Five notables to receive honorary degrees at Commencement

This year’s honorary degree recipients are known best as television anchors, politicians and heads of prestigious science institutions, but almost all the recipients also have ties to the world of academia. Some have served as professors, others as mentors and some even as university administrators.

Graduates at University Commencement 2007 will hear a short four- to five-minute speech by each of this year’s five honorary degree recipients: Wolf Blitzer, Lowell Weicker Jr., Harvey Fineberg, Ralph Cicerone and Linda Cropp.

Blitzer anchors CNN’s “The Situation Room” and is the author of two books and numerous articles for The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

“I am thrilled about receiving an honorary degree at GW. I love this University – even though I never studied (here),” Blitzer wrote in an e-mail to The Hatchet. “For nearly 20 years, I have been affiliated unofficially with the school as a season-ticket holder for the basketball games, as a host of CNN special events televised from the campus, as a mentor for many GW students who intern at CNN or eventually become full-time employees and as a friend of many GW professors.”

After the University’s initial announcement that outgoing University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg would give the keynote speech, many students expressed discontent with what they saw as his attempt to steal the stage from a keynote speaker potentially more famous and less connected with GW than himself. Blitzer said he was especially honored to receive a degree at what would be a significant Commencement for Trachtenberg.

“I am especially happy about the timing of this degree since it coincides with the retirement of President Trachtenberg, a man whom I admire so much,” he said. “All this explains why I am just so happy about GW’s decision to give me this honorary degree.”

Former Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker Jr., who has served as a visiting professor at GW, will share the stage at Commencement with his graduating granddaughter, Amanda Weicker. She will receive a Bachelor of Arts from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

“This degree means more to me than any other I’ve received since it will be simultaneous with when my granddaughter will be receiving her undergraduate degree,” Weicker said.

Before serving as governor of Connecticut, Weicker was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 to 1971 and the U.S. Senate from 1971 to 1989, among other elected offices. Weicker is also the president of Trust for America’s Health, a non-profit organization focused on community health and disease prevention advocacy.

Harvey Fineberg became president of the Institute of Medicine in 2001 after serving as provost at Harvard University for four years. He has also acted as an adviser to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

“It is a privilege to take part in this year’s Commencement exercises with all of the faculty and graduates of this distinguished institution,” Fineberg said.

Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, also served as the chancellor of the University of California, Irvine from 1998 to 2005. Linda Cropp was the first woman elected to chair to the Council of the District of Columbia, where she served from 1997 to 2007. This past fall she lost the Democratic primary for mayor of D.C. to then-Councilmember Adrian Fenty. Cicerone and Cropp could not be reached for comment.

Because Trachtenberg stepped down as keynote speaker following the shootings at Virginia Tech, the allotted time for each honorary degree recipient to speak is significantly longer than the one or two minutes they are normally allowed. Trachtenberg will still speak and instead will deliver the charge to graduates as he does traditionally at the ceremony.

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