Past leaders, prominent alumni receive degrees

Besides the Commencement address, there will only be two other non-student featured speeches on the Mall this weekend – and both will be from former GW leaders.

The GW Board of Trustees chose former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and former Board of Trustees Chairman Charles Manatt to receive honorary degrees this year and to speak at Commencement.

The other honorary degree recipients – Commencement speaker and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences speaker and U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, and Law School speaker Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) – were chosen by University President Steven Knapp from a list approved by the Board, said Donald Lehman, executive vice president for academic affairs.

Inoye and McConnell are alumni of GW graduate programs.

Trachtenberg and Manatt, who also spoke at last year’s Commencement, will have the chance to give short remarks upon accepting their awards, Univeristy spokesperson Tracy Schario said.

“All of these individuals are extremely well-accomplished and recognized names on national stages,” Schario said.

Last year’s recipients included CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, D.C. City Councilmember Linda Cropp and former Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker Jr.

Trachtenberg, who retired as University president last year and will be receiving an honorary doctor of public service degree, has never received an honorary degree from GW. He was previously given degrees at the University of Hartford – where he served as president for 11 years – and Columbia University, where he attended as an undergraduate student.

He said he is “very excited” to be receiving a degree from GW.

Manatt, who retired from GW last year, served on the Board of Trustees since 1980. He earned a doctorate from GW in 1962 and has held many leadership roles in and out of the University, including co-chairing the 1992 Bill Clinton presidential campaign and serving as U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

Bond is the only recipient not directly connected to GW.

“Bond was invited to speak (at Commencement) first and then invited to receive an honorary degree,” Lehman said.

Anyone can nominate someone for an honorary degree by filling out a nomination form. Lehman said all nominations are received by University Marshal Jill Kasle and then reviewed by the Faculty Senate, the president of the University and the academic affairs committee of the Board of Trustees. The entire Board then votes on the nominees and the president chooses recipients from this list.

As GW’s former president, Trachtenberg said when he chose past honorary degree recipients, he looked for an interesting group of people that represented the values of the University, as if he were “putting together a group of people for dinner.”

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