Honorary Degree Recipients
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR.
DOCTOR OF LAW
Honorary Degree Conferred at the Main Commencement Ceremony
Eric H. Holder, Jr., the 82nd Attorney General of the United States of America, served under the leadership of President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2015. He was the first African American to be named Attorney General.
Originally from the Bronx, New York, Holder graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan before attending Columbia University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in American History. During that time, he started mentoring local children and became active in civil rights. He then pursued his JD at Columbia Law School, where he spent a summer working for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. His early commitment to civil rights would stay with him throughout his long career.
After graduating with his law degree, Holder joined the U.S. Justice Department’s new Public Integrity Section, but it wasn’t long before he was tapped by President Ronald Reagan to serve as a judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Holder as United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, the first African American to hold that position. In 1997, President Clinton nominated Holder to be Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno, a position for which he was confirmed by a unanimous vote. At that time, he was the highest-ranking African American in law enforcement in the history of the United States.
After the end of his appointment under Reno, Holder worked in the private sector before joining then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign as senior legal advisor, and later served on Obama’s vice presidential selection committee. In 2008, President Obama nominated Holder for Attorney General, praising his “toughness and independence.” His nomination was approved by an overwhelming majority vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee. During his six years as Attorney General, Holder led the U.S. Department of Justice longer than all but three previous attorneys general. In that role, he was widely praised for his determination to thwart terrorism, to fight violent crime, to safeguard the environment, to protect vulnerable populations, to ensure civil rights and to maintain national security.
As the first African American Attorney General, Holder embodies the progress and values of our country. For his dedication to justice and for his commitment to protecting the rights of all citizens of the United States, the State University of New York is privileged to award Eric H. Holder, Jr. the honorary degree of Doctor of Law.
DOCTOR OF LETTERS
Honorary Degree Conferred at the Main Commencement Ceremony
Soledad O’Brien is a respected broadcast journalist, news anchor, documentarian, executive producer and philanthropist who has become a fixture in global news.
Maria de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien was raised in St. James, New York, a community only a few miles from the Stony Brook Campus. She and her five siblings all attended Harvard University. Soon after O’Brien graduated, she began her reporting career in Boston. In 1991, she joined NBC News, and by 1997, she was anchoring programs such as Weekend Today. In 2003, she joined CNN, where she distinguished herself by reporting from the scene of such stories as the London terrorism attacks in 2005, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
In 2011, O’Brien won her first Emmy Award for “Crisis in Haiti.” She was also a member of the teams that earned CNN a George Foster Peabody award for coverage of the British oil petroleum spill and of Katrina. She has also received accolades for her recent noteworthy documentaries, including Black in America: The New Promised Land; Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11; and Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door.
But O’Brien was not satisfied with only reporting the news; she needed to act. After witnessing the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, O’Brien and her husband, Brad Raymond, began privately awarding scholarships to young women who lacked essential resources to succeed. As their efforts grew, they formed the Starfish Foundation to expand their reach. Today, the foundation provides scholarships to disadvantaged young women in underserved communities. To date, they have provided support to 28 young women.
O’Brien’s ties to Stony Brook University run deep. Her father, Edward O’Brien, is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering; he has been on the faculty since 1961. She has participated in the School of Journalism’s “My Life As...” series, discussing her life as a CNN anchor, and in 2015 she brought her Black in America tour, which focused on key issues facing minority communities today, to campus.
Her commitment to making a difference is reflected in all her work, in front of and behind the camera. For her selfless devotion to those less fortunate and her passion for reporting the truth, the State University of New York is proud to bestow upon Soledad O’Brien the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.
- William Martin Joel, better known as Billy Joel, is an American pianist, singer-songwriter, and composer
who has received 23 GRAMMY® Award nominations, six GRAMMY® Awards and the prestigious GRAMMY® Legend
Award and is one of most popular recording artists and respected entertainers in history.
Throughout the years, Joel’s songs have acted as personal and cultural
- Ben Shneiderman, a two-time Stony Brook University alumnus and Distinguished University Professor
of computer science at the University of Maryland, is a world renowned computer scientist
who has transformed the computer science field. He is a member of the University of
Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) and Founding Director of
the Human Computer Interaction Lab
- Charles B. Wang is co-founder of Computer Associates International (now CA, Inc.), and owner of the
New York Islanders ice hockey team. Born in Shanghai, he moved to Queens, New York
when he was eight-years-old, and attended Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene,
Brooklyn. Mr. Wang (pronounced “Wong”) founded CA in 1976 with three associates and
served as Chairman since the company’s inception. He has since authored two books
to help business executives master technology: Techno Vision (1994, McGraw-Hill)
Dorothy Lichtenstein: Doctor of Humane Letters
Honorary Degree Conferred at the Main Commencement Ceremony
