And this year’s honorary degrees go to…


Unlike past years, the University will be awarding honorary degrees solely to Brown alumni (sorry Matt if you’re trying to keep up with Ben) as part of the 250th celebration. At Commencement on May 26th, the University will award the following nine alumni:

  • Lee Berk ’64 – Does his name sound familiar? If not, say it backwards. You got it! After graduating, Berk pursued a law degree from Boston University and soon began working with his father, the President of the Berklee College of Music—named after Berk himself. Berk quickly moved up from Vice President to President in 1979 and served until 2004. As they say, it runs in the family.
  • Beatrice E. Coleman ’25 – Though Coleman passed away earlier this month, just a few weeks away from turning 110, she will be awarded her degree posthumously. Coleman attended Brown at a time when she had to live at home “because black students weren’t allowed to live in the dormitories then,” according to the Brown Alumni Magazine. After graduating with a degree in Latin, Coleman worked as a school teacher, a nursery director and a member of the NAACP.
  • Jeffrey Eugenides ’82 – Who should have Madeleine chosen—Leonard or Mitchell?! Eugenides is the author of best-selling books The Marriage Plot, Middlesex, and The Virgin Diaries. Since The Marriage Plot involves Brown students post-graduation, I propose Eugenides hosts a panel about finding love outside of the Van Wickle Gates. Or he can talk about winning the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 2003. Either would be interesting.
  • Arthur Horwich ’72, M.D.’75 – Back when the PLME program lasted six years, Horwich was the valedictorian of the first class in that program. Horwich completed his residency in pediatrics at Yale University, and then went on to start his own laboratory focusing on proteins in yeast. He was elected in to the National Academy of Sciences in 2003, and currently a Sterling Professor of Genetics and Professor of Pediatrics.
  • Mary Lou Jepsen ’87, Ph.D. ’97 – Nope, she is not Carly Rae’s mom, but she’s pretty impressive. After concentrating in studio art and electrical engineering, Jepsen is now Head of the Display Division of Google X, a secretive branch of innovation at Google. In her TED talk, Jepsen questions whether devices will eventually be able to read information from our brains. So, our phones could call people on their own, maybe?
  • Debra L. Lee ’76 – Currently the CEO of BET Networks, Lee has been named one of the “100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment” by The Hollywood Reporter. In 2010, Lee was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. According to, under Lee’s leadership, the network “continues to bring quality programming to (their) audience of 89 million households.”
  • Lois Lowry ’58 – You’ll soon see The Giver, Lowry’s most widely-read bookon the silver screen with stars like Meryl Streep and Taylor Swift. Lowry was awarded the Newbury Medal for The Giver and Number the Stars. Lowry said one of the concerns she includes her novels is “the vital need for humans to be aware of their interdependence, not only with each other, but with the world and its environment.” 
  • Nalini Nadkarni ’76 – As a forest ecologist, Nadkarni has explored and studied the rain forest canopies of Costa Rica. According to the University press release, Nadkarni’s work “focuses on the ecology of tropical and temperate forest canopies, particularly the role of canopy-dwelling plants.” Her TED talk concerns the ecosystem of the canopies and the value of conservation.
  • Thomas Perez ’83 – Currently serving as the United States Secretary of Labor, Perez concentrated in international relations and political science. Perez has served as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the Director of the Office of Civil Rights. Before his time in politics, Perez was a law professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.

According to the press release, “Berk, Horwich, Lowry, Jepsen, Eugenides, and Lee will present Commencement Forums on Saturday. Nadkarni will deliver the Baccalaureate address to the Class of 2014.”

Image, via.

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