Yale awards honorary degrees to 11 individuals for their achievements

At its 318th graduation ceremony, Yale presented honorary degrees to 11 individuals who have achieved distinction in their fields. The citations below were read at the university-wide Commencement ceremony.

Read the biographies of the 2019 honorands.

Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie
(Photos by Michael Marsland)

Letters (Litt.D.)
Author

Your stories of war, migration, home, and heartbreak bring the great richness and multiplicity of human experience to life. With courage and clarity, you call us to “do better” for women and girls, for ourselves and future generations around the globe.

In appreciation for your superb talent and leadership in literature and the public sphere, we are honored to present your second Yale degree, Doctor of Letters.

Lawrence S. Bacow

Lawrence S. Bacow

Social Science (S.Sc.D.)
Scholar

Vanguard of veritas, you champion the promise and responsibility of higher education: to seek truth, expand opportunity, and contribute to the greater good. From Pontiac, Michigan, to the banks of the Charles River, you have acquired a shem tov — a good name — by acting with wisdom and integrity.

We proudly welcome you to the Yale family as we confer on you this Doctor of Social Science degree.

James A. Baker, III

James A. Baker, III

Humane Letters (L.H.D.)
Public Servant

As cabinet secretary, foreign envoy, and trusted advisor, you have placed national interests above self-interest. Your laser-sharp understanding of people, power, and policy helped guide a generation of U.S. presidents, shaping our government and our world.

In recognition of your steadfast commitment to this country and its democratic institutions, Yale is honored to bestow on you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Mary Beard

Mary Beard

Humanities (D.Hum.)
Classicist

Scholar of the people, you excavate the past and challenge our view of the present. With honesty, humor, and brilliance, you find fresh insights in neglected corners of antiquity and stimulate debate in modern forums.

Fearless thinker, curious guide, for inspiring us to look anew at history and ourselves, we are privileged to award you this Doctor of Humanities degree.

Carmen de Lavallade

Carmen de Lavallade

Fine Arts (D.F.A.)
Performing Artist

Grand dame of dance, you are a regal storyteller working in the medium of movement. From Broadway to Hollywood, from the Yale Rep to the Metropolitan Opera, audiences have fallen under your magnificent spell, enchanted by your grace and skill.

Choreographer and teacher, actress and artist: in appreciation for your pioneering creativity on many stages, we proudly bestow on you this Doctor of Fine Arts degree.

Sheila Hicks

Sheila Hicks

Fine Arts (D.F.A.)
Artist

Weaving global traditions, you fashion masterpieces of texture, color, structure, and scale that are uniquely your own. In your hands, fiber and found objects are transformed, confounding categories and elevating our public spaces.

In gratitude for the beauty and meaning you have knitted together in a lifetime of sublime work, we are delighted to present your third Yale degree, Doctor of Fine Arts.

Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa

Humane Letters (L.H.D.)
Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

You see opportunities others miss and demonstrate the courage of your convictions at every turn. Brave visionary, bold business leader, and devoted humanitarian, your innovation and generosity have transformed a continent and improved countless lives.

For inspiring us to tackle great challenges, lead with honor, and serve others, Yale is privileged to confer on you this Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Cynthia Moss

Cynthia Moss

Social Science (S.Sc.D.)
Wildlife Researcher

You have brought international attention to the elephants of Amboseli. Through research and advocacy, you show us how these majestic animals live, love, and die — and the lessons they offer to humankind.

For your extraordinary efforts to conserve wildlife and its habitats, and for helping us find beauty, dignity, and joy beyond our species, we are honored to bestow on you this Doctor of Social Science degree.

Indra K. Nooyi

Indra K. Nooyi

Humane Letters (L.H.D.)
Business Leader

Intrepid trailblazer, you have led with purpose, ascending the corporate ladder and encouraging women and girls to picture themselves in the C-suite. With brilliance and fortitude, you have embraced change, seized opportunities, and set an enduring example of success.

Global role model, in recognition of your achievements in business and for society, we are honored to present you with your second Yale degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.

Sister Helen Prejean

Sister Helen Prejean

Divinity (D.D.)
Death Penalty Abolitionist

Emissary of hope, you go to the margins of society—to the poor, forgotten, and alone—to share God’s love. In bearing witness and raising your voice, you have changed hearts, transformed catechism, and opened our eyes to the value of all human beings, no matter who they are or what they have done.

In appreciation for your mission of justice and mercy, we humbly present you with this Doctor of Divinity degree.

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem

Humane Letters (L.H.D.)
Women’s Rights Advocate

You spearheaded a movement and changed our world, giving women greater freedom to chart their own courses in life. Opening doors for generations to come, you fought to expand rights and advance liberty, equality, and humanity.

Feminist and firebrand, icon and iconoclast: Yale is proud to award you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

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