Biographical sketches of the 2012 Yale honorands

Here are biographies of the nine individuals who received honorary degrees at Yale’s 3011 Commencement on May 21.

Aaron Temkin Beck ’48 M.D.

Aaron Temkin Beck is known as the father of cognitive therapy, which is a way of treating mental health disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. He is president emeritus of the nonprofit Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and university professor emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Beck grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Russian immigrants. He attended Brown University, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree, and then went on to Yale, where he earned his medical degree. As a child, he faced some health challenges and subsequently developed a number of fears and phobias, eventually overcoming his fears by examining his own thinking, an approach that foreshadowed cognitive therapy. He helped finance his education at Brown and his first year at Yale by selling Fuller Brushes door to door, and planned to pursue a career in neurology. During the Korean War he served as assistant chief of neuropsychology at Valley Forge General Hospital, and began working with veterans who had serious psychological issues. He realized that the standard practices of psychoanalysis, based on Sigmund Freud’s work, were not helping his patients, which deepened his interest in psychiatry. Following graduation from the Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Institute, he undertook research to determine the validity of psychoanalytic theories. When his research failed to demonstrate the efficacy of the accepted practice, he began developing cognitive therapy, always subjecting his hypotheses to rigorous research.

Cognitive therapy, also called cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, revolutionized the field of psychiatry and has replaced classical Freudian approaches to the treatment of an array of mental disorders. When Dr. Beck first began using his new approach in the 1960s, it proved more effective in treating depression than psychoanalysis or the medications available at the time. In cognitive therapy, the doctor and patient work on defining problems and issues so that solutions can be developed, rather than exploring life stresses, family interactions, and the subconscious through the open-ended approach of psychoanalysis. CBT focuses on a patient’s conscious thoughts and seeks to reframe or redirect them in order to bring about behavior changes. As he developed this new approach, Dr. Beck sought scientific evidence of the treatment’s effectiveness, although widespread acceptance of CBT was slow. He founded what became the leading journal in the field, Cognitive Therapy and Research, because the established academic periodicals rejected early reports of his research findings. He has published 24 books and well over 500 papers. With more than 400 clinical trials as evidence, CBT has been demonstrated as effective treatment for depression, anxiety, panic, substance abuse, personality disorders, and suicide prevention. With his daughter Judith Beck, he is co-founder of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which provides research and clinical support as well as training for cognitive therapists from around the world.

Dr. Beck has been widely honored for his groundbreaking work. In 2006, he received the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research, one of the most respected science prizes in the world. Among his many other awards are the Grawemeyer Award in Psychology in 2004, the Morselli Medal for a Lifetime of Research in the Field of Suicide from the International Academy for Suicide Research in 2005, and the William C. Menninger Memorial Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Science of Mental Health in 2007.

Robert Darnton

Robert Darnton is the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and University Librarian at Harvard. He is a leading scholar in the history of the book and a major advocate for the democratization of knowledge through digital dissemination.

Professor Darnton was born in New York City. Both of his parents were journalists, so he was exposed to the power of disseminating information from an early age. He attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and then enrolled at Harvard, where he received his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude. He was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford, where he completed his PhD in history. While in England, he also served as a substitute foreign correspondent in the London bureau of The New York Times. Following graduation, he joined the Times as a reporter in the City Room in New York, but soon left to begin an academic career at the Society of Fellows at Harvard. He became an assistant professor at Princeton, rising through the ranks to professor and serving as director of the program in European Cultural Studies and director of the Center for the Study of Books and Media. He left Princeton in 2007 to return to his alma mater as a professor and director of the Harvard University Library.

Highly regarded for his scholarship, Professor Darnton is an expert on the French Revolution and the Enlightenment. His work has contributed to new ways of examining history. He is widely regarded as a pioneer in the study of the history of the book. His approach to the historical study of the Enlightenment, which he has called the “social history of ideas,” joined study of the books of the time with their social context, showing the combined power of two strands of thought. Professor Darnton has developed a distinct approach to the study of cultural history, and his work has led to a flourishing of interdisciplinary study. Drawing on a wide array of fields, he continues to be grounded in a disciplined historical approach to his topics. He has examined popular songs, antigovernment pamphlets, police records, folklore, and book circulation data to create a comprehensive view of a particular time and place. He has written or edited more than two dozen books, including The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the “Encyclopédie,” 1775–1800 (1979), The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (1984), George Washington’s False Teeth: An Unconventional Guide to the Eighteenth Century (2003), The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future (2009), and Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris (2010).

