2008 Yale Honorary Degrees

The following honorary degrees were presented at this years commencement. 

John Lawrence Ashbery
You are one of the truly original poets of your time. In poem after poem, you keep your exhilarated readers off balance, capturing the spontaneous wonder of living in a world that resists the ability to capture it. Your imagination—at once witty and nostalgic—is altogether American, as capacious and unpredictable as the culture it celebrates. Your books stand among those rare works of genius that extend the poetic vocabulary. For your incomparable artistry in expressing the flux of life in a miraculous “still performance,” Yale is honored to grant you the degree of Doctor of Letters

Mercy Amba Oduyoye
You are the mother of African women’s theology. Listening to the voices of those often unheard, speaking out on behalf of the marginalized, and acting always as a person of faith, you have expanded our perspective on the sacred by considering the ways of women in the world and in the church. A leader in the ecumenical movement, you have served locally, nationally, and globally, always urging unity, integrity, and inclusiveness. Your deep convictions express themselves in compassion, as you engage in humanitarian efforts on behalf of those suffering from HIV and AIDS. You are an inspiration, and we are honored to name you Doctor of Divinity.

Martin Rees
Yours is the study of the stars, seeking there the secret of the origins of our universe. From your discovery of black holes, you have shed light on the way the cosmos works, examining gravitational forces, galaxies, and gamma-ray bursts. Your work is science with a conscience, calling us to acknowledge and make amends for humanity’s effect on the cosmic order, including the potential damage of environmental degradation, global warming, and threatened nuclear war. You are a gifted teacher, a prolific author, and a passionate advocate for science. Your science is a service to us all, and we are honored to recognize your scholarship and leadership by conferring the degree of Doctor of Science

Carla Anderson Hills
In your public and private pursuits, you are a model of global citizenship. A distinguished lawyer, you served the nation in two cabinet positions. As the United States Trade Representative, you made signal contributions to global prosperity as an architect of both the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement. As cochair of the Council on Foreign Relations and chair of the National Committee on U.S.–China Relations, you have remained a champion of free trade and global engagement, consistently promoting better understanding and cooperation among nations. For your leadership in public and international affairs, we proudly award your second Yale degree, Doctor of Laws

Sir Paul McCartney
There is no one compares with you. Your songs awakened a generation, giving a fresh sound to rock, roll, rhythm, and blues. From the energy of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to the melancholy of “Yesterday” to the spirituality of “Let It Be,” you have played every chord, touched every emotion. Here, there, and everywhere, you have pushed the boundaries of the familiar to create new classics. We admire your musical genius and your generous support of worthy causes. We are honored to recognize you with the degree of Doctor of Music

Cesar Pelli
Your buildings enhance their surroundings and enrich the lives of those who inhabit them, and your designs are always appropriate to purpose and place. From the Petronas Towers in Malaysia to the World Financial Center in New York and the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, you make our spirits soar. You have been especially generous to New Haven, where you live and work, improving our city and our campus with exceptional buildings. As author, teacher, and Yale dean, you have educated and inspired countless architects. With gratitude and admiration, Yale proudly confers on you the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts

Drew Gilpin Faust
You are, simultaneously, a historian’s historian and a leader of institutions. Your books on the Civil War and the American South have explored intellectual life amidst slavery, Confederate nationalism, Southern womanhood, and the lives of African Americans. You have chronicled the catastrophic suffering and death that devastated both sides during the American war to end slavery. From an early age, you were determined to choose your own way, appalled by injustice, and convinced of the redemptive force of education. Your leadership, mentoring, and elegant thoughtfulness have moved your colleagues and inspired your students. We welcome you, the first woman to serve as Harvard’s president, to the Yale family as we bestow on you the degree of Doctor of Humanities

Rajendra Kumar Pachauri
As a leading voice on climate change, you have been a builder of bridges—from scientific evidence to public policy, from developed to developing countries. As author of one of the first major reports on global warming, you helped lay the foundation for the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. And as leader of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, you have brought the world’s scientific community together to sound the alarm about the future of our planet. You combine a deep respect for science with a passion to protect our environment. Yale is privileged to have you as a collaborator with our School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and pleased to award you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters

Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325