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Seven Leaders to Receive Honorary Degrees
(Released: 05/18/01)

By Richard Veilleux, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- Seven international leaders spanning the fields of human rights, art, science, the environment and government will receive honorary degrees from the University of Connecticut during commencement exercises May 19-20.

Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and former head of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Thomas D. Ritter, a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1981-1999; and Charles H. Thornton, chairman of The Thornton-Tomasetti Group, an engineering firm that has been involved in construction projects world-wide, will receive honorary degrees during UConn undergraduate ceremonies at 10 a.m. May 19.

That afternoon, during 3 p.m. undergraduate ceremonies, Mary Frances Berry, chairperson of the United States Commission on Civil Rights; Ray Neag, founder and director of Arrow International and namesake for UConn's Neag School of Education; and Philip Roth, Pulitzer Prize winning author of more than a dozen novels, including six in the past decade, also will receive honorary degrees.

On Sunday, May 20, Lester R. Brown, founder and chairman of the board of the Worldwatch Institute and president of the newly established Earth Policy Institute, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Brown also will speak during the 3 p.m. graduate ceremony.

Jackson, a noted physist who ran the NRC from 1995 until assuming the presidency of RPI in 1999, was one of the first two African-American women to receive a doctorate in physics in the country, and the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate in any field from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A theoretical physicist, she is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering. Prior to being named head of the NRC by President William Clinton, Jackson conducted research for 15 years for AT&T Bell Laboratories, and served for four years as a professor of physics at Rutgers University. Jackson will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Ritter, who served six years as Speaker of the state House of Representatives, is a New Haven native and was instrumental in creating support for the UConn 2000 legislation, a 10-year, $1 billion program to renew, rebuild and enhance the University. A staunch proponent of education, social justice, economic growth and the rational allocation of the state's resources, he graduated from the UConn School of Law in 1977. A recipient of the University of Connecticut Medal in 1999, Ritter is now a partner in the law firm of Brown, Rudnick, Freed & Gesmer. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Thornton's firm was a key player in the construction of the Swiss Bank Headquarters in Stamford, the United Airlines Terminal at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, and for the world's tallest buildings, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lampus, Malaysia. One of the world's foremost forensic engineers, he has assisted in the investigations of surrounding the collapse of the Hartford Civic Center in Coliseum, the L'Ambiance Plaza construction collapse, and the bombed federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Thornton also is founder and chairman of the Architects Constructors Engineers (ACE) Mentor Program, a wide-ranging consortium that guides inner-city students toward careers in engineering and related fields, and also is president of The Salvadori Center, a non-profit organization that educates more than 2,000 New York City middle schools students annually in mathematics and science using architectural and engineering principals. Thornton will receive an honorary Doctor of Science.

Berry, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, has headed the nation's Commission on Civil Rights for the past eight years. Serving in the administration of President Jimmy Carter as assistant secretary of education in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, she was appointed to the Civil Rights Commission in 1993. The author of seven books, she served in 1990-91 as president of the Organization of American Historians. Today, she is the Geraldine R. Segan Professor of American Social Thought, a professor of history, and an adjunct professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania.

Neag, UConn Class of 1956, last year donated $23 million to UConn and its Health Center -- the largest individual gift in the University's 120-year history. Neag and three partners in 1975 purchased the medical products division from Rockwell International, growing the new firm -- now Arrow International Inc. -- from 200 people producing textile and hypodermic needles to a major enterprise that today employs 3,000 people in plants in the United States and abroad. The firm produces a wide range of life-saving and health enhancing products. Before his recent gift to the University, Neag had made contributions to various libraries, hospitals, community organizations and higher education institutions, including an earlier gift of $1.5 million to establish the Neag Center for Gifted and Talented Development, and another gift to establish the Lynn Wood Neag Distinguished Visiting Professorship in British Literature.

Roth, a resident of Litchfield County since 1971, this month will publish The Dying Animal, followed in September by Shop Talk, his 25th book. He received the National Medal of Arts at the White House in 1998, and also has earned a Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Circle Award, and the Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union. Among his more recent works are Patrimony (1991); Operation Shylock (1993); Sabbath's Theater (1995); American Pastoral (1997); I Married a Communist (1998); and The Human Stain (2000). He will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters.

Brown, the graduate commencement speaker, also will receive a Doctor of Science May 20 at 3 p.m. As chairman of the board of the Worldwatch Institute and president of the newly established Earth Policy Institute, Brown is recognized as one of the central figures in the global environmental movement. During the course of four decades, his crusade has brought environmentalism to all corners of the world. A prolific writer, the annual State of the World reports he initiated through Worldwatch in 1984 have been characterized as the "bible" of the global environmental movement It is translated into all the world's major languages. Brown, who has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books, has won a MacArthur Fellow Award, the United Nations' Environment Prize, and the World Wide Fund for Nature Gold Medal.

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