Alec Baldwin, Jane Goodall floated for honorary degrees

The Board of Trustees approved former GW student and actor Alec Baldwin, famed primatologist Jane Goodall and former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali as potential candidates for an honorary degree Friday.

This year’s candidate pool also includes former director of the Environmental Protection Agency Paul Anastas, alumnus and Tulane University president Scott Cowen, and alumnus and United Arab Emirates official Anwar Gargash as potential recipients.

While at GW, Baldwin unsuccessfully ran for student body president, scrutinizing unjust fees and the role of the Board of Trustees before transferring to New York University. He has since won three Golden Globes, two Primetime Emmys and eight Screen Actors Guild awards for his work, including his lead role on NBC’s “30 Rock.”

Recipients will now join the pool of candidates eligible to receive honorary degrees at next spring’s Commencement.

Gargash, who holds two degrees from GW, is the minister of state for foreign affairs for the UAE. He helped the small Middle Eastern country hold its first election in 2006.

Anastas, who led the push to create environmentally friendly chemicals in the U.S., is known as “the father of green chemistry,” Board of Trustees chair Nelson Carbonell said Friday.

Administrators, faculty and trustees can submit a name for consideration. The Board’s recommendations are sent to University President Steven Knapp, who has the final say.

Formally, the recipients must meet two out of three criteria: a connection to GW, a commitment to public service or distinguished professional, intellectual, academic or creative success.

“We also give honorary degrees to people who don’t give us a penny. It’s just because their lives are exemplary,” former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said.

In the past, there have been some controversial picks, like since-ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, who has been criticized for what has been described as a monopoly on the country’s telecom industry.

Slim later donated five graduate scholarships for international students from his home country of Mexico. That was the first time that he donated directly to GW.

The University is looking for large donations to fund its likely more than $1 billion fundraising campaign, which is expected to be announced in time for Commencement this May.

Trachtenberg said that in the past, people have asked for an honorary degree in exchange for a donation.

But he said GW’s most famous honorary degree recipients never donated, such as former presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

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