An outspoken advocate for free access to digital information, Professor Darnton has been instrumental in the recent movement to make books available in digital format, while also sounding a warning about the control and ownership of online information. He helped found the Gutenberg-e program to promote online publication of scholarly works, including the best history dissertations in fields where traditional monographs are becoming endangered. He remains a strong proponent of the physical printed book, even as his has become a signal voice in urging greater digital access.

Widely honored for his contributions to history and public literacy, Professor Darnton is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (1982), the Gutenberg Award (2004), and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Printing History Association (2005). In 1999, he was named a Chevalier of the Legion D’Honneur, the highest award given by the French government. In 2011, he was conferred a National Humanities Medal by President Obama.

Robert M. Gates

Robert M. Gates has been a public servant throughout his career, rising from an entry-level post in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to the director, serving as president of Texas A&M University, and finally being named secretary of defense. He is considered one of the United States’ leading authorities on Russia and the transition from Cold War policies.

Mr. Gates grew up in Kansas and was active in Boy Scouts during his early years. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1965 with a degree in history. In recognition of his leadership even then, he was given the College’s award for the graduate who had made the greatest contribution to his fellow human beings. He continued his studies at Indiana University, receiving a master’s degree in 1966, also in history. He then joined the CIA and was soon commissioned as second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, where he served as an intelligence officer. During his years in Washington, he also studied at Georgetown University, earning a doctorate in Soviet and Russian history in 1974.

At the CIA, Mr. Gates often took on challenging assignments and established a reputation for skilled analysis and clear thinking. He realized early on that the available analyses related to the USSR were not adequate to inform policy and practice, and he set about developing better approaches. His work drew the attention of the White House, and Mr. Gates was named to the staff of the National Security Council in June 1974. After he returned to the CIA, he continued to rise through the ranks, serving as deputy director for intelligence analysis, deputy director of central intelligence, and acting director. Following another stint in the White House as deputy national security advisor, he was named director of the CIA in 1991, becoming the only analyst and entry-level employee in CIA history to attain the position of director. As director, he overhauled the intelligence process and philosophy, endorsing more emphasis on human intelligence gathering rather than relying primarily on technology, and shifting the agency’s resources and priorities to serve the needs of government and policy makers in the post–Cold War era.

Mr. Gates retired from the CIA in 1993 and worked for several years as a visiting faculty member and lecturer. He wrote about his experiences in From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War (1996). He served as interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M from 1999 to 2001. After September 11, 2001, he felt obligated to undertake another public service role, so he returned to Texas A&M in 2002 as its 22nd president. During his tenure, he successfully improved student diversity; increased the size of the faculty, adding 440 new faculty positions; and launched a $500 million academic facilities construction program. He left Texas A&M in 2006 to become secretary of defense, and he held this post in both the Bush and Obama administrations, the only secretary of defense in U.S. history asked to remain in office by a newly elected president. In this position, he was instrumental in better equipping U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, improving care and support for the wounded and their families, and developing policy and practice to support military and civilian partnerships in areas of conflict.

Mr. Gates is a recipient of the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, and the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal. On his last day in office, President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. In 2012, he became chancellor of his alma mater, the College of William and Mary.

Jane Lubchenco

Jane Lubchenco is a distinguished scientist and has served as under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) since 2009, the only woman to hold that position. Nominated by President Obama in December 2008 as part of his “Science Team,” she is a marine ecologist and environmental scientist with expertise in oceans, climate change, and relations between the environment and human well-being.

The daughter of doctors, Dr. Lubchenco grew up in Colorado, where she excelled as a scholar and an athlete, and then attended Colorado College. During a summer class held at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, she discovered a love for biology. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology, she went on to study for a master’s degree in marine biology at the University of Washington. Her thesis focused on evolutionary biology combined with real-world experimentation, a theme she has continued to explore throughout her career. She completed her doctoral work in ecology at Harvard in 1975, and then took a position as assistant professor of ecology there. In 1977, she became an associate professor at Oregon State University, where she remained until her appointment as NOAA administrator.

Under her leadership, NOAA has focused on restoring fisheries to sustainability and profitability, returning oceans and coasts to a healthy state, ensuring continuity of the nation’s weather and other environmental satellites, developing the Weather-Ready Nation initiative, promoting climate science, ensuring scientific integrity at NOAA, and delivering the highest quality of science, services, and stewardship possible.

