The 244th Commencement

Simmons among nine honorary degree recipients

May 16, 2012  |  Media Contact: Mark Nickel |  401-863-1638
Te Doctorem Humanarum Litterarum salutamus - Chancellor Thomas J. Tisch places the doctoral hood on the shoulders of Ruth J. Simmons, 18th president of Brown University.
Te Doctorem Humanarum Litterarum salutamus Chancellor Thomas J. Tisch places the doctoral hood on the shoulders of Ruth J. Simmons, 18th president of Brown University. Credit: Scott Kingsley/Brown University
At its 244th Commencement today, Brown University conferred nine honorary doctorates, including a Doctor of Humane Letters for Ruth J. Simmons, the University’s 18th president. Citations in English and Latin follow here for Carolyn Bertozzi, biochemist; Viola Davis, actress; John Lewis, civil rights leader; Marilynne Robinson, writer; Sebastian Ruth, musician; Diane Sawyer, journalist; Gene Sharp, political theorist; Ruth J. Simmons, 18th president of Brown University; and Wei Yang, engineer.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Nine people who have distinguished themselves through their efforts in the arts, sciences, letters, scholarship, and public service received honorary degrees from Brown University during the University’s 244th Commencement ceremonies today:

Honorary degrees are awarded by the University’s Board of Fellows and are conferred by the University president — in English and in Latin — during Commencement exercises on the College Green. Donald C. Hood, secretary of the Brown Corporation and the University’s senior fellow, conferred the degree on Simmons. The honorary doctorate for Simmons was a Commencement surprise, not announced in advance and not included in the printed program.

 

Carolyn Bertozzi  Chemist and immunologist
Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)
Biographic notes

Visionary scientist, pioneering researcher, exemplary teacher, you are a true leader in your disciplines and the academy. Exposed at an early age to the wonders of science, you considered a career in music until you discovered in college the thrill of organic chemistry. Founder of the field of bioorthogonal chemistry, you have been widely lauded for your groundbreaking research on the social interactions of cells. You are one of the youngest recipients of a MacArthur Fellowship and the first woman to receive the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Prize. Of particular note, you are an outstanding teacher, having once said that your goal is to recapture in each lecture the thrill you felt when it was revealed to you that molecules are as diverse as human beings. For your dedication to excellence in science and in teaching, we honor you with the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

Tu, o physica perspiciens, magistra egregia, fines studiorum dilatans, vere et omnibus collegis in disciplina scientiae et apud sapientes praestas. In prima adolescentia mysteriis naturae imbuta, in animo musica fieri habebas sed apud universitatem primo commota es delectatione compositorum carbonicorum. Quae studium chemiae bioorthogonalis invenisti, ab Oriente usque ad Occidentem operum causa novissimorum de affinitatibus corporum illorum quae in corpore humano parvissima sunt egregiam laudem recepisti. Uni ex iuvenissimis qui praemio MacArthur donati erant tibi, primae feminarum, praemium Lemelson-MIT tributum fuit. Quod tamen praecipue notandum est, magistra es excellens quae quondam se dixisti in animo habere in quaque acroase illam delectationem communicare quam cum primo didiceris conciliatus elementarum tam varios quam homines esse sensisti. Pro constantia tua in excellentiam scientia atque docendo te iure Doctorem in Scientia salutamus, honoris causa.

 

Viola Davis  Actress
Doctor of Fine Arts (D.F.A.)
Biographic notes

From Central Falls to Rhode Island College to Julliard to Broadway to Hollywood, you have led a remarkable life. The grace and dignity with which you inhabit the characters you portray on stage and screen awaken in your audience a conviction about who you are as a person. The spirit of your family, your community, and your teachers reside in every role you play, teaching audiences the value of living life to its fullest, especially against impossible odds. Honored by your peers with two Tony awards and two Academy Award nominations, you have singular accomplishments yet to come because you heed the advice you have given the boys and girls of Central Falls: “Dream big and dream fierce.” They heard you, the world has now heard you, and history will inevitably hear your admonition. For your inspired brilliance and beauty, your deep passion and compassion, and your commitment to speaking truth and demanding social justice, we honor you with the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa.

