Duke Announces Five Honorary Degree Recipients

The five will be awarded honorary degrees at Duke's commencement exercises Sunday, May 11

Duke University will award five honorary degrees at its commencement exercises on Sunday, May 11, Duke President Richard H. Brodhead announced Wednesday.

The recipients are Carolyn Bertozzi, a chemist, researcher and educator; Erskine B. Bowles, businessman, presidential adviser and former president of the University of North Carolina; Susan Hockfield, a leader in higher education and science; Walter Isaacson, a writer, biographer and president and CEO of the Aspen Institute; and Dr. W. Delano Meriwether, a physician and former track and field champion.

Commencement, featuring an address by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Duke alumnus, begins at 10 a.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium and is open to the public. While commencement speakers typically receive an honorary degree, Dempsey has declined, stating that he is not accepting any further honorary degrees while in his role with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I'm delighted that Duke will have the honor of presenting honorary degrees to these distinguished individuals," President Richard H. Brodhead said. "As they hear how these men and women have used their education to make extraordinary contributions to our times, our graduates will see a world of possibilities lighting up before them."

Bertozzi is the T.Z. and Irmgard Chu Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley, an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and senior faculty scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Bertozzi's research brings innovations from chemistry to bear on problems of biomedical significance. Her work focuses on methods for imaging molecular changes associated with cancer and bacterial infections, and on the development of new biotherapeutics that merge chemical and biological components.

Bertozzi is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Inventors and the German Academy of Sciences.

In 1993, President Clinton appointed Bowles director of the Small Business Administration, and later chose him to serve as deputy White House chief of staff, then chief of staff. 

Bowles also served as U.N. Deputy Special Envoy for the 13 countries in Southern Asia devastated by the tsunami of 2004. He has worked on bringing economic development to rural North Carolina and served as president of the University of North Carolina from 2005-2010, when he was appointed to co-chair President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform with former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson.

Bowles has also served as president of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, vice chair of Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte and as a trustee of The Duke Endowment.

From 2004-2012, Hockfield served as the 16th president of MIT, the first woman and the first life scientist to hold that post. She continues to hold a faculty appointment as professor of neuroscience. 

Before MIT, Hockfield spent two decades at Yale University, as a faculty member, dean of Yale's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and then as provost.

As a faculty member, her research focused on the development of the brain and on glioma, a deadly form of brain cancer. She also pioneered the use of monoclonal antibody technology in brain research.

She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Isaacson is a veteran journalist and biographer who worked at TIME as a political correspondent, national editor and editor of new media before becoming the magazine's 14th editor in 1996. He also has been the chairman and CEO of CNN.

He is author of "Steve Jobs" (2011), "Einstein: His Life and Universe" (2007), "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life" (2003), and "Kissinger: A Biography" (1992).

Isaacson served as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other international broadcasts of the United States.  He served for 10 years as chair of Teach for America.

He is now vice-chair of Partners for a New Beginning, a public-private group tasked with forging ties between the United States and the Muslim world.

Meriwether, the first black American to be accepted into the Duke University School of Medicine, graduated with honors in 1967. He went on to train at the University of Pennsylvania, Ohio State University, Johns Hopkins University and the Harvard Division of Boston City Hospital. Afterwards, he was selected to be a White House fellow.

In 1983, Meriwether and his wife founded the Dr. W.D. and N. Meriwether Foundation to improve health, empower communities and alleviate poverty in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, serving more than 23,000 people.

He began competitive running in 1970, while working at the Baltimore Cancer Research Center and won the 1971 U.S. outdoor track and field championship in the 100-yard dash.  He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and was featured in TIME.