College selects 5 honorary degree recipients for commencement

When the class of 2013 celebrates their graduation at the College’s 224th annual commencement on June 2, they will be joined by seven honorary degree recipients. Two of the recipients, Billie Jean King and Stacy Schiff ’82, will also give the commencement and baccalaureate speeches respectively. King, Schiff and the other five recipients – Edward B. Burger, Annie Lennox, Deogratias Niyizonkiza, Richard D. Parsons and Nancy Roseman – represent a wide range of fields.

According to annual procedure, the honorary degree candidates were selected by the Honorary Degrees Committee, which consists of faculty members from each of the three divisions, staff members, trustees and students. These selections then go on to the College’s Board of Trustees for final approval. This year’s seven honorary degree recipients have been finalized.

Edward B. Burger

Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Mathematics Professor Edward B. Burger has been a member of the College faculty since 1990. This summer, he will leave Williamstown for Georgetown, Texas, where he will assume the presidency of Southwestern University.

Burger has received national recognition for his teaching and his contributions to the field of mathematics. In 2001, he was given the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. Baylor University awarded Burger the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching in 2010 and in 2013, Burger was inducted into the American Mathematical Society as an inaugural fellow.

Burger received his B.A. Summa Cum Laude from Connecticut College and went on to earn his Ph.D from the University of Texas at Austin before doing postdoctoral work in Canada at the University of Waterloo. His articles have been published journals including The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, and in 2012 he co-authored a book with Michael Starbird of the University of Texas at Austin titled The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking.

Annie Lennox

Musician and activist Annie Lennox, an Aberdeen, Scotland native, is best known for her work as a singer-songwriter, which has spanned three decades. In the early 1980s Lennox, along with Dave Stewart, formed the group The Eurythmics, best known for their second album, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). Lennox’s solo career began in 1992 with her first album, titled Diva. She has gone on to receive ten Grammy nominations and four awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and eight Brit Awards, the most of any female artist. Billboard magazine awarded Lennox the Billboard Century Award and described her as the “most successful female British artist in UK music history.”

In addition to her musical career, Lennox has forged a career as a human rights activist. Lennox was a performer at the opening of 46664, Nelson Mandela’s HIV/AIDS campaign in 2003. Lennox is also involved in organizations such as UNAIDS, Oxfam, Amnesty International and the British Red Cross. At 2009’s World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, Lennox was awarded the Woman of Peace Award. Her humanitarian work also led to Lennox being awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2011.

On June 1, the day before commencement, Lennox will participate in a conversation with students.

Deogratias Niyizonkiza

Deogratias Niyizonkiza was born in Burundi. Niyizonkiza survived a massacre in the hospital where he worked as a medical student and fled to New York City in 1994. Niyizonkiza’s journey in the United States led him from homelessness to become a student at Columbia and later the Harvard School of Public Health. He then went on to study medicine at Dartmouth University, though he took time off to found his nonprofit grassroots organization, Village Health Works (VHW). In 2010, Niyizonkiza became the subject of Tracy Kidder’s book Strength in What Remains. 

Niyizonkiza co-founded VHW and serves as its executive director. VHW works to provide comprehensive, community-oriented healthcare, agricultural development programs, projects to help women generate income and educational services in Niyizonkiza’s home country of Burundi.

Niyizonkiza is the recipient of the Women Refugee Commission’s Voices of Courage Award (2010) and St. John’s University’s 2011 International Medal Award, among others.

 Richard D. Parsons

In 2005, Institutional Investor magazine recognized Richard D. Parsons as the top CEO in the entertainment industry. He is the senior advisor at the private equity investment firm Providence Equity Partners, Inc., which specializes in media, information companies and communications. Before becoming senior advisor at Providence Equity Partners, Inc., Parsons had been the CEO and former board chair of the largest entertainment and media company in the world, Time Warner. Before Time Warner, Parsons was chairman and CEO of the U.S.-based thrift institution Dime Bancorp, Inc.

Today, in addition to his senior advisor position, Parsons is a member of the Board of Directors for the Commission on Presidential Debates. In 2008, Parsons worked with current President Barack Obama, then president-elect, as a member of his Economic Transition Team. Parsons is now the chairman of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New NY Education Reform Commission, and also serves on Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. He currently sits on the boards of multiple prominent institutions, such as the American Museum of Natural History, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Parsons studied at the University of Hawaii as an undergraduate and later received his Juris Doctor in 1971 from Union University’s Albany Law School, where he was at the top of his class.

Nancy Roseman

Nancy Roseman has been a member of the College community since 1991, when she joined the College as an assistant professor of biology. She went on to become the dean of the College in 2007, and stayed in that position until 2008, when she became assistant to the president for special projects. From 2010 to 2012, Roseman was the director of the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford. On July 1, Roseman will assume the presidency of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Roseman was instrumental in many developments at the College, including the founding of the Academic Resource Center and the restructuring of the residential life program. She also served on a wide breadth of committees, including the Faculty Steering Committee, the Science Executive Committee, the Lecture Committee and the Committee on Educational Policy.

Roseman earned her B.A. from Smith College and her doctorate from Oregon State University. The National Science Foundation has awarded Roseman numerous research grants, and she has been published in journals such as The Journal on Virology and The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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