Honorary degrees reward service and success

GW will award six honorary degrees at Sunday’s Commencement to individuals who have been committed to public service and made outstanding strides in their fields.

The recipients were selected from a dozen nominations received this year and 150 suggestions compiled over the past five years, University Marshall Jill Kasle said.

This year, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole – the keynote speaker at the Commencement ceremony – will receive a doctorate in public service.

Former chairman of the GW Board of Trustees Oliver Carr Jr., D.C. control board Chair Andrew Brimmer, opera singer Harolyn Blackwell, historian Gertrude Himmelfarb and former GW Medical School Dean Alan Weingold also will receive degrees.

Dole’s 35 years of service on Capitol Hill qualify him for the honor, Kasle said.

“Obviously, he has had a distinguished political career,” Kasle said. “He meets the criteria for a recipient very well.”

Kasle said the University considers two basic criteria in its selection of honorary degree recipients – distinguished professional achievement and a commitment to the improvement of society.

Honorary degree nominations are filtered through the University marshal’s office and suggestions are passed on to the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Honors and Academic Convocations in the fall. The committee makes final recommendations to President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

The Board of Trustees’ Academic Affairs Committee makes a final decision based on the president’s list of nominees.

Public service degree recipient Brimmer, chairman of the D.C. Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority since 1995, said he is proud of his voluntary efforts to help solidify the District’s financial situation.

But he said he takes the most pride in his work as a governor of the Federal Reserve Board from 1966 to 1974.

“My time as a governor is the most important thing I have done,” Brimmer said. “An economist becoming a governor of the Federal Reserve is like a constitutional lawyer being appointed to the Supreme Court.”

D.C. native Blackwell, a soprano with the Metropolitan Opera of New York, will receive a doctorate in music.

Himmelfarb, a former professor of history at the City University of New York, will receive a doctorate in humanities. Himmelfarb is considered one of the nation’s most prominent historians and participated in a University lecture series last year, Kasle said.

Two of this year’s recipients also meet a third criteria – a connection to GW. A connection to the University is not a requirement, but affiliation with the GW community is considered in the selection process, Kasle said.

Carr, who served as chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees for eight years, will receive a doctorate in public service. Carr retired as chair in 1995 but retains an emeritus position on the Board that allows him to continue his service to the University.

“It’s the culmination of a long relationship that I think has been very rewarding to me,” Carr said. “The bottom line is I was happy to be engaged with the University during a period of growth when it made tremendous strides. I’ve been happy to make a contribution as it has grown over the years.”

Weingold, former GW vice president of medical affairs and executive dean of the medical center, will receive a doctorate in science.

Weingold, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, is internationally recognized in the field of maternal-fetal medicine, Kasle said.

“He is the top doctor in this field in the city and one of the top doctors in the country,” Kasle said.

The University has not decided whether the degree recipients will speak at the Commencement ceremony, but Carr offered some advice to GW graduates.

“In order to succeed, you need to keep your eyes on your own boat and not be distracted by what others are doing around you,” he said. “Despite the fact others are doing different things, you need to dream your own dreams.”

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