Yale awards nine honorary degrees at Commencement 2015

President Peter Salovey presented honorary degree to nine individuals who have achieved distinction in their respective fields at the 2015 Commencement ceremony held on May 18 on Old Campus.
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Pictured are (standing, from left) Jeffrey Friedman, Angelique Kidjo, Peter G. Schultz, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dean Kamen, (seated, from left) Elon Musk, Janet Yellen, President Peter Salovey, Larry Kramer, and Gayatri Spivak. (Photo by Joy Bush)

President Peter Salovey presented honorary degree to nine individuals who have achieved distinction in their respective fields at the 2015 Commencement ceremony held on May 18 on Old Campus. Their citations follow. Click here to read their biographies.

Jeffrey Michael Friedman

Doctor of Medical Sciences

Through painstakingly elegant research, you discovered the master hormone leptin and shifted the way we view obesity — not as a failure of will but rather as a biological phenomenon. By identifying the molecular mechanisms that help regulate how much we eat and how much we weigh, your work has revealed amazing connections between brain, body, and behavior. With a love of science, continuing curiosity, and an ambitious research agenda, you are helping reshape approaches to modern medicine and understandings of human behavior. For the weighty significance of your findings, we are honored to name you Doctor of Medical Sciences.

Angélique Kidjo

Doctor of Music

Through songs and singing, with artistry and advocacy, you have become known as one of the world’s great voices for Africa. In your music, you embrace a dazzling spectrum of genres, from traditional West African rhythms to jazz, funk, rumba, and salsa. You sing from the soul and invoke the conscience. You are a cultural and humanitarian leader. With passion, warmth, and generosity, you work tirelessly for the empowerment and education of African women and girls, and serve as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. You are a friend of Yale, and we are delighted to grant you this degree of Doctor of Music.

Dean Kamen

Doctor of Engineering and Technology

You are an inventor, an innovator, an entrepreneur, and an advocate for science and engineering. Your work has focused on harnessing technology to improve the quality of life, with such creations as a wearable infusion pump, a portable dialysis machine, an advanced prosthetic arm, an easily transported water purification device, and a plan to bring affordable clean water and energy to developing nations. Through your foundation, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), you are inventing inventors, sharing your energy and excitement with over 400,000 students to develop tomorrow’s science and technology leaders. You are a visionary, and we are pleased to bestow on you the degree of Doctor of Engineering and Technology.

Larry Kramer ’57 B.A.

Doctor of Humane Letters

As an author and dramatist, advocate and activist, you have been tireless in demanding the world’s attention to the plague of AIDS and in promoting treatment and research. By founding the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and then starting Act Up, you created a movement. Your long-running play, “The Normal Heart,” is among the most significant cultural forces of the last century, stirring our empathy and sense of social responsibility. Your legacy lives on at Yale, as your university is the honored recipient of the monumental gift of your own papers. For your courage and tenacity in speaking out and acting up, we are so pleased to award your second Yale degree: Doctor of Humane Letters.

Elon Musk

Doctor of Engineering and Technology

Through your energy and ingenuity, you are changing the way we live our lives. Your involvement with PayPal revolutionized everyday financial transactions. Similarly, you are re-envisioning transportation, on Earth with Tesla Motors and Hyperloop, and beyond with Space X and commercial space flight. You are also helping to transform energy production, delivery, and consumption through solar technology. Your generosity through The Giving Pledge is inspiring. You have the rare gift of imagining the impossible and making it happen.  For your entrepreneurial spirit and your creative genius, we bestow on you the degree:  Doctor of Engineering and Technology.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Doctor of Humane Letters

You are a citizen of your country, your continent, and the world. Shaped by challenging experiences during your childhood in Nigeria, you have made social and economic reform your mission. As Nigeria’s coordinating minister of economic development and minister of finance, you have tackled corruption, created a vision and path to long-term economic stability, and worked to build a culture of transparency. At the World Bank, you made food security a priority and provided policy advice and capital for the world’s poorest countries. With wisdom, a fierce dedication to doing what is right, and unflagging energy, you have transformed the economic landscape of your nation. We are proud to name you Doctor of Humane Letters.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Doctor of Humanities

Your scholarship crosses boundaries and defies easy categorization. You are a philosopher, literary theorist, cultural critic, and teacher. Exploring the dimensions of oppression and otherness through multiple lens, you take on some of the most difficult philosophical concepts and confound those who seek easy answers. A passionate advocate of education for cultivating the habits of democracy, you teach in a rural school you founded in India as well as in universities around the world. Your intellect amazes your colleagues, your scholarship challenges convention, and your commitment to academic inquiry inspires us all. We are pleased to honor you as Doctor of Humanities.

Peter Schultz

Doctor of Science

Your pioneering work spans the disciplines of chemistry, biochemistry, chemical biology, and all of molecular science. You have re-designed nature’s synthesis machinery to create molecules with new properties and functions, yielding scientific techniques with potential to create new drugs for a range of diseases. You are a master of translational research, at home in both the academy and industry, able to imagine the science and then form partnerships to bring new treatments to those who need them. A prolific author, you have also founded two major research institutes and nine biotech companies; and you have mentored a generation of scientists. For your seminal contributions to our understanding of chemistry, we bestow on you the degree of Doctor of Science.

Janet Louise Yellen ’71 Ph.D.

Doctor of Social Science

You are an esteemed economist and a dedicated public servant.  With wisdom, clarity, and calm, you steer a prudent financial course for our country. As chair of the Federal Reserve, you bring a lifetime of scholarly accomplishment and compassion for all people to that role. Your leadership is based on sound theory, rigorous analysis, and personal integrity and ethics. In your research and in your practice, you have focused on reducing unemployment, and promoting responsible economic growth, always with the goal of improving people’s lives. The university has benefited from your service as a trustee, and we are proud to award your second Yale degree: Doctor of Social Science.

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