Dorothy Lichtenstein is famous for the extraordinary passion, wisdom and generous commitment she brings to the arts. She is president of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, through which she encourages a broad understanding of contemporary art and culture. As a member of the Stony Brook Foundation Board of Trustees since 2008, she has been an important patron of the University’s arts programs on the East End of Long Island, in particular the graduate programs in the arts at Stony Brook Southampton and the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center. Her dedication doesn’t stop there. Lichtenstein’s leadership and generosity extend to the University as a whole — from scholarships to students on campus to research about human evolution at the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya. An active participant of the contemporary art scene since the early 1960s, Lichtenstein worked at the pioneering Bianchini Art Gallery in New York City after attending Beaver College. The Gallery, which specialized in emerging pop art, made a splash with its 1964 “American Supermarket” exposition, in which works of then little-known young artists — such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist — were offered for sale in bins. The following year, she edited Pop Art One, which documented the early New York Pop Art Movement in an innovative portfolio design. It was through the “American Supermarket” that she met artist Roy Lichtenstein, whom she married in 1968. After Roy’s death in 1997, she established the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, which currently has 5,200 Roy Lichtenstein works in its catalogue. In recognition of her work supporting the arts, Dorothy Lichtenstein was awarded an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication in 2001. In addition to her commitment to Stony Brook, she has been a trustee of the Parrish Art Museum since 2000, has served on the Leadership Council of the New York Stem Cell Council Foundation and on the Board of Studio in a School, an organization that provides students with a meaningful visual arts experience through partnerships between artists and educators in New York City Schools. Most recently, she curated the first Roy Lichtenstein retrospective in two decades. Because of her contributions to the arts, her commitment to science and stem cell research, her unwavering support of the Long Island arts community, her careful stewardship of the artistic legacy of her husband, Roy Lichtenstein, and her continuing commitment to Stony Brook University, we are honored to bestow upon Dorothy Lichtenstein the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
David Walt: Doctor of Science
Honorary Degree Conferred at the Doctoral Ceremony
David Walt ’79, the Robinson Professor of Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University, has been a leader in the application of micro- and nano-technologies to urgent biological problems. His laboratory at Tufts is world-renowned for its pioneering work in fiber-optic microarray technology, which is used in the detection of infectious diseases, diagnostics for cancer biomarkers and answering fundamental questions on basic biological processes. Walt has received numerous national and international awards and honors for his fundamental and applied work in the field of optical sensors and arrays. Walt’s scientific career began after he graduated from Stony Brook University with his PhD in Chemistry in 1979. After two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he became an assistant professor at Tufts University in 1981, where he has worked ever since, serving for eight years as chair of the Department of Chemistry. He has published more than 250 scientific articles and holds more than 60 patents. Outside his lab, Walt and his organic chemistry and biochemistry students are devoted to bringing the excitement of science to the public through an active program with local schools in which Tufts students help integrate new science into the K–12 curriculum. In 2012 he received a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health. This grant will allow Walt to establish a core sequencing facility for educational purposes, create an entry-level, research-based course for high school students, and continue his longtime focus on outreach to local K–12 students and teachers in the area of science education. In addition to his academic accomplishments, Walt is the scientific founder and director of Illumina Inc., a San Diego-based company and leader in genetic analysis, as well as scientific founder and director of Quanterix Corporation, based in Massachusetts, which is developing a next-generation platform for early disease diagnosis, with particular emphasis on early detection of cancers and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Walt’s contributions to the fields of micro- and nano-technology with biological applications have been truly groundbreaking. The companies that he helped found continue to lead in the practical application of scientific ideas to real-world problems. David Walt is among our most distinguished alumni, and the University is proud to grant him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
Terence Netter: Doctor of Fine Arts
Nora D. Vokow: Doctor of Science
Richard J. Gambino
Sister Margaret Ann Landry
Eugene V. Thaw
Elwyn L. Simons
Norman F. Ramsey
Marilyn Hawrys Simons
James D. Wolfensohn
Russell Mittermeier-Conservation Biology
Christopher Pendergast-Founder, Ride for Life and Medical Research Campaigner
W. Burghardt Turber-Civil Rights and Diversity
Bernard A. Harris, Jr.-Astronaut
Christopher Reeve–Actor and Activist (posthumously)
Charles A. Gargano–Business and Engineering
Richard L. Gelfond–Business
Matthew J. Cody–Philanthropist for Autism and Developmental Disabilities
Robert Shaler–Forensic Biologist
David E. Acker–Scientist and Inventor
Barry Spencer Coller–Medical Researcher and Inventor
Bruce Stillman—Medical Research and Academics
Loni Ding—Filmmaker and Educator
Robert L. Gallucci—Foreign Service
Meave Leaky—Human Evolution
John H. Marburger—Physics
John Hennessy—Electrical Engineering, Business, and Academics
Susan Solomon—Atmospheric Sciences
Erwin Staller—Philanthropist for the Arts
James A. Hayward—Scientist, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist
Albert Murray—Author and Cultural Critic
Bruce Alberts—Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
John H. Coleman—Engineering and Business
June E. Osborn—Medicine and Research
Chen Ning Yang—Theoretical Physics
E. Virgil Conway—Business and Public Service
Richard E.F. Leakey—Anthropology
T. Alexander Pond—Physics
Kenneth Chenault—Community Service/Business
Gerald Leeds Community Service
Lilo Leeds—Community Service
Dennis Puleston—Scientist/Teacher Conservationist
Kwon-Ting Li—Physics/Economic Development
P. Roy Vagelos—Biomedical
Joycelyn Elders—Surgeon General
Nina Totenberg—Broadcaster, National Public Radio
James Simons—Services to Higher Education/Philanthropy
Mathilde Krim—Aids Research/Education
John Toll—Services to Higher Education
Dalai Lama—Services to Humanity and Promotion of World Peace
Joan Wallach Scott—History
Sir Run Run Shaw—Philanthropy
Lin Ma—Development of Higher Education in Hong Kong and Education Exchange
Theodore Lowi—Political Science
Wayne Clayson Booth—English
Donald Ervin Knuth—Computer Science
William Riker—Political Science
Salo Baron—History of Judaism
Henri Peyre—French Literature
Bayard Rustin—Public Service