University Bestows Honorary Degrees on Constitution Scholar Laurence Tribe, Int’l Jurist Thomas Buergenthal, Actor Michael J. Fox, Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, and Kenyan Author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o,

NY Giant Michael Strahan Receives Rudin Award; Constance Silver Receives Gallatin Medal

With Washington Square Park undergoing renovations, NYU President John Sexton and Trustees Chair Martin Lipton today officiated at NYU’s 176th Commencement in Yankee Stadium. Some 6,000 students receiving undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees, and 20,000 guests attended the morning ceremony, which was also attended by alumni, faculty, and other NYU community members.

Laurence H. Tribe - A renowned constitutional scholar and the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard Law School - gave the “Response on Behalf of the Honorary Degree Recipients,” an NYU tradition; he received a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa.

The University also bestowed honorary doctorates on:

  • Thomas Buergenthal, esteemed judge on the Int’l Court of Justice and an alumnus of the NYU School of Law; he received a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa
  • Michael J. Fox, renowned actor and Parkinson’s Disease advocate; he received a Doctor of Fine Arts degree, honoris causa
  • Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi, Chair and CEO of PepsiCo, Inc.; she received a Doctor of Commercial Science degree, honoris causa
  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, distinguished author and literature scholar; he received a Doctor of Letters degree, honoris causa

Representing the Super Bowl XLII champion NY Giants, defensive end Michael Strahan received the “Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Public Service.”

Constance Silver - an NYU alumna, social worker, and philanthropist - was the 2008 recipient of NYU’s Albert Gallatin Medal. The Gallatin Medal, first presented to NYU alumnus Dr. Jonas Salk in 1957, is awarded in recognition of outstanding contributions to society.

This year, NYU awarded MPH degrees to the first graduates of its Global Masters in Public Health program, a cross-University degree. The program was first established in 2006.

Dr. Sexton said, “On this day, in the ‘House that Ruth built,’ our hearts are filled with joy and pride at the sight of so much achievement, though tinged with sorrow at the knowledge that our years of scholarly fellowship is now at an end. Our hope is that these young men and women will take what they have learned, lead fulfilling lives, and do great good. We are gladdened by the presences of our graduates’ families at this wonderful annual event, and we share their happiness. And we are proud to confer upon our distinguished guests honorary degrees and University awards in recognition for their service, accomplishments, leadership, and the example they set for our graduates and our entire community. On behalf of NYU’s faculty and the entire community, I offer my congratulations to our graduates and their families.”

The undergraduate student speaker at the 2008 Commencement Exercises was Robert James Sukrachand, a scholar in the Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship and photographer who received a B.F.A. from the Tisch School of the Arts. Early community service experiences led him to see the beauty and personal resiliency that can be discerned even in circumstances of real hardship. His experience with social documentary photographer Joseph Rodriguez led to impressive projects of his own, including founding the organization imMEDIAcy, and a photographic documentary about men and women living on the streets of Jackson Heights, Queens (

The graduate student speaker was Mel Ochoa, who received an MBA from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business. Also a Reynolds Scholar, Mr. Ochoa was chair of the Graduate Judiciary Committee, a teaching fellow, and a career coach. His leadership of Stern’s Student Enterprise Association led to its receiving an NYU President’s Service Award.

In keeping with NYU tradition, Commencement included “The Ceremony of the Torch.” The University torch - designed and fashioned by Tiffany and Co. in sterling silver and donated to the University in 1911 - was passed from a senior member of the faculty - Helene M. Anderson, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese in the Faculty of Arts and Science - to the youngest undergraduate degree recipient in the Class of 2008, Hasan J. Altaf, a 19-year-old graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

Participants in the Commencement Exercises included degree recipients from all of NYU’s schools and colleges. The Oath of Maimonides was administered to the medical doctors graduating from the NYU School of Medicine.

New York University is located in the heart of Greenwich Village. Founded in 1831, NYU is this year celebrating its 176th anniversary. It is one of America’s leading research universities and a member of the selective Association of American Universities. It is one of the largest private universities, it is a leader in attracting international students and scholars in the U.S, and it sends more students to study abroad than any other U.S. college or university. Through its 14 schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and sciences, law, medicine, business, dentistry, education, nursing, the cinematic and performing arts, music, public administration, social work, and continuing and professional studies, among other areas.

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