Te praecellentem cum in Aquis Cadentibus Mediis et Collegio Insulae Rhodiensis ostendisti tum in Schola Juilliardana, theatris Broadway occupantibus, atque ipsa in Hollywood. Tu quidem histrio personas tanta cum dignitate agis tamque eleganter ut cognoscant omnes qui spectant quisnam tu sis. Quae tibi tradita sunt a familia civitate magistrisque ea omnibus in personis tuis videri possunt, quae vero spectatoribus quanti sit diem carpere vel inexorabilem monstrant. Iam duas tibi Coronas Antonianas sodales tui dederunt Collegaeque Oscariani bis te laudaverunt. Posthac praeterea eo magnificentiores praestabis res gestas quoniam quod consilium pueris puellisque qui habitant Aquas Cadentes Medias dedisti, ut cum magna tum audacia sperent, hoc et tibi esse persequendum censes. Audiverunt te haec dicentem et illi et nunc omnes gentes orbis terrarum atque posteris item tu eris audienda. Propter ingenium venustatem studium benevolentiamque tuam atque quia veritati et in omnes homines iustitiae studes, idcirco te Doctorem in Artibus Elegantibus salutamus, honoris causa.

 

John Robert Lewis  Civil rights leader and U.S. Representative
Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
Biographic notes

American hero, you have led the nation and the world with an example of courage and integrity rarely seen. Throughout your distinguished life, you have made choices that count. You chose to sit-in at segregated lunch counters in Nashville. You chose to join in the Freedom Rides. You chose to walk across a bridge in Selma on a bloody Sunday. You chose to face brutal attacks with an unerring and indomitable commitment to non-violence. Your choices have inspired change and the students before you today are the recipients of your magnificent gifts. They, and we, are honored to be in your presence, honored by your lifetime of selfless service to our nation, and humbled by your legacy of fortitude, freedom, and justice. You have devoted all of yourself to building “The Beloved Community” in America, and we are deeply in your debt. Brown joins your international chorus of admirers by honoring you with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Tu, o praeclare vir Americane, non solum patriae sed etiam orbi terrarum exemplum virtutis integritatisque tam raro exhibitum praebuisti. Multos per vitae illustris tuae annos recte statuebas quid esset faciendum. Nam statuisti primum aliis Nashvilliensibus prandentibus sedere in locis propter pellis tuae colorem vetitis, deinde in ‘Freedom Rides’ interesse, denique immanem vim periculumque adversa in ripa videns tamen transire pontem Selmaticum die solis sanguinolento atque referre vim constanter recusare; quae commutationem rerum induxerunt et discipulis hodie praesentibus inaestimabili fuerunt dono. Praeterea est et illis et nobis honori apud te adesse, honori respicere quanto opere omne vitae tuae spatium patriae nostrae causa laboraveris, exemplo pensare quam fortiter libertatem iustitiamque consectatus sis. Totum dedidisti te civitati Americanae confirmandae, quam ob rem maximas tibi gratias habemus. Ut multi alii admiratione te laudant, ita et nos Brunenses, quare te Doctorem in Litteris Humanoribus salutamus, honoris causa.

 

Marilynne Summers Robinson  Writer and educator
Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.)
Biographic notes

Your singular contributions to the world of letters exemplifies the highest ideals of the literary arts and reveals new and compelling possibilities for intellectual and civic renewal. You are an innovator and leader in artfully using the written word to promote an inclusive vision of human understanding and cultural flourishing. Whether you are teaching your students at the Iowa Writers Workshop or explaining the finer points of science and religion to Jon Stewart, your body of work stands as a testament to the power of the artist’s vision and imagination to inspire. As a proud alumna of Brown University, you have lived a life deep with meaning and full of usefulness and reputation. We join your international following in honoring you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.

In te unica litterae tantae sunt ut, tuo exemplo, nos nostros animos et nostras civitates renovare possimus. Ceteris melius atque sollertius scribis ut mentes omnium amplectemur et litterae ubique niteant. Sive discipulos artes dicendi et scribendi doces sive singulas res scientiae religionisque electronico in foro exponis, scriptorem nostras mentes per imagines excitare posse tuis operibus testaris. Alumna Universitatis Brunensis, vitam egisti plenam ingenii et beneficiorum et bonae famae; igitur nos cum populis omnibus te in Litteris Doctorem salutamus, honoris causa.

 

Sebastian A. Ruth  Musician and educator
Doctor of Music (Mus.D.)
Biographic notes

With a violin, an idea, and a modest start-up grant from the Swearer Center, you set out from the Van Wickle Gates fifteen years ago determined to make a difference. A decade and a half later, the difference you have made is visible – and audible – to anyone who enters the Westminster Street storefront that is Community MusicWorks. Music education has been your medium, but the students you and your colleagues have taught have learned not only how to play an instrument but also about themselves and their communities. Empowerment, social justice, community building, appreciation for the arts, and self-confidence are just a few of the values that you espouse through your life and work. The quality of what you do has been recognized and applauded by both the White House and the MacArthur Foundation. The youth of the City of Providence are beneficiaries of your exceptional vision and your enduring commitment to music and the arts, and we join with them in honoring you with the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa.

