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John Harvard's Journal | Commencement 2001

Honoris Causa

7.1.01

 

Three women and eight men received honorary degrees at Harvard's 350th Commencement. In order of presentation, the honorands were:

Charles Hard Townes. His Nobel Prize-winning research in quantum electronics gave rise to the maser and the laser. An alumnus of Duke, of Caltech, and of the Bell Labs, he professed at Columbia, at MIT (where he was provost), and at Berkeley (where he is university professor emeritus), and was chief technical adviser for Project Apollo. Doctor of science: A luminary in the firmament of physics, whose innovations beam brightly across our world and open new vistas on galaxies beyond.

 

Ashbery
Ashbery
Photograph by Jim Harrison

John Lawrence Ashbery, '49. The author of more than 20 poetry collections, translated into more than 20 languages, he is considered by many the foremost American poet of his generation. Unflaggingly avant-garde, he aims in his writing for meanings that transcend mere verbal expression. In saluting Ashbery at a dinner for the honorands, President Neil L. Rudenstine said that he had read Ashbery as a graduate student at Harvard and had recently rediscovered in his copy of one of the poet's books these marginalia: "Extraordinary ...Moving...Also baffling ....What is this poem about?" Doctor of letters: Through his verse we see us as we truly behave; in an allusive American idiom all his own, he captures the syncopation and polyphony of contemporary experience.

 

Alice Mitchell Rivlin, Ph.D. '58. The founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board now holds a chair in urban and metropolitan policy at the Brookings Institution. Doctor of laws: Founding mother of the CBO, capital asset to the White House and the Fed, an eminent economist in pursuit of the public interest.

 

Richard Allen Smith '46. A top executive in Boston, chairman of the board of Harcourt General and former president and chairman of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, he was a member of the Harvard Corporation from 1991 to 2000 and sits on the board of the Harvard Management Company. Doctor of laws: A superlative and civic-minded executive, whose insight and dedication have invigorated medical research and advanced the enterprise of education.

 

Geoffey Canada, Ed.M. '75. An expert on violence, children, and community redevelopment, Canada is president and chief executive officer of Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families in New York City, which operates dozens of school-based centers in the city's poorest neighborhoods. He is the author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America. Doctor of humane letters: Finding his calling in the crucible of his youth, he educates by example, an impassioned voice against violence and a beacon for children at risk. 

 

Karle
Karle
Photograph by Jim Harrison

Isabella Lugoski Karle. Chief scientist of the x-ray diffraction section at the Naval Research Library in Washington, D.C., Karle is a pioneer of physical chemistry. She invented new methods, using first electron and then x-ray diffraction, to study the structure of molecules. Doctor of science: An ingenious chemist charting crystallography's course; thanks to her penetrating vision we can see far more clearly what the matter is.

 

Jürgen Habermas. An emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Frankfurt, Habermas, in the aftermath of Nazism, has defended the Enlightenment ideals of rationality and universality. He is considered by many to be one of the most important living philosophers and social theorists. Doctor of laws: With breathtaking range and profound moral purpose, he has forged a compelling theory of society, affirming reasoned discourse as the fount of enlightened democracy. 

 

Bhatt
Bhatt
Photograph by Jim Harrison

Ela Ramesh Bhatt. Trained as a lawyer, she founded, in her homeland of India, the Self-Employed Women's Association, a pioneering trade union empowering thousands of poor, often illiterate, women. Doctor of humane letters: In the footsteps of Gandhi, in the service of justice, she sees hope where others saw darkness, and for thousands of women lights the way to self-reliance.

 

Leon Kirchner. The Rosen professor of music emeritus is a beloved Harvard teacher dedicated to educating "thinking musicians," a revered mentor, one of his generation's foremost composers, a conductor, and a pianist. Doctor of music: Virtuoso musician and virtuous citizen of Harvard, he fills the air with glorious sound, a master of invention and a mentor of renown.

 

Schlesinger
Schlesinger
Photograph by Jim Harrison

Arthur Meier Schlesinger Jr. '38, Jf '43. A former member of Harvard's history faculty and a longtime professor at the City University of New York, he won two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Book Awards writing about both past and present, from Jackson to FDR to JFK, "a cast of characters," said President Rudenstine, "as capacious as Aida's without the elephants." Doctor of laws: Prodigious scholar of the cycles of American history, rendering presidential portraits with acuity and grace, he makes vividly present the lessons of the past.

 

Robert E. Rubin '60. Rubin has spent much of his life fathoming financial markets and helping to form national public policy. He was the co-senior partner and co-chairman of Goldman, Sachs before joining the Clinton administration in 1993 as assistant to the president for economic policy. He served as secretary of the treasury from 1995 to 1999. Rubin is now at Citigroup. Doctor of laws: Incisive, unassuming, treasured for his counsel; from Wall Street to Washington, a worldly-wise leader with a golden touch.

 

N.B. The doctor of letters degree is given to writers, the doctor of humane letters degree to humanitarians. Other honorands are awarded the doctor of laws degree, unless they are scientists or artists.