Honorary degree recipients from music, academia, orbit

In addition to this year’s Commencement weekend speakers, President Schapiro will confer honorary degrees on four more distinguished individuals. The Honorary Degrees Committee, composed of four students, several trustees, President Schapiro and the College Marshall Jeff Strait, has selected former senator and astronaut John Glenn, historian James McPherson, author and journalist Tracy Kidder and musician James Taylor for their personal achievements and contributions to society. The College’s 220th Commencement ceremony will take place Sunday, June 7.

John Glenn

A few months before Pearl Harbor, Glenn received his private pilot’s license from Muskingum College. After attending the Navy’s pre-flight school, he spent the next 10 years serving as a pilot in the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force, going on 59 combat missions in World War II and 63 missions in the Korean War. A six-time recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, Glenn also holds the Air Medal with 18 Clusters for his war service as well as numerous other honors. Having completed the first transcontinental flight to achieve supersonic speed in 1957, Glenn enrolled in NASA’s first manned space program, becoming the third person and the first American to orbit the earth. Following encouragement by Robert Kennedy, Glenn won a seat in the United States Senate in 1974, which he held until he retired from politics in 1999.

James McPherson

The George Henry Davis 1886 professor emeritus of American history at Princeton University, McPherson has authored 18 books, including his 1989 Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom, considered by many to be the best single-volume account of the American Civil War. In addition to being the first-ever recipient of the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for lifetime achievement in military history, McPherson has received the Anisfield-Wolf Award for contributions to the understanding of racism and diversity. Beyond his writing, McPherson has dedicated much of his time and effort to preserving Civil War battlefields. As president of Protect Historic America in the early 1990s, he successfully blocked the construction of a theme park near the famed battlefield site in Manassas, Va.

Tracy Kidder

A journalist and nonfiction author, Kidder published his Pulitzer-Prize winning The Soul of a New Machine in 1981. The book drew praise for its chronicling of the changing world of corporate, high-technology America at a time before computers had become a staple of daily life. Kidder’s more recent work Mountains Beyond Mountains follows Dr. Paul Farmer’s efforts to improve international health care. Upon its release, the book also found widespread critical and commercial success. A western Massachusetts resident, Kidder is also a longtime contributing editor for The Atlantic.

James Taylor

The 40 million albums sold and five Grammy awards received over the past four decades represent singer and songwriter James Taylor’s immense success. Heralded by a 1971 Time magazine cover as a forerunner of the “singer-songwriter era,” he has received numerous other plaudits, including Billboard’s Century Award and inductions into both the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Along with his music career, Taylor has pursued environmental and political activism over the years, including a role as a board member of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He continues to pursue both passions.