Tu fidicula consilioque armatus, dono a sodalitate Sweareriana dato praeditus ut opera tua inciperetur, a portis Wicklianis profectus es iam ante quindecim annos animo ardens ut mundum meliorem faceres. Ecce nunc, si quis intrat illam tabernam in via Westminster, Urbana Opera Musica nomine, fruges laboris tui videt auditque. Cum artes musicas doceas, discipuli et tui et collegiarum tuarum non solum organa sed etiam seipsos et cives suos cognovisse didicerunt. Permultis virtutibus faves per vitam tuam laboremque, inter alias benevolentiae, iustitiae, communitati, artibus elegantibus, et sui fiduciae. Laudes tibi pro rebus optissime gestis tribuerunt cum Domus Candida tum Sodalitas MacArthuriana. Iuventus Providentiana tua magna providentia constantiaque in artibus alendis fructa est. Una cum discipulis tuis, te Doctorem Musicae salutamus, honoris causa.

 

Diane Sawyer  Television journalist
Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.)
Biographic notes

You have been a consummate interpreter of the great moments of your generation – reporting and elucidating the multifarious events that have shaped our nation and the world. As a journalist, documentarian, and anchor you understand and communicate world events in a way that challenges our thinking and awakens our involvement. Your passion for news has led you to some of the darkest corners of the world, unmasking inhumanity, bigotry, violence, and oppression. The results of your work have been seen by millions of viewers on the most preeminent programs of our time, including 60 Minutes and World News, and have changed lives of the forgotten for the better. From politics to health care to world leaders both revered and reviled, you have covered it all. Your steady presence, intelligent questioning, warm wit, and utmost professionalism have earned you the respect and admiration of your profession and the public. It is with great pride that Brown University honors you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.

Interpres perfectissima magnorum tui saeculi momentorum narras et illustras res varias quae rem publicam nostram et totum quidem orbem terrarum quasi conformant. Actorum diurnorum conscriptor, imaginum mobilium ad historiam explicandam pertinentium artifex, et ancorae quae dicitur partium agens, res ubique terrarum actas intellegis et sic exponis ut nos ad cogitandum provoces et ad agendum excites. Studium tuum nuntiorum discendorum te duxit in loca quam tenebricosissima detegendae causa crudelitatis, violentiae, iniustitiae, oppressionisque. Opera tua programmatibus temporum nostrorum praeclarissimis, praesertim “Sexagesimis Sexagenis” et “Nuntiis Mundi”, ab hominibus innumeris spectata sunt et vitas hominum obscurorum reddiderunt meliores. Res civiles, quaestiones sanitatis publicae, duces gentium et exsecrandos et extollendos unoque verbo omnia scrutata es. Tua constantia firma, sollertia inquirendi, sal atque facetiae summaque sedulitas in officiis faciendis admirationem et venerationem sodaliumque tuorum populique nostri ut pretium tibi attulerunt. Animo grato Universitas Brunensis Litterarum Doctorem honoris causa te salutat.

 

Gene Sharp  Political theorist, scholar of nonviolent struggle
Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.)
Biographic notes

No one alive today speaks of non-violent struggle with the authority, expertise and experience you possess. Your seminal work, From Dictatorship to Democracy, available for free download in twenty-seven languages, has quite literally set the stage for many of the world’s peaceful triumphs of freedom and democracy. From Asia to Eastern Europe to the Middle East, many have translated your graceful analysis and sage guidance into dignified action, standing up for their own rights and the rights of others to live free from violence and oppression. Your influence and leadership extends well beyond your writing and research; on many occasions you have traveled at great personal risk to countries under the rule of dictators and leaders of non-violent movements from around the globe have sought your counsel. As founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, you continue to conduct research and disseminate lessons on the effective use of non-violent action. We at Brown, along with the entire world, are the beneficiary of your extraordinary insights. We therefore proudly honor you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Nemo qui de novis rebus sine caede actis vel maiore auctoritate vel callidius vel expertius loquitur quam tu. Magnum opus tuum, quod titulus Ab Dictatore ad Potestatem Popularem deducit, elatum in vulgum gratis et in permultas linguas conversum, tantos et tot progressus ad libertatem effecit. Ab Asia usque ad Russiam et fines Arabum multi ad sua vincula eximenda et ad superbos respuendos tuis verbis sapientibus adducti sunt. Verbis non tantum ducis; quin etiam ad civitates a tyrannis oppressas iter ingressus es, magno discrimine capitis, et multi per orbem terrarum, qui novis rebus sine caede studeant, petiverunt ut consilium tecum capiant. Collegium Alberti Einsteinii condidisti, per quod usque doces quomodo omnia in meliora quidem sine vi mutanda et versanda sint. Sic iuvas non solum nos Brunenses sed etiam populos omnes, quare te in Humanis Litteris Doctorem salutamus, honoris causa.

