The 240th Commencement

Brown University to Confer Seven Honorary Degrees May 25

May 6, 2008  |  Media Contact: Anne Coyle |  401-863-2476
Brown University will confer seven honorary degrees during its 240th Commencement exercises Sunday, May 25, 2008. The recipients are author Edwidge Danticat; dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison; corporate finance attorney and University trustee Matthew J. Mallow; actor and filmmaker Robert Redford; engineer and educator Shih Choon Fong; literary agent and University fellow Wendy J. Strothman; and planetary geophysicist Maria T. Zuber.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University will confer seven honorary degrees during its 240th Commencement exercises Sunday, May 25, 2008.

The recipients are author Edwidge Danticat, who earned her M.F.A. from Brown in 1993; artistic director and choreographer Judith Jamison; corporate finance attorney and retiring University trustee Matthew J. Mallow, a 1964 Brown graduate and parent of a 2002 graduate; actor, film-maker and environmentalist Robert Redford; National University of Singapore President Shih Choon Fong; literary agent and retiring University fellow Wendy J. Strothman, a 1972 Brown graduate; and planetary geophysicist Maria T. Zuber, who earned her Ph.D. from Brown in 1986.

Several of the honorary degree candidates will speak at Commencement Forums, free lectures open to the community, on Saturday, May 24.

The selection of candidates for honorary degrees is the responsibility of the Board of Fellows of the Corporation, Brown’s governing body. The Board of Fellows receives nominations and recommendations from the community through the Advisory Committee on Honorary Degrees, a standing committee composed of faculty and students.

Edwidge Danticat

A native of Haiti, Edwidge Danticat earned a B.A. in French literature from Barnard College and, in 1993, an M.F.A. in creative writing from Brown. Her thesis became the basis for her 1994 novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, which later became an Oprah’s Book Club selection.

Danticat is the author of several books, including Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, and the widely acclaimed novel-in-stories The Dew Breaker. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States and The Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and Cultures. Her latest book, the memoir Brother, I’m Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. She has taught creative writing at New York University and the University of Miami.

Judith Jamison

Judith Jamison is the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a choreographer and author. She made her New York debut with the American Ballet Theatre in 1964 and became a member of Alvin Ailey’s company in 1965. Ailey created some of his most enduring roles for her and appointed her artistic director in 1989.

Jamison has appeared as a guest artist with ballet companies all over the world, and she has starred on Broadway and in a PBS special depicting her creative process. As a highly regarded choreographer, she has created works for many companies and the Olympic Games. Today she presides over a renewed Ailey organization and is artistic director of the Ailey School, where she helped implement a multicultural curriculum and establish a B.F.A. program with Fordham University. In 1999, Jamison was presented with the Kennedy Center Honor, recognizing her lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.

Matthew J. Mallow

Matthew J. Mallow, a 1964 graduate of Brown, for 25 years headed the Corporate Finance Department of the international law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where he has represented investment banks, global corporations, and governments in a variety of financing matters. Mallow is a former chair of the Committee on Securities Regulation of the New York City Bar Association. He earned an LL.B. and LL.M. from New York University School of Law.

Mallow has been a member of the Brown Corporation for 17 years. For the past 10 years, he has served as treasurer. He currently co-chairs Boldly Brown: The Campaign for Academic Enrichment, the largest fundraising effort in University history. During his tenure on the Corporation, Mallow has served on 19 committees, including Student Life, Budget & Finance, Audit, Facilities & Design and Presidential Selection. He also served as chair of the Brown Annual Fund.

Robert Redford

Renowned for his two highly successful careers – as a conservationist and as an actor, director, and producer – Robert Redford is a staunch supporter of free and creative expression. His passion for nature led him to become an environmental activist. He has served as a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council and was a founder of the Institute for Resource Management.

Redford is recognized the world over for the roles he has played in such notable films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and All the President’s Men, and for the many projects he has directed or produced. He has nurtured more than a generation of independent film innovators through his nonprofit Sundance Institute and Film Festival. Harvard Business Review observed, “Sundance has become to Hollywood what Silicon Valley has been to the high-tech industry.” In 2005, Redford received a Kennedy Center Honor for “distinguished achievement in the performing arts and in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the life of our country.”

Shih Choon Fong

Shih Choon Fong is internationally recognized for his significant contributions in nonlinear fracture mechanics and computational methods for fracture analyses. With some 150 publications in leading scientific journals to his credit, he is among the world’s most frequently cited researchers in engineering. Since becoming president of the National University of Singapore in 2000, he has fostered a research-intensive focus and elevated the university’s global reputation.

Shih received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1973 and was a member of the Brown faculty from 1981 to 1997. Among his many honors and affiliations, he was elected a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Earlier this year, it was announced that Shih will become founding president of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia on December 1, 2008.

Wendy J. Strothman

With 30 years of publishing experience, Wendy J. Strothman, a 1972 Brown graduate, led the turnarounds of two venerable publishers, Beacon Press and Houghton Mifflin's Trade and Reference Division. At Houghton Mifflin, Strothman was the publisher of books that won two Pulitzer Prizes, one National Book Award, three Caldecott Medals, and two Newbery Medals, among many other honors. In 2003, she founded the Boston-based Strothman Agency, which is dedicated to representing authors of significant books of nonfiction and fiction for adults and young adults.

Known as an advocate for freedom of expression and a friend to independent booksellers, Strothman has received numerous awards, including the Publisher of the Year Award from the New England Booksellers Association. Elected a trustee of the Brown Corporation in 1990, she has served as a trustee, fellow and, for the last 10 years, as secretary of the Corporation. In 2002, she established the Wendy J. Strothman Faculty Research Award in the Humanities to fund research by the Brown faculty.

Maria T. Zuber

Maria T. Zuber, who received her Ph.D. in geophysics from Brown in 1986, is the E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the first woman to lead its Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. She has studied the structure and evolution of the terrestrial planets and has been an innovator in the application of spacecraft laser-ranging and radio-tracking systems to map the topography and gravity fields of the planets.

Zuber has led spacecraft instrument investigations that have flown to the Moon, Mars, and asteroids. The topographic map of Mars produced by her laser altimeter on the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft is the most accurate topography model for any planet. She has been honored by NASA and many professional scientific organizations, and in 2002 Discover magazine named her one of the 50 most important women in science.

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