University Bestows Honorary Degrees on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Playwright and Alum John Patrick Shanley, Journalist Helen Thomas, Nobel-Winning Physicist Albert Fert, and Health Advocate Jessie Gruman

NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein Receives Rudin Award for Public Service

NYU President John Sexton and Trustees Chair Martin Lipton today officiated at NYU’s 177th 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.

To view the archived webcast of the 2009 NYU commencement, please click here.

Hillary Rodham Clinton - the U.S. Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator from New York - addressed the graduates at today’s ceremony. She received a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa.

The University also bestowed honorary doctorates on:

  • Albert Fert, physicist and Nobel-laureate whose discoveries were crucial to computer technology; he received a Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa
  • Jessie Christine Gruman, respected health and healthcare advocate; she received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa
  • John Patrick Shanley, NYU alumnus, renowned playwright, and winner of the Tony and Pulitzer Prizes; he received a Doctor of Letters degree, honoris causa
  • Helen Thomas, revered White House journalist; she received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa

Joel I. Klein, the New York City Schools’ Chancellor since 2002, received the “Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Public Service.”

Dr. Sexton said, “We come together today in a time of great national and international challenges. Where some would find this daunting, we do not. The young men and women who came to NYU to pursue their degrees here chose to attend a university that prides itself on immersion in our great but challenging city, on participation in all the important public conversations of our time, and on applying perseverance and entrepreneurism to overcome every impediment. In sending this group of our graduates out into the world, I feel the sorrow that comes with the end of our years of fellowship; principally, though, my heart is filled with hope, knowing that people of such manifest talent and energy are being set loose on a world that has need of all they offer. We are so pleased to share this moment - this proud and joyful acknowledgement of accomplishment - with the families of our graduates. We are very pleased to once again have Secretary Clinton in the company of the NYU community, and we are proud to confer upon her and all our distinguished guests the honorary degrees and University awards that recognize their service, achievements, 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 student speaker at the 2009 Commencement Exercises was Kate Otto, a 2009 recipient of an M.P.A. from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and a 2008 graduate of NYU’s College of Arts and Science. A Truman Scholar, a Reynolds Scholar at NYU, and a recipient of an NYU Presidential Service Award and a Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant - among other honors - Ms. Otto has intertwined her outstanding talents as a student with her commitment to battling HIV/AIDS, including leading the effort to create “Keep a Child Alive” chapters on campuses across the country, HIV/AIDS-related volunteer work while studying in Africa, and conducting successful fundraising efforts while pursuing her graduate degree. She will spend the next year in Indonesia as a Henry Luce Scholar working on national HIV/AIDS initiatives.

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 - Norman Dorsen, Counselor to the President and the Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law - to the youngest undergraduate degree recipient in the Class of 2009, Tanvir Rahim, an 18-year-old graduate of NYU’s College of Arts and Science.

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, it is one of America’s foremost 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 and studio arts, public administration, social work, and continuing and professional studies, among other areas.

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