Duke University Names Honorary Degree Recipients

Former N.C. Gov. James Hunt among seven recipients

Duke University will award seven honorary degrees at its commencement exercises May 15, Duke President Richard H. Brodhead announced Wednesday.

The degree recipients are:

-- John Chambers, the chairman and chief executive officer of Cisco Systems, Inc.;

-- Rita Dove, an English professor, author and former U.S. poet laureate;

-- James B. Hunt Jr., a former North Carolina governor and public education advocate;

-- Alan Page, an NFL Hall of Fame member, judge and education activist;

-- Lisa Randall, a professor of theoretical physics and leading expert on particle physics and cosmology;

-- Eric Shinseki, secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, former Army chief of staff and a Duke graduate; and

-- Tan Chorh Chuan, president of the National University of Singapore and an international leader in biomedical sciences, public health and higher education.

Commencement, featuring an address by Chambers, will begin at 10 a.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium and is open to the public.

"I'm delighted that these distinguished individuals will be joining our graduates for their commencement," Brodhead said. "In the range of their accomplishments, they give an inspiring example of the great lives that men and women can give to the world. They will send our students off with the message: Now it's your turn to live up to your highest potential."

Since Chambers took over as chairman and CEO of Cisco in 1995, the communications and information technology company's annual revenues have grown from $1.2 billion to its current run rate of $40 billion today.

Chambers also has been active in service and philanthropy. He has served two American presidents, most recently as vice chairman of the President George W. Bush's National Infrastructure Advisory Council.


John Chambers

Chambers and Cisco have given large donations to local education initiatives, and Chambers has led numerous worldwide social responsibility efforts that focus on improving access to education. In recognition of his and Cisco's philanthropic leadership, Chambers has twice received the U.S. State Department's top corporate social responsibility award.

Chambers attended Duke's School of Engineering in 1967 before transferring to West Virginia University, where he earned an undergraduate degree in business and a law degree. He earned his MBA from Indiana University.

From 1993-1995, Dove served as Poet Laureate of the United States and as consultant to the Library of Congress. She was Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004-06. In 1987, she won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry.


Rita Dove. Photo by Fred Viebahn

Dove, an English professor at the University of Virginia, has published several collections of poetry and a book of short stories. Her play, "The Darker Face of the Earth," was produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Royal National Theatre in London and other theaters.

Her awards include the 2001 Duke Ellington Lifetime Achievement Award and the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal (2009).

Dove is a 1970 Presidential Scholar who received her bachelor's degree summa cum laude from Miami University of Ohio in 1973. She earned her master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa and received a Fulbright scholarship at the Universität Tubingen in Germany.


James B. Hunt

Hunt is the longest-serving governor in North Carolina history, holding the office for four terms -- 1977-1985 and 1993-2001. The Democrat was an early proponent of teaching standards and early childhood education, and received national recognition for the Smart Start program for pre-kindergarteners.

He chaired the Carnegie Task Force, which created the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

Now a member of a Raleigh law firm, Hunt chairs the board of directors of two institutes he founded: The James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University. He also founded the N.C. School of Science & Mathematics.

He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from N.C. State and a law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.


Alan Page

Page, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, played professional football from 1967-1981 for the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. The former defensive lineman is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame.

During his NFL career, Page attended the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating in 1978. In 1985, he was appointed special assistant attorney general, and then promoted to assistant attorney general, in Minnesota.

Page was elected associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1992, becoming the first African-American to serve on that court. He was re-elected in 1998, 2004 and 2010.

Page and his wife, Diane, founded the Page Education Foundation in 1988, which provides financial and mentoring assistance to students of color in exchange for their commitment to volunteer service. The foundation has awarded more than 4,000 grants to students, who have volunteered more than 275,000 service hours to young children. After he retires from the bench, Page hopes to become a public school teacher.


Lisa Randall

Randall, a professor of theoretical physics at Harvard University, studies particle physics and cosmology. Through her research on elementary particles and fundamental forces, Randall has made advances in understanding and testing the Standard Model of particle physics, and has worked on several models focused on trying to explain the fabric of the universe.

Books written by Randall include "Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions," which was included in The New York Times' 100 notable books of 2005. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Her honors include the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, and a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award. Randall earned her bachelor's degree and Ph.D. in physics from Harvard.


Eric Shinseki

Shinseki, a retired U.S. Army general who served as Army chief of staff from 1999-2003, was sworn in as the seventh secretary of Veterans Affairs on Jan. 21, 2009.

As Army chief of staff, he initiated the Army Transformation Campaign to address both the emerging strategic challenges of the early 21st century and the need for cultural and technological changes in the U.S. Army.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Shinseki led the Army during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Shinseki also served as the Army vice chief of staff, as commanding general of NATO Land Forces in Central Europe, and as commander of the NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

He was wounded during each of his two Vietnam War tours.

Shinseki earned a bachelor's degree from West Point, a master's degree in English from Duke, and graduated from the National War College.


Tan Chorh Chuan

Since 2008, Tan has served as president of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and deputy chairman of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research. He is a leader in Singapore's Biomedical Sciences Initiative, and chairs the International Alliance of Research Universities, a consortium of 10 leading research-intensive universities. Tan is also a member of the World Economic Forum's Global University Leaders Forum and sits on the World Economic Forum's Science Advisory Committee.

From 2000-04, he served as director of Medical Services, Ministry of Health, in which capacity he led Singapore's public health response to the 2003 SARS epidemic.

A renal physician, Tan is a board member of the National University Health System. He also played a key role in setting up the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore.

Tan's academic awards include the Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal (awarded by the Polish Academy of Medicine) and the Achievement Medal (awarded by the Singapore Society of Nephrology). He has been elected a fellow at numerous colleges of physicians and medicine.