Citations for Recipients of Honorary Degrees at Yale University 2011

The following are President Levin’s introductory remarks for each honorary degree recipient.

Click here to view recipient bios.

President Richard C. Levin (seated, center) with this year’s honorary degree recipients: (seated, from left) Douglas Engelbart, Joan Didion, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Janet Rowley; (standing, from left) John Heilborn, Chris Argyris, Sir Richard Peto, Youssou Ndour, Martin Scorsese and George J. Mitchell.

John Heilbron
Your extraordinary work in the history of science shows how science has shaped social, political, and religious institutions and has been shaped by them. Your contributions range from a study of cathedrals as centers of scientific observation, to early understandings of electricity, to the development of geometry, and on to the creation of cyclotrons. You write with scientific knowledge, scholarly discipline, engaging wit, and imagination as you explain technical matters in their social and cultural contexts. You have made the history of science rich and illuminating, showing us how we have become who we are. We take great pleasure in awarding you the degree of Doctor of Humanities.

Joan Didion
In unflinching prose, you explore themes of love and loss, politics and place, social disorder and the search for meaning. As a columnist, essayist, and novelist, you have captured the magic and mystery of life and death. You have set a standard for American prose, influencing two generations of writers with your unwavering eye and eloquent expression. In your latest work, you have altered the landscape of grief, making the individual universal by communicating the details of your own sorrow. You ennoble experience by giving it richness and value and help us to see things as they are, clearly and without sentimentality. We are honored to bestow on you the degree of Doctor of Letters.

Richard Peto
Your pioneering work in epidemiology has changed — and saved — many lives. By involving large numbers of participants, following them over long periods, and drawing from diverse populations, you set a new standard for clinical trials. Through rigorous analysis of large populations, you confirmed the links between tobacco use and disease. Your carefully designed studies have led to new understandings of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and cancer. By demonstrating cause, you have opened the way for prevention and new treatments. We celebrate your contributions to the public’s health with the degree of Doctor of Medical Sciences.

Youssou Ndour
As a singer, songwriter, and composer, your music melds African rhythms with traditions ranging from Cuban samba to hip-hop, jazz, and soul. You have created Africa’s leading ensemble, performed with great artists around the world, sung about tolerance, and acted with conviction, all the while remaining true to your own faith and culture. Understanding the power of music to liberate, heal and united, you have organized and performed in concerts that call attention to injustice, poverty, and disease. With your extraordinary sound, you give voice to hope and our common humanity. We salute you now as Doctor of Music.

Gro Harlem Brundtland
As prime minister of Norway, Director-General of the World Health Organization, diplomat, physician, scientist, and environmentalist, you have been a true public servant.  From laying the foundation for global cooperation on the environment and sustainable development, to directing the international response to the SARS epidemic, to advancing the eradication of polio, you have provided extraordinary leadership. Your work is distinguished by a deep sense of stewardship for the health, welfare, and future of the earth an all its peoples — rich and poor, women, men, and children, today’s citizens and tomorrow’s. We are humbled by your accomplishments, inspired by your example, and honored to name you Doctor of Humane Letters.

Douglas Engelbart
We touch your genius every day. As the inventor of the mouse, you put computing in our hands, creating a user interface the world now takes for granted. Recognizing the power that computers might bring to ordinary people, you opened windows into their operations, let us see and manage data, created ways for computers to work together, and augmented our capacity to explore the world’s increasingly complex problems. By making science useful to all, you have been the quintessential engineer. We celebrate your far-reaching contributions to our ways or working and thinking as we award you Yale’s first Doctor of Engineering and Technology.

Chris Argyris
With intellect and imagination, you have studied organizations — how we shape them and how they shape us. Your seminal scholarship created the filed of organizational behavior. By exploring how to support individual growth and competence, and explicating theories that guide action and change, you have motivated generations of leaders to transform the practice of management. For re-conceptualizing organizations, for prolific and powerful writing, and for inspiring countless scholars and practitioners to improve the effectiveness of organizations the world over, we recognize you as Doctor of Social Science.

Martin Scorsese
As director, producer, writer, and filmmaker extraordinaire, you explore gritty reality in ways that enlighten, engross, and entertain. A master cinematographer, you draw us into stories that both attract and appall. Drawing upon your childhood on New York City’s mean streets, your films provoke anxiety while revealing the underworld in society and in the human soul. With honesty and imagination, you confront morality, loyalty, trust, and betrayal. Mentor and advocate for your colleagues, you have worked to protect filmmakers’ rights and to help developing countries preserve their cinematic treasures. We are pleased to award you the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.

Janet Rowley
You chose a career in medicine to help others, and that is what you have done. At a time when the scientific world doubted the significance of chromosomal abnormalities in causing cancer, you unlocked the genetic basis of leukemia. Your revolutionary discovery of the translocation of genetic material between chromosomes has led to new understandings of disease, improved diagnosis, and opened the way for highly effective treatments. You are an exemplar for all scientists and a powerful role model for women. For your wisdom, scientific imagination, and dedication to your work, we are proud to name you Doctor of Medical Sciences.

George J. Mitchell
For 15 years, including seven as majority leader, you were a model United States Senator, voted six times the most respected member of the Senate. You led the passage of the North American Free Trade Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, an the Clean Air Act of 1990. You played a key role in the successful peace talks in Northern Ireland, and you subsequently served as special envoy to the Middle East. With patience, tact, insight, and integrity, you have earned the trust of bitter enemies and made the world a safer place. For embodying the ideals of public service, we proudly confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Laws.