Dr. Lubchenco has served as president for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the International Council for Science, and the Ecological Society of America, and was a board member for 10 years on the National Science Board. She also worked on the National Academy of Sciences’ study on “Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming” during the administration of George H. W. Bush. She has served on several commissions, including the Pew Oceans Commission, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, the Aspen Institute Commission on Arctic Climate Change, and the Council of Advisors for the Ocean in Google Earth software.

Dr. Lubchenco is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Society, the Academy of Science for the Developing World, the European Academy of Sciences, and the Chilean Academy of Science. She has received numerous awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 1993. She was named “2010 Newsmaker of the Year” by the scientific journal Nature.

Before coming to NOAA, Dr. Lubchenco co-founded three organizations (The Leopold Leadership Program, the Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea, and Climate Central) that aim to communicate scientific knowledge to the public, policy makers, media, and industry. She also co-founded a research consortium, the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, which studies the near-shore ocean along the coasts of Oregon and California.

Margaret Hilary Marshall ’76 J.D.

Margaret Hilary Marshall is a retired chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the first and only woman to serve in that role in the Court’s 300-year history, and former vice president and general counsel for Harvard University. She currently serves as senior counsel at Choate Hall & Stewart, a leading Boston law firm, and is a senior research fellow and lecturer at Harvard Law School. Chief Justice Marshall is widely known and admired for her wise decisions, including her seminal ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

Born and educated in South Africa, Chief Justice Marshall grew up in the village of Newcastle, in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. Her family was not engaged in politics or social change, but after a year spent in the United States in the midst of the civil rights movement here, Chief Justice Marshall became deeply involved in the anti-apartheid movement when she returned home. At the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg she was a student leader and then president of the National Union of South African Students, an organization fighting racial oppression. She continued her work of speaking out against apartheid after she came to the United States. She received her master’s degree in education from Harvard in 1969 and then enrolled in Yale Law School, where she earned her juris doctor degree in 1976. Following graduation from Yale, she practiced law for 16 years, first with Csaplar & Bok and then with Choate Hall & Stewart, and was a partner in both firms. In 1992, she was named vice president and general counsel of Harvard. Governor William F. Weld appointed her to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 1996, and she was appointed chief justice by Governor A. Paul Cellucci three years later.

During her 14 years on the Supreme Judicial Court, Chief Justice Marshall wrote more than 300 opinions, many of them landmark decisions. The 2003 decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which she authored, declared that the Massachusetts Constitution prohibits the state from denying same-sex couples access to civil marriage; this decision made Massachusetts the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. For Chief Justice Marshall the decision turned on the fundamental right of human equality and the parallel prohibition against creating second-class citizens. Other decisions during her tenure gave class action status to workers whose pay had been wrongfully withheld, clarified parental obligations to support their children, protected the rights of the most vulnerable, took on a tobacco corporation seeking to limit its liability, and addressed important First Amendment matters related to free speech, the press, and religion. She was also instrumental in reforming the management of the Massachusetts judiciary, implementing a program of judicial evaluation and accountability, and improving access to justice for low-income individuals.

Chief Justice Marshall has served as president of the Boston Bar Association, president of the United States Conference of Chief Justices, and chair of the board of the National Center for State Courts. She served as a fellow of the Yale Corporation from 2004 to 2010, and chaired the University’s Advisory Committee on Campus Climate, which focused on the University’s efforts to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct. She has been an advocate for women and minorities in law and a mentor for colleagues. She has presented numerous invited lectures and has published scholarly works on judicial independence.


Midori is an internationally renowned violinist widely known as a master musician, an innovator, and a champion of the developmental potential of children. Named a Messenger of Peace by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2007, she has created a new model for young artists who seek to balance the joys and demands of a performing career at the highest level with a hands-on investment in the power of music to change lives. She is also the founder of Midori & Friends, an organization that provides music education and performance opportunities to students in New York City schools that lack music programs.

Midori was born in Osaka, Japan. When she was four years old, she started lessons with her mother, a violin teacher. Midori’s talent was immediately apparent, and when she reached the age of ten, her mother brought her to the United States to study with Dorothy DeLay at The Juilliard School. Years later, Midori attended NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and gender studies in 2000, graduating magna cum laude. In 2005, she completed a master’s degree at NYU, also in psychology.

