Yale awards honorary degrees to 10 leaders who embody ‘excellence’

During its 321st graduation ceremony, Yale presented honorary degrees to 10 individuals who have achieved distinction in their fields.
Yale 2022 honorary degree recipients

Front row, left to right: Jean Bennett, Caroline Shaw, President Peter Salovey, Jill Lepore, and Krista Tippett. Back Row: Orlando Patterson, James. E. Clyburn, Katalin Karikó, and Myron Thompson. (Photo by Joy Bush)

During its 321st graduation ceremony, Yale presented honorary degrees to 10 individuals who have achieved distinction in their fields.

The 10 individuals we honor this morning serve as examples to you, our graduates, to encourage you to aspire to excellence and to value those elements of human character that they embody: creativity, curiosity, discipline, integrity, and a passion for public service,” said Yale President Peter Salovey during the university-wide Commencement ceremony.

Caroline Shaw ’07
Music (Mus.D.)

Caroline Shaw is the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for music, which she won at 30 years old for her composition “Partita for 8 Voices,” an intricate a cappella piece that features “speech, whispers, sighs, murmurs, wordless melodies and novel vocal effects” (Pulitzer Prize Citation, 2013). She has performed around the globe as violin soloist, chamber musician, and vocalist. Recent commissions include works for Renée Fleming, the Baltimore Symphony, Carnegie Hall, the Guggenheim Museum, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Seattle Symphony, among others. Shaw frequently collaborates with Kanye West and coproduced “The Life of Pablo.” She currently teaches at New York University and is a creative associate at the Juilliard School.

Krista Tippett ’94 M.Div.
Divinity (D.D.)

Krista Tippett is a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster, bestselling author, and National Humanities medalist. Her national weekly radio show “On Being” — formulated to produce “intelligent public conversation about the religious, spiritual, and moral aspects of human life” — has cultivated a dedicated following, drawing numerous accolades. Tippett is the CEO of the On Being Project, a media and public life initiative dedicated to the “intersection of spiritual inquiry, science, social healing, community, poetry, and the arts.” She is also the curator of the Civil Conversations Project, which creates events, audio, and guides to foster dialogue and conversation around difficult subjects.

Madeleine Albright
Humane Letters (L.H.D.) (in memoriam)

The late Madeleine Albright, who was honored posthumously, served as the U.S. secretary of state from 1997 to 2001, under the Clinton administration. During her tenure, she advocated for humanitarian intervention in Kosovo and sanctions in Iraq, and pressed for NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe. She was a professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service as well as the chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm. She was the author of seven bestselling books and the recipient of the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

James Clyburn
Humane Letters (L.H.D.)
Public servant

James Clyburn is the majority whip and the third-ranking Democrat in the United States House of Representatives. As a national leader, he has championed rural and economic development, historic preservation and restoration programs, environmental policy, and healthcare equality. In his early years, he helped organize many civil rights marches and demonstrations as a student leader. He has received over 20 honorary degrees and is largely recognized as a “hero of democracy.”

Jill Lepore ’92 M.A., ’93 M.Phil., ’95 Ph.D.
Humanities (D.Hum.)

Jill Lepore is an American historian and prolific writer whose books have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN Literary Award, and the National Book Award. She writes on American history, law, literature, and politics. Her bestselling book “These Truths: A History of the United States” was published in 2018, and her 2019 work “This America: The Case for the Nation” was named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice Selection. Lepore’s most recent nonfiction work “If Then” was longlisted for the National Book Award.

Myron Thompson ’69 B.A., ’72 J.D.
Laws (LL.D.)

A long-serving judge for the Middle District of Alabama, Myron Thompson is known for his judgments in notable cases relating to desegregation, prison and voting systems, and women’s rights. Appointed to his role in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter, he later served as chief judge of the court from 1991 to 1998. In 2017 Thompson received the Yale Law School’s Award of Merit.

Jean Bennett ’76 B.S.
Medical Sciences (D.M.S.)
Physician scientist

Jean Bennett is a physician, researcher, and gene therapy pioneer. Along with her husband, Dr. Albert Maguire, and Dr. Katherine High, she created the therapy for the RPE65 mutation to reverse hereditary blindness. She saw the treatment through clinical trials and received the first FDA approval of gene therapy for a genetic disease.

Katalin Karikó
Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)

Katalin Karikó is a Hungarian biochemist who specializes in RNA-mediated mechanisms. She co-founded and was CEO of RNARx from 2006 to 2013 and is currently the senior vice president of BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals. Her work is the cornerstone for the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. She holds U.S. patents for the application of non-immunogenic, nucleoside-modified RNA, the technology licensed by Pfizer and Moderna to develop their vaccines. Her contributions to fight the pandemic make her and her collaborator, Drew Weissman, likely candidates for a Nobel Prize. Richard Dawkins and Derrick Rossi, who helped found Moderna and are respected scientists, have called for Kariko to become a Nobel laureate. Kariko's personal story of perseverance and resilience, which came to be widely known during the pandemic, has been inspirational to many. Since the vaccine breakthroughs, Kariko has become a lauded and sought-after figure, appearing in major publications and on the TIME 100 List.

Drew Weissman
Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)

Drew Weissman studies nucleoside-modified mRNA and lipid nanoparticle (LNP) therapeutics. His findings of the safety and efficacy of nucleoside-modified mRNA have moved this technology to the forefront of new therapeutics. Technology developed in his lab is used in the first two FDA approved COVID-19 vaccines. The lab broadly studies two directions of mRNA research: 1) vaccines and 2) mRNA protein therapeutics, such as monoclonal antibody delivery and gene editing. While interested in developing new therapeutics, the lab’s main interest is basic science research. Any therapeutic approach being studied always involves extensive basic science investigation to understand mechanisms.

Orlando Patterson
Social Science (S.Sc.D.)
Cultural sociologist

Orlando Patterson is a historical and cultural sociologist and author of numerous academic papers and books, including “Slavery and Social Death,” “Freedom in the Making of Western Culture,” “The Ordeal of Integration,” and “The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth.” He has written extensively on the culture and practice of freedom, slavery and ethno-racial relations, the sociology of under-development, the role of poverty in shaping culture, and the cultural sociology of sports (especially cricket). From 1972 to 1979 Patterson served as special advisor for social policy and development to Prime Minister Michael Manley of Jamaica. Patterson currently teaches sociology at Harvard and previously taught at the University of the West Indies and the London School of Economics. His daughter, Rhiannon Patterson, is a graduate of the Yale College Class of 1990.

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Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-980-2222