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Seven greats to receive honorary degrees at commencement


uring six commencement ceremonies on May 10, 11, and 19, the University of Miami is conferring honorary degrees to seven distinguished individuals, representing such diverse disciplines as music, science, law, mathematics, sociology, and international politics.

John Paul Corigliano
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

With his evocative works written for theater, film, chamber groups, and orchestra, arguably no other composer has done more to revive contemporary interest in classical music than John Paul Corigliano.

Corigliano wrote his first symphony, an internationally acclaimed tribute to his many colleagues and friends who died of AIDS, during a stint as composer-in-residence at the Chicago Symphony in the late 1980s. Symphony No. 1 earned him the prestigious Grawemeyer Award from the University of Louisville and two Grammy Awards in 1991, plus another Grammy in 1997 for its CD recording, titled Of Rage and Remembrance.

Corigliano won an Academy Award in 2000 for his dramatic soundtrack to The Red Violin, and in 2001 he won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Symphony No. 2—an expansion and rewriting of String Quartet, the Cleveland Quartet’s farewell commission which had earned him another two Grammys in 1996. Corigliano also is known for The Ghosts of Versailles, an uncanny love story between the ghosts of Queen Marie Antoinette and Beaumarchais, author of The Barber of Seville. He holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Music at Lehman College of the City University of New York, and in 1991 he was named to the faculty of the Juilliard School.

Ruth L. Kirschstein
Honorary Doctor of Science

Ruth L. Kirschstein has dedicated her career to protecting the health of the American public and to directing and guiding the national medical research agenda. She recently completed more than a year as acting director of the National Institutes of Health, after six years as deputy director, and is known for creating countless opportunities for women and other groups underrepresented in science.

Kirschstein’s research achievements are legion. As a researcher in experimental pathology at the Division of Biologics Standards (now the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research of the Food and Drug Administration), she helped develop and refine tests to assure the safety of viral vaccines for such diseases as polio, measles, and rubella. Her work on polio led to selection of the Sabin vaccine for public use and won her the Superior Service Award from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1971.

In 1999 Kirschstein was presented the Alice C. Evans Award by the American Society of Microbiology. She has recruited women scientists, recommended them for peer review panels, and supported their membership in the Institute of Medicine, to which she was elected in 1982.

Alan S. Rabson
Honorary Doctor of Science

For decades Alan S. Rabson has been a pioneer in the nation’s fight against cancer. He has served as deputy director of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health since 1995. His NIH career dates back to 1955 and includes 20 years as director of the cancer institute’s Division of Cancer Biology, Diagnosis, and Centers.

Author of, and contributor to, more than 180 articles in scientific journals, Rabson is renowned for first demonstrating that latent herpes virus can reside in the trigeminal ganglion, a collection of cells that innervate the face. This discovery provided evidence that recurring herpes sores could be caused by reactivation of latent viral infection, rather than by reinfection. Rabson also demonstrated that human cells could be simultaneously infected by two different DNA viruses, laying the groundwork for other important discoveries in this field.

Rabson, who has received numerous awards and honors, remains committed to education, holding clinical professorships in pathology at Georgetown University Medical Center and George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and at the Uniform-ed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

Stephen M. Schwebel
Honorary Doctor of Laws

Stephen M. Schwebel had the world on his shoulders. From 1981 to 2000 he served as a judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands. As president of the ICJ from 1997 to 2000 immediately following a three-year vice-presidency, Schwebel oversaw many landmark cases in one of the most tumultuous eras of intergovernmental disputes.

Schwebel worked tirelessly to build confidence in the court and to position it as a resource for nations at odds. In addition to mediating disputes, the ICJ under Schwebel underscored the importance of conquering barbarism. Bosnia and Herzegovina versus the former Yugoslavia, the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and Chile versus Augusto Pinochet were some of the “crimes against humanity” cases on the docket during Schwebel’s term.

After retiring from the ICJ, Schwebel went to Johns Hopkins as a jurist-in-residence. He also serves as the first president of the Administrative Tribunal of the International Monetary Fund.

I. M. Singer
Honorary Doctor of Science

Not since Newton has there been so much progress toward understanding the laws of nature and the origins of the universe. I. M. Singer has triggered a revolution in modern science by redefining conventional wisdom in mathematics and by forging new connections between mathematics and theoretical physics.

Singer has spent most of his professional career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is currently an esteemed Institute Professor. He is perhaps best known for the Index Theorem, which he developed with Michael Atiyah in the 1960s. A veritable landmark in 20th-century mathematics, the Atiyah-Singer Index Theorem gave birth to the field of global analysis, an interdisciplinary approach that unifies important topics in mathematics such as analysis, topology, geometry, and algebra. It also serves as a bridge between mathematics and many areas of science and engineering.

William Julius Wilson
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

It often has been observed that racial discrimination is the basis for African-American inner-city communities fraught with poverty and crime. But sociologist William Julius Wilson stunned the nation by claiming that class and economics play a greater role than race in shaping the ghettos of America. First introduced in 1978 in his controversial book, The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions, this postulate has since brought Wilson under critical fire from liberals and conservatives alike. Yet, his commitment to understanding the true roots of urban social ills remains unfazed.

After receiving a Ph.D. in sociology and anthropology from Washington State University, Wilson taught for six years at the University of Massachusetts and spent the next 26 years at the University of Chicago. There, he held the Lucy Flower Chair in Urban Sociology and launched the Center for the Study of Urban Inequality.

In 1996, the year Time magazine named him one of the 25 most influential Americans, Wilson joined Harvard University’s renowned John F. Kennedy School of Government as the Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Science and was named the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, a position that is the highest professional distinction for a Harvard faculty member.

Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León
Honorary Doctor of Laws

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary leaders, and there’s no better example than former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León. Campaign director for presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, Zedillo triumphed over daunting challenges even before taking office. After Colosio was assassinated in 1994, Zedillo became his party’s candidate, winning the presidency by a slim margin that year. During his six-year administration, Zedillo boosted the country’s fledgling economy, fortified relations with the United States, and gave Mexico its final push toward democracy.

Zedillo earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Instituto Politécnico Nacional while working at the National Army, the Navy Bank, and the President’s Economic Policy Office. He continued his education abroad, ultimately earning his Ph.D. in economics from Yale University. He entered politics after spending ten years as an economist, deputy manager of economic research, and deputy director at Banco de Mexico. He served as secretary of economic programming and the budget from 1988 until 1992 and secretary of education until 1993.

Much like his presidential election, Zedillo’s exit from political office was monumental. Instead of selecting the next PRI presidential candidate, he prompted the party to hold its first presidential primary. Vicente Fox of the opposing National Action Party ended PRI rule, signaling a healthy distribution of power among different parties.

For more information on commencement ceremonies, please call the Commencement Infoline at 305-284-5798, or visit

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