Honorary Degree Recipients also include archivist Abdel Kader Haidara, Librarian of Congress Carla Diane Hayden, acting director of the National Cancer Institute Douglas R. Lowy, and playwright Terrence McNally

Elizabeth Alexander
Elizabeth Alexander, poet and president of The Mellon Foundation; Photo: © Djeneba Aduayom

NYU President Andrew Hamilton and Board of Trustees Chairman William Berkley today announced the names of those to be honored at the University’s 187th Commencement Exercises, which will be held Wednesday, May 22, 2019 in Yankee Stadium.

“Each year for Commencement, we recognize men and women from across the span of human achievement with the University’s highest distinction – an honorary degree. We are especially proud of this year’s group. They are each at the forefront of their fields, and they embody NYU’s core values – the generation, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge, and its use in service of humanity,” said NYU President Andrew Hamilton. “A woman whose poetry was chosen to set the tone for a new Presidential administration; a physician leading the battle against cancer; an award-winning playwright whose work has been among Broadway’s most indelible; a woman leading the preservation of the United States' cultural heritage; and a savior of his country’s patrimony. The powerful achievements of each of our honorary degree designees inspire us all to reach ever higher degrees of wisdom, empathy, and understanding.”

Elizabeth Alexander—poet, educator, cultural advocate, and president of the nation’s largest funder in arts and culture, and humanities in higher education, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—will address the graduates and guests on behalf of all the degree recipients. Alexander will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa, at the ceremony.

This year’s other recipients of honorary doctorates are:
Abdel Kader Haidara

Abdel Kader Haidara—Malian researcher, manuscripts prospector, director of the private library Mamma Haidara of Timbuktu, and executive chairman of the SAVAMA-DCI NGO responsible for rescuing 400,000 historic manuscripts from destruction by jihadists—will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa.

Carla Diane Hayden

Photo by Shawn Miller

Carla Diane Hayden—the first woman and the first African American to serve as Librarian of Congress—will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa.

Douglas R. Lowy

Douglas R. Lowy (MED ’68)—acting director of the National Cancer Institute whose research led to the development of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine—will receive a Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa.

Terrence McNally

Terrence McNally—four-time Tony Award-winning playwright, member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and author of numerous Broadway plays including Love! Valour! Compassion! and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune—will receive a Doctor of Fine Arts degree, honoris causa.

The “Albert Gallatin Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Society” will be presented to NYU President Emeritus John Sexton for his achievements in higher education, overseeing tremendous growth in NYU’s reach and stature; overseeing the University’s largest increase in the number of Arts and Science faculty; and serving as chief architect of the NYU Global Network University, a network of 11 international academic centers on six continents and degree-granting campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.
The “Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City” will be presented to Martin Lipton (LAW '55). A legal innovator, globally revered for his wise counsel, Chairman Emeritus of the NYU Board of Trustees, and a current Trustee of NYU, the NYU School of Law, and NYU Langone Health, Martin Lipton is being recognized for his long history of building civic institutions. From his support for expanding access to higher education to young people of all economic backgrounds to his key role in rescuing the City of New York from bankruptcy, from his contributions to rebuilding the World Trade Center after 9/11 to his thoughtful, dedicated leadership of crucial civic organizations, he has shown continued commitment to service as an educator and mentor, and as a devoted supporter of NYU.
The “Presidential Medal” will be presented to Yu Lizhong, Chancellor of NYU Shanghai, for his pioneering work in global education as the inaugural leader of the first Sino-US joint research university in partnership with East China Normal University.

In honor of the graduates, the Empire State Building will be lit in NYU violet on the eve of commencement, Tuesday, May 21. For more information, please visit the NYU Commencement page.

Founded in 1831, NYU is one of the world’s foremost research universities and is a member of the selective Association of American Universities. NYU has degree-granting university campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai; has eleven other global academic sites, including London, Paris, Florence, Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, and Accra; and both sends more students to study abroad and educates more international students than any other U.S. college or university. Through its numerous schools and colleges, NYU is a leader in conducting research and providing 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 professional studies, among other areas.

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