investments in resources, energy, financial services, beverages and property. 

Mr. Ramaphosa obtained his law degree from the University of South Africa. After completing his degree, he joined the Council of Unions of South Africa as an advisor in the legal department. In 1982, Mr. Ramaphosa was elected as the first General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). He built NUM into the most powerful union in the country, with membership rising from 6,000 to 300,000 during his tenure. He occupied this post until 1991.

In 1991, he was elected Secretary General of the African National Congress (ANC) and served as the head of the ANC team negotiating with the apartheid government. In 1994 he became a member of Parliament and chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly, which negotiated South Africa’s first democratic dispensation. He resigned from these positions in 1997 to move into the private sector. He remains a National Executive Member of the ANC.

Mr. Ramaphosa sits on the Board of the Commonwealth Business Council and is vice chairman of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He is a member of the Coca-Cola International Advisory Board and is the Honorary Consul General for Iceland in South Africa. Mr. Ramaphosa received the Olof Palme Prize in 1987 in Stockholm. He has received honorary doctorates from universities in South Africa, Ireland and the United States.

Mr. Ramaphosa is Joint Non-Executive Chairman of Mondi plc and Mondi Limited and Non-Executive Chairman of MTN Group Limited, the Bidvest Group and SASRIA. His directorships include SABMiller plc, Macsteel Holdings, Alexander Forbes and Standard Bank Group.  He is the former Chairman of the Black Economic Empowerment Commission. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, a position he assumed in 1996. In this role he has fostered interest and created accessibility for young people to study science. His research includes the problems of galactic structure, star formation, and galaxy evolution.

Dr. Tyson has served on a number of government commissions. In 2006 he was appointed to serve on the Advisory Council of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He was also one of the team of scientists who redefined the term “planet.” The new definition caused some controversy as it downgraded Pluto from planet status to “dwarf” or minor planet.

In 2004, Dr. Tyson was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on a nine member commission on the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy, dubbed the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” commission.  He has also served on a 12-member commission that studied the future of the US aerospace industry.

In addition to numerous professional publications, Dr. Tyson has written many popular articles and books and is a monthly essayist for Natural History magazine. Among Dr. Tyson’s eight books are his memoir The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist, and Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, co-written with Donald Goldsmith. Dr. Tyson’s latest book is the bestseller Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries. He also hosts the PBS television series NOVA ScienceNOW.

Dr. Tyson is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid “13123 Tyson.” Dr. Tyson was also voted “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” by People magazine in 2000.

Prior to his work at the Hayden Planetarium, Dr. Tyson was a research associate in the department of astrophysics at Princeton University. He earned his BA in physics from Harvard University and his PhD in astrophysics from Columbia University.

For Commencement information see www.upenn.edu/commencement or call (215) 573-GRAD


Almanac - February 19, 2008, Volume 54, No. 22