Midori & Friends, founded in 1992, each year allows 15,000 students at 40 different public schools and community agency sites throughout New York City to participate in a 26-week curriculum that includes instrument instruction, elementary music theory, choral singing, and community concerts. Midori also has created two other organizations, Music Sharing, based in Japan, and Partners in Performance, based in the United States, to bring music closer to the lives of people who may not otherwise have involvement with the arts. Her commitment to community collaboration and outreach extends beyond these organizations to her work with young violinists in master classes all over the world, and to her Orchestra Residencies Program in the United States.

Midori plays up to 100 concerts a year, dividing her time among recitals, chamber music, and concerto performances worldwide. She has an extensive catalogue of recordings, and in recent years she has devoted a great deal of energy and resources to commissioning and performing new music. In the 2012–13 season—the 30th anniversary of her performing career—she will play the world premiere of a violin concerto by Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös that was recently commissioned for her by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the BBC Proms, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

In addition to being named Artist of the Year in 1988 by the Japanese government, Midori has won the Avery Fisher Prize (2001), the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis (2002), the Kennedy Center Gold Medal in the Arts (2010), the Mellon Mentoring Award (2012), and most recently the Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum, for her “20-year devotion to community engagement work worldwide” (2012). She is Distinguished Professor of Violin, Jascha Heifetz Chair in Violin, and chair of the Strings Department at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.

Angelika Neuwirth

Angelika Neuwirth is one the world’s leading scholars of the Qur’an, and current chair of Arabic Studies at the Free University in Berlin. She also directs the Corpus Coranicum, an ambitious research project intended to develop a better contextual understanding of the Qur’an in the East and in the West.

Professor Neuwirth, who was born in Germany, early on spent a year studying in Tehran, where she learned Persian and became fascinated with the poetry and traditions of Iran. Upon returning to Germany, she studied at the University of Göttingen, where she focused on Semitic and Arabic studies and classical philology, exploring the structure, historical development, and relationships of language. In 1967, she moved to Jerusalem to pursue a master’s degree in Arabic and Islamic studies at the Hebrew University. In Jerusalem, she lived near the al-Aqsa Mosque, where she heard faithful Muslims daily recite the Qur’an, and she began to develop a deep interest in the Muslim holy book, leading to a curiosity and dedication that would shape her entire career. She returned to Göttingen to complete her doctorate, and following some postdoctoral work in Germany, taught Arab philosophy and directed a department at the Royal Academy for Islamic Civilization Research at the University of Jordan in Amman. In 1991, she became chair of the Department of Arabic Studies at the Free University of Berlin.

Professor Neuwirth has pioneered a method of studying the Qur’an that seeks to give it the same scholarly attention as the Bible. According to Islam, the Qur’an was received as spoken wisdom in Arabic directly from God, and the primary method of engaging the Qur’an is through recitation and listening, rather than through reading. In her study of the Qur’an, Professor Neuwirth has used the methodologies of biblical scholarship, including literary criticism, genre analysis, and history of redaction, while always honoring the tradition and sacred nature of the text. Her approach has been deliberately nonconfrontational and respectful of Islam, and she engages in regular dialogue with Islamic scholars. In fact, her influence is partly a result of her ability to work in diverse cultural and religious settings, and to promote the serious study of the Qur’an as an element of late antiquity and wider history. In addition to her scholarly interest, she is also intent on reaching a nonscholarly and Western audience to create more understanding about the Qur’an and also about Islam, a task that has taken on greater urgency since September 11, 2001.

One of her major undertakings is the Corpus Coranicum project, which involves documenting some of the oldest manuscripts of the Qur’an and making them available for electronic evaluation and wider analysis. The project also involves the creation of historically based commentary on each sura, or chapter, in the Qur’an, noting related references from other sources and findings from current research.

Professor Neuwirth is the author of numerous books, including The Koran as a Text from Late Antiquity: A European Approach (published in German in 2010), as well as the first volume of a comprehensive commentary on the Qur’an (2011), which has great potential to narrow the gap between different civilizations and cultures. She has also initiated a series on photographs of the Qur’an.

Richard Wilbur

Richard Wilbur is a poet and the John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer at Amherst College. He was the second poet laureate of the United States and is widely recognized as one of the leading poets in the United States today.