 

Ruth J. Simmons  Eighteenth President of Brown University
Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.)
Biographic notes   |  President’s Page Biography

Eighteenth President of Brown University, you have left an indelible mark on this magnificent institution. Shortly after your arrival on College Hill, you exhorted the Brown community to set our aspirations at the highest possible levels and to exceed those aspirations in all that we do. Inspired by your vision and your personal example and principles, Brown responded to your call with ideas, with innovation, and with intensity of focus on the Plan for Academic Enrichment. Eleven years later, the results of your leadership can be seen across the campus – a larger and more diverse faculty, need-blind admission, strengthened graduate and medical education, and new and renovated facilities are but a few examples of the tangible legacy of your remarkable Presidency. Less visible but equally important are the values you have instilled at Brown. Integrity, transparency, inclusion, accessibility, compassion, and openness to critical self-assessment define you as a person and as a leader. This community is the beneficiary of your wisdom, your dedication, and your courage. We are truly and in perpetuity in your debt. For all that you have achieved, and for all that Brown will yet achieve due to your enduring influence, we honor you with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Duodevicesima praeses Universitatis Brunensis vestigia indelebilia hac in splendida sodalitate fecisti. Cum in Collem Collegialem nuper advenisses, exhortata es ut Brunenses quam intrepidissime sperarent et deinde eam spem omnibus in rebus superarent. Praeceptis exemploque tuis incensi Brunenses studio quam maximo Propositi istius Eruditionis Augendae sollertia responderunt. Post undecim annos indicia procurationis tuae ubique videntur: doctores cum plures tum variores, discipuli et opibus carentes in disciplinam accepti, scholae studiorum superiorum et medicae confirmatae, aedificia nova atque renovata – quae pauca ex monumentis multis tutelae praeclarae tuae remanent. Praecepta quae apud Brunenses coluisti minus manifesta, tanti tamen momenti sunt: integritas, transparentia, inclusio, accessibilitas, compassio, voluntas ut se ipsi quam rigorosissime censeant – quae omnes te rectricem atque hominem distinguunt. Nos auctos confitemur sapientia, diligentia, et constantia tuis et, ut verum dicatur, tibi semper debituros esse. Pro omnibus rebus quae gessisti et quae nos propter te gessuri sumus, te Doctorem Humanarum Litterarum salutamus, honoris causa.

 

Wei Yang  Engineer and President of Zhejiang University
Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)
Biographic notes

A proud alumnus of the Brown University School of Engineering, after receiving your doctorate in 1985 you returned to your native China and began an illustrious career of research, teaching, and leadership. At Tsinghua University you became the youngest person to reach the rank of full professor, and your pioneering research in the field of fracture mechanics was widely cited and broadly applauded and honored. A leader in your field, you became a leader in the academy in China and abroad, serving with distinction as head of your department, dean, director of Graduate Education in the Ministry of Education, and since 2006, president of China’s largest University, Zhejiang. As President you have striven for excellence in every area of academic life, greatly expanding the courses of study and burnishing the university’s reputation throughout the world. Leading international initiatives to eradicate research misconduct, you have been a stalwart advocate for integrity and ethics in research. Evidence of your deep commitment to Brown, our ties with Zheijiang have grown and prospered under your leadership and promise to grow even stronger in the years to come. We are proud to claim you as a son of Brown, and honored to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

Brunensibus gradibus industria functus procurationes quoque in patria tua splendidissimas et continuas summa integritate administravisti, et tamen liberalibus studiis tantam operam dedisti, ut non temere quis plura in otio scripserit. Inter primos quaesisti quo motu materia frangantur, quod testantur libri et a te scripti et a laudantibus te. Illustrem professorem, iuvenem olim praestantem, nunc nobilissimum praesidem universitatis in finibus Serum maximae, conservatorem excellentiae probitatisque, amicum et fautorem Universitatis Brunensis, te Doctorem in Scientia salutamus, honoris causa.

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