Commencement Notebook: Faculty, honorary degree recipients recognized


Catherine Buchaniec/Daily Senior Staffer

Four of the honorary degree recipients. The 2019 commencement ceremony took place Friday at Ryan Field.

In a stark contrast to last year’s rain-soaked ceremony, the sun shone brightly Friday morning for this year’s commencement.

Tahera Ahmad, associate chaplain and director of interfaith engagement for the University, opened the ceremony by delivering the invocation, followed by remarks from University President Morton Schapiro. Schapiro introduced Samir Mayekar (Weinberg ’06, Kellogg ’13), president of the NU alumni association, who told graduates to maintain their connections to the NU community.

“As (Schapiro) and I can assure you, there is never too much purple in your wardrobe,” Mayekar said. “If you stay engaged with Northwestern, Northwestern will stay engaged with you.”

Following the commencement address given by historian and educator Lonnie Bunch, Elizabeth Coin (Communication ’19) acknowledged the parents and family members of the graduates, saying every graduating student had a “who” that helped them along the way.

Coin said Northwestern is special because its students come from different backgrounds, experience different things and have different reasons for being at the University, but what all students have in common is a support network, both inside and outside of Northwestern.

“These are your mentors, these are your challengers,” Coin said. “Every single person you can think of that is on your team, they are with you today. All of those people, in one small way or another, stood behind you then and stand behind you now.”

Six awarded honorary degrees

In addition to giving the commencement address, Bunch received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. His degree was announced by Provost Jonathan Holloway and presented by Leslie M. Harris, professor of history in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

“As the first historian and first African American to lead the Smithsonian Institution, you play a key role in illuminating our nation’s past,” Holloway said. “We are proud to honor your many groundbreaking achievements.”

Bunch was one of six people to receive honorary degrees on Friday. Also awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters was novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“With one foot in this continent and the other in your native Africa, you offer a unique perspective on identity, feminism and race,” Holloway said.

NU awarded Shirley Welsh Ryan (Weinberg ’61) an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Ryan is the chair of, the first pediatric multidisciplinary facility on Chicago’s North Shore, and is an advocate for early detection and intervention for children’s motor, sensory and communication development. She and her husband, Pat Ryan, have been longtime donors to the university, supporting scholarships, athletic stadiums and more.

Alan Kay, computer scientist and president of Viewpoints Research Institute, and Bernard Osher, the founder of the Bernard Osher Foundation supporting higher education and the arts, both received honorary Doctor of Science degrees. Andrew Youn, the cofounder and executive director of One Acre Fund, which provides smallholder African farmers with financing and agricultural training, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Distinguished secondary school teachers honored

NU seniors were invited to recognize influential teachers who were instrumental in their journeys prior to arriving at Northwestern, five of whom were present at commencement with the ninth annual Distinguished Secondary School Teacher Awards.

These teachers specialize in subjects ranging from English to calculus and hail from Illinois to California. President Schapiro said they were honored specifically at a ceremony Thursday.

“I thank them for their contribution to the senior class and for sharing their extraordinary teaching talent with so many,” Schapiro said.

Honoring Patricia Telles-Irvin

Schapiro also recognized Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin, who passed away June 3 following a long battle with cancer.

“She was a tireless champion for all our students and always found the best in each of us,” Schapiro said. “May her memory be a blessing to us all.”

34 Emeritus faculty recognized

Prior to the conferring of honorary degrees, Schapiro honored 34 Emeritus faculty, who were recognized upon their retirement from full-time service on NU faculty.

“As scholars, they have helped transform their disciplines,” Schapiro said. He noted the faculty combined for nearly 11 centuries of service to the university. Among the faculty recognized were School of Communications Prof. Kathleen M. Galvin, who has contributed 51 years of service, and Weinberg Prof. of Mathematics John Franks, who has served NU for 49 years.

“Their impact upon the countless students with whom they have worked is beyond measure,” Schapiro said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @andreabian_

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @bxrosenberg