Bowser, Milken to receive honorary degrees at University commencement

Media Credit: Anthony Peltier | Staff Photographer

Officials will award D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, pictured here in February 2022, with an honorary Doctor of Public Service award Saturday.

Officials announced recipients for honorary degrees at upcoming commencement ceremonies in a release Monday.

The release states that officials will award honorary degrees to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Michael Milken, Milken Institute School of Public Health’s namesake and financier, during commencement ceremonies Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Interim University President Mark Wrighton will award the President’s Medal — the highest award the University president can give — to Mary Ellsberg, the founding director of the Global Women’s Institute, Walter Reich, the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, and Frank Sesno, a professor and the director of strategic initiatives for the School of Media and Public Affairs, according to the release.

University commencement will take place on the National Mall at 10 a.m. Sunday. Individual college and program ceremonies will begin Thursday and end Monday.

“Through impressive careers, philanthropy and scholarship, this year’s honorees have each had a transformational impact on our community, our nation and the world,” Wrighton said in the release. “I am thrilled to recognize their many accomplishments alongside the GW community during this celebratory time of year.”

Officials will award Bowser an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences commencement celebration at noon Saturday for her “groundbreaking” position as the first African American woman elected to serve three full terms as mayor of an American city, according to the release.

The award also recognizes Bowser’s “leadership” during the COVID-19 pandemic and role in “transformational economic projects,” including construction for the Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center on St. Elizabeth’s East campus, which provides medical practice opportunities in Ward 7 and 8 for GW’s academic medical faculty, the release states.

The University will award Milken a Doctor of Science degree at University-wide commencement Sunday for his efforts to “accelerate the quality and impact” of the school, find cures for diseases and aid the education of “finance leaders” in developing countries.

Former President Donald Trump pardoned Milken, who contributed to a $50 million donation to the school in 2014, in February 2020 after he pleaded guilty to six felony counts of charges of crimes including insider trading, securities fraud and mail fraud in the 1990s. Milken served two years in prison for the charges in the early 1990s, according to the Associated Press.

Sesno served as the director of SMPA for 11 years before stepping down in 2020 to focus on personal writing and video projects. During his tenure, the school formed a committee to increase diversity among SMPA students and added research initiatives like the Project on Ethics in Political Communication, which examines ethical standards in the field, and the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics, which studies digital misinformation.

A University search committee chose Ellsberg to lead the Global Women’s Institute in 2012, where she has led research of sexual violence in Sudan and established the first online credential exam for experts in gender and international development.

Reich, who has expertise in Holocaust and genocide studies, terrorism, human rights and the Arab-Israeli conflict, is the former director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and has previously chaired and participated in national and international committees that work to protect global human rights.

Officials named Bryan Stevenson as the 2023 Commencement speaker in January, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Stevenson is the author of New York Times bestseller “Just Mercy” and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization advocating for prisoners who were wrongly convicted, denied proper legal representation and had juries swayed by racial bias.

Giselle Elisa Garcia, a senior graduating with a major in criminal justice and minors in psychology and STEM teaching, will be the student speaker at the University-wide ceremony Sunday.

During last year’s commencement week, officials awarded Dana Bash, a CNN anchor and political correspondent, and Chuck Todd, a moderator on NBC’s Meet the Press, with honorary Doctor of Public Service degrees. Wrighton awarded the President’s Medal to GW alumna, five-time Olympic medalist and Commencement speaker Elana Meyers Taylor last May.

Officials previously awarded honorary degrees to former first lady Michelle Obama in 2010, New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker in 2016 and former University President Steven Knapp in 2018.

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