The Colgate Scene
July 1999
Table of contents
Honorary Doctorates
The honorary class of '99
The honorary class of '99, from left: William Julius Wilson, Story Musgrave, Robert J. Lifton, Tania León, Eugene M. Lang, Henry L. Hillman, Bill Cosby, Neil R. Grabois
Commencement is a time to honor not only those who have successfully completed the requirements for their Colgate bachelors or masters degrees, but also a selection of exceptional persons who are chosen for their contributions to society.

In recognizing the recipients of honorary degrees, the college brings to the commencement stage some of the notable personalities of our time to share the proceedings with graduates and their guests, perhaps to make the day even more memorable.

In addition to the seven honorands who were chosen from outside the Colgate community to join the Class of '99, the college also honored President Neil R. Grabois, who concluded his presidency June 31.

Herewith, excerpts from the honorary degree citations, which in all cases but his own were presented by President Grabois:

Bill Cosby Actor, Comedian, Author
Doctor of Letters
. . . Life has been your subject for all these years; film, television, the stage, records and books are your classrooms; and we are your willing pupils, holding our sides all the way. Without making it an issue, you collapse barriers as you entertain. You make us laugh without making us cringe, and at the end we are smarter, better people. We are delighted to have you deliver our commencement address today -- the final lecture to the undergraduate Class of 1999 . . .

Henry L. Hillman Investment Company Executive, Philanthropist
Doctor of Laws
Your community service in and around your native Pittsburgh has made Western Pennsylvania a better place for all its inhabitants . . . Your Hillman Foundation sustains organizations and services that are essential to the quality of life for all citizens of your region, a fact that has been recognized with a long list of honors and awards including the National Human Relations Award given by the Conference of Christians and Jews. Today, Colgate is proud to honor your work on behalf of your community . . .

Eugene M. Lang Business Executive, Philanthropist
Doctor of Laws
The words "industrialist" and "philanthropist" are the shortest possible description of a successful life rich with sharing . . . But of all your kindnesses, no commitment exceeds that which you made in 1981 to the 54 sixth graders at New York's P.S. 121. Your promise of time and money to help them achieve their dreams led to the creation of your "I Have a Dream" Foundation, which has become a model of hope for disadvantaged youth across the nation.

Tania León Professor, Composer, Pianist
Doctor of Music
Your achievements as a composer, conductor and educator are recognized around the world . . . A founding member and the first music director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem . . . you have conducted the Johannesburg Symphony, among many other world-class orchestras. Your first opera, Scourge of Hyacinths, based on a radio play by Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, won acclaim for performances earlier this year . . . As visiting lecturer at Harvard, visiting professor at Yale, and faculty member at Brooklyn College, you have shared your gift with students.

Robert J. Lifton Author, Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology
Doctor of Humane Letters
Your interdisciplinary research, writing and teaching have created a pioneering psychohistory bearing witness to some of the extreme historical situations of our era -- from Nazi genocide to Chinese thought reform -- establishing important records of what must be remembered if we are to avoid in the future the horrible atrocities of the past. In this year when the Center for Ethics and World Societies has created on campus a forum for us to hear the messages of survivors and scholars, it was a singular privilege to have as our baccalaureate speaker one of the most prolific educators and writers on these topics.

Story Musgrave NASA Scientist and Astronaut
Doctor of Science
Physician, educator, pilot, astronaut, literary critic, philosopher -- your biography rings with the realization of human potential. You were with NASA for 16 years before you got into space, but once you started, you took the space shuttle like upstaters take the commuter to New York -- completing six missions in 13 years, more than any other astronaut. In 1993 you led the spacewalking Endeavour team that salvaged the $2 billion Hubble Space Telescope. You are a true hero for all of us who dream of one day slipping the bonds of Earth.

William Julius Wilson Sociologist, Author
Doctor of Laws
. . . For more than two decades, from the early '70s into the '90s, you and your fellow scholars became familiar figures on Chicago's South Side, rigorously collecting data on conditions in a neighborhood where hard times are legend. Three of your widely-acclaimed books in particular: The Declining Significance of Race, The Truly Disadvantaged and When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, have helped us to differentiate between class and race as we consider the plight of the inner cities . . .

Neil R. Grabois Colgate University President, 1988-1999
Doctor of Humane Letters
(presented by Wm. Brian Little '64, Chairman, Board of Trustees)

Students call you a students' president. Faculty members call you the faculty's president. And now, with the degree that I am about to bestow, we will make official what alumni have known all along: that you are one of their own. Colgate has grown stronger on your watch. And not only for the elegance of the curriculum, or the beauty of the campus, or the size of the endowment, but for the unwavering projection of the Colgate Spirit that has been at the center of all you do.

See also:
A fine and festive day Becoming herself

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