Mr. Wilbur was born in New York City but grew up on a farm in New Jersey where he developed a love for nature and the outdoors. His father was a commercial and portrait artist, and although he was interested in art, he was strongly influenced by his maternal grandfather and great-grandfather who were both editors. He published his first poem when he was eight years old. In 1942, he received his bachelor’s degree from Amherst College, where he was the editor of the college newspaper. He also spent two summers hitchhiking and riding the rails across the country. After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a cryptographer in Europe at the height of the war. It was during his war years that he began writing poetry in earnest. After the war, he continued his studies at Harvard where he earned his master’s degree in 1947. He was a member of the prestigious Harvard Fellows and taught there until 1954. During this time he met and became friends with Robert Frost, a relationship that would influence his writing for the rest of his career. After Harvard he moved first to Wellesley and then to Wesleyan University. At Wesleyan he was instrumental in the founding of the acclaimed Wesleyan University Press poetry series. From Wesleyan he went to Smith as writer-in-residence. In 1987 he was named the second poet laureate of the United States, following Robert Penn Warren.

Mr. Wilbur’s first book, The Beautiful Changes and Other Poems, was published the year he graduated from Harvard. The book was wellreceived and established his reputation as a leading voice in poetry; he was only 26 at the time. His second book was Ceremony and Other Poems (1950). It, too, received praise from the critics. His writing, using rhyme and meter, along with elaborate wordplay and intriguingly ambiguous language, perfected a new formal approach sometimes called the “New Critical” style. Things of This World (1956) won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. Other books of poetry include New and Collected Poems (1975), which also won the Pulitzer; Advice to a Prophet and Other Poems (1961); Walking to Sleep: New Poems and Translations (1969); The Mind Reader: New Poems (1976); Mayflies: New Poems and Translations (2000); and Anteroom (2011). Mr. Wilbur is a gifted translator of Molière, and he has written a series of delightful children’s books, including Loudmouse (1963); Opposites: Poems and Drawings (1973); The Disappearing Alphabet (1998); and The Pig in the Spigot (2000). His children’s books, like his poetry, delight in word play, puns, and mind games.

In addition to the National Book Award and the Pulitzers, Mr. Wilbur has received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Robert Frost Medal, the Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and the National Medal of the Arts. At Yale, he has twice been awarded the Bollingen Prize, in 1963 for his translation of Tartuffe and in 1971 for Walking to Sleep.

William Julius Wilson

William Julius Wilson, the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard, is a leading sociologist. His work on urban poverty, race, and inequality has been a major influence on thought and practice in academia and public policy.

Professor Wilson grew up near Pittsburgh in Blairsville, Pennsylvania. His father, a coal miner, died of lung disease when Professor Wilson was twelve, leaving his mother to support six children by working as a housekeeper. He was greatly influenced by his aunt, a social worker in New York City, who encouraged him to read and study and took him to cultural events in the city. Motivated and supported by his aunt, he enrolled at Wilberforce University, where he majored in sociology and became interested in urban sociology and the politics of race. Following graduation in 1958, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and later returned to school to earn a master’s degree in sociology from Bowling Green State University. In 1966, he completed his doctorate at Washington State University. Professor Wilson taught at the University of Massachusetts until 1971, when he was offered a position in the sociology department at the University of Chicago. He was granted tenure in 1972, became a full professor in 1975, and was appointed chair of the sociology department in 1978. In 1990, he was named the Lucy Flower University Professor and director of the university’s Center for the Study of Urban Inequality. In 1996 he joined the faculty at Harvard.

While at the University of Chicago, Professor Wilson developed a fact-based approach to the study of urban sociology, relying heavily on field research that featured an integration of quantitative and qualitative analysis. His first book, Power, Racism, and Privilege: Race Relations in Theoretical and Sociohistorical Perspectives (1973), was a comparative study of race relations in the United States and South Africa. His next book, The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions (1978), addressed class distinctions within the African American community, positing that social class was more influential than race in determining success. Professor Wilson’s rigorous research began to indicate that the poorest citizens had very few avenues to prosperity, while middle-class African Americans were more likely to enjoy social and economic mobility. He developed these findings further in The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (1987) and suggested the need for governmental support for major programs of social and economic reconstruction in American cities. His other books include When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor (1996), The Bridge over the Racial Divide: Rising Inequality and Coalition Politics (2001), and More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (2009).

Professor Wilson is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (1987) and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. In 1996, Time magazine named him one of America’s 25 Most Influential People. He was a recipient of the National Medal of Science in 1998 and was awarded the Talcott Parsons Prize in the Social Sciences by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002. He has also received numerous prizes and awards for his books.    

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