Yale awards nine honorary degrees at 2012 graduation

2012 Honorands

Nine individuals who have achieved distinction in their fields were awarded honorary degrees at Yale University’s 2012 Commencement ceremony on May 21. Here are the citations that President Richard C. Levin read as they received their degrees. Read their biographies.

Aaron Temkin Beck ‘46 M.D.

Doctor of Medical Science

Widely acclaimed as the father of cognitive therapy, your pioneering work has greatly advanced our understanding of mental health, transformed the treatment of mental illnesses, and set new standards for assessing the effectiveness of psychotherapy. By subjecting traditional psychodynamic methods to rigorous research, you created a completely new form of treatment of depression and extended your approach to other forms of mental illness such as schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. For your seminal contributions and their consequences for mental health, we are proud to award your second Yale degree: Doctor of Medical Sciences.

Robert Choate Darnton

Doctor of Humanities

An innovative historian and director of Harvard’s library, you have been a scholar of the impact of books, a connoisseur of their contents, and an advocate for the democratization of knowledge through digital dissemination. By studying the books of the Enlightenment in their social context, your approach to the history of ideas has brought together two previously separate strands of thought. You have acted on your commitment to the cause of books by advancing on-line publishing and free digital access to information.  Because you have taught us why books mattered in the past and why — in all their forms — they matter now, we are pleased to name you Doctor of Humanities.

Robert M. Gates

Doctor of Humane Letters

You are a true American patriot. Your candor, commitment, and contributions to the nation have inspired us all. You rose from entry level to the leadership of the CIA, where you are remembered as among the most effective directors in the Agency’s history. Then, after service as a dean and university president, you served Presidents of both parties with distinction as Secretary of Defense. You have won the admiration of politicians, generals, and leaders of the intelligence community by consistently advocating for better management of defense and intelligence resources, and calling attention to twin goals of protection and peace, even in the midst of challenging wars. With gratitude for your dedication, we bestow on you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.


Doctor of Music

With poise, precision, and artistry, you have been acclaimed as one of the world’s great violinists since the age of 14. Equally gifted in the classical and the contemporary repertoire, you have embraced new music even as you bring interpretative brilliance to the composers of the past. And your philanthropic ventures have extended your influence far beyond the concert hall. You provide music education to 15,000 New York City children each year, and you promote music as a force for good in your role as a United Nations Messenger for Peace. For your supreme talent and your commitment to education and community wellbeing, we are pleased to name you Doctor of Music.

Jane Lubchenco

Doctor of Science

A distinguished ecologist and public servant, you are a steward of sea and sky. As the first woman to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, you have been a fierce advocate for using scientific expertise in the realm of policy and government – from forecasting hurricanes to monitoring climate change. You have inspired scientists to communicate their work so it can be applied to practical decision-making. As a teacher, scientist, and public servant, you are a role model. For your scientific achievement, vision, and global environmental advocacy, we are honored to name you Doctor of Science.

Margaret Hilary Marshall ’76 J.D.

Doctor of Laws

You have devoted your life to the pursuit of justice, from your native South Africa as a student protesting apartheid to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, as the first woman to serve as its Chief Justice. You changed the legal landscape with your courageous decision to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry — opening the door for other states to follow. You have graciously and generously offered your wise counsel to Yale as an engaged and devoted Fellow of the Yale Corporation and as a trusted advisor on matters of consequence. You are a mentor and role model, a respected jurist, and a friend. We are delighted to award your second Yale degree: Doctor of Laws.

Angelika Neuwirth

Doctor of Divinity

You have immersed yourself in the study of the Qur’an, bringing new understanding not only of its literary form and aesthetics, but also of its origin in, and indebtedness to, the religiously and culturally diverse world of late antiquity. Drawing on the disciplines of history, literature, language, and religion, you have enriched and enlivened the scholarship surrounding this holy work. As a speaker of both Hebrew and Arabic, you have used your scholarship to bring together those who do not often speak to each other, and, through humanitarian engagement, you have built bridges between cultures, religions, and peoples. We are pleased to recognize your contributions to Islamic and Arabic studies with the degree of Doctor of Divinity.

William Julius Wilson

Doctor of Social Science

You have made the study of inequality your life’s work. Your scholarship, spanning four decades, has sparked major debates about how we as a nation can address some of our most vexing problems: urban poverty, joblessness, and industrial decline. With unflinching fairness, you have challenged conventional wisdom with wisdom of your own – grounded in research and tempered by extensive knowledge of cities. By identifying the tragic impact of deindustrialization, you have issued a call to rethink policy and practice to best serve our society. Generations of scholars have built upon your work. We are proud to award you the degree of Doctor of Social Science.

Richard Wilbur

Doctor of Letters

Master craftsman, for 65 years, with penetrating eye and faultless ear, you have added poem after poem to the company of those that will last, illuminating with wit and invention the “things of this world.” Elegant poet of depth and finish, superb translator from French to English, and from life to art, Yale is honored to name you Doctor of Letters.

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