NU to award honorary degrees to Board of Trustees Chair J. Landis Martin, commencement speaker Isabel Wilkerson, among others


Daily file photo by Joanne Haner

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Four individuals will receive honorary degrees from Northwestern at commencement.

Caroline Brew, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern will award honorary degrees to three alumni and commencement speaker Isabel Wilkerson for their contributions to arts, sciences and leadership at its commencement June 13.

In addition to Wilkerson, NU alumni J. Landis Martin, Judith Olson and Eva Jefferson Paterson will receive honorary degrees.

Wilkerson, who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, authored the nonfiction bestsellers “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” and “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.” 

As a former New York Times reporter, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her work as Chicago bureau chief, becoming the first Black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

“(Wilkerson) has become an impassioned voice for demonstrating how history can help us understand ourselves, our country and our current era of upheaval,” a University news release said. 

Martin (Kellogg ’68, Pritzker ’73) serves as the chair of the NU Board of Trustees and will also receive a Doctor of Humane Letters. Though he will retire from that role Aug. 31, he will remain a member of the board. 

Martin is also chairman and managing director of private equity firm Platte River Equity. He is also a University benefactor and an art connoisseur and donor.

Receiving a Doctor of Science at commencement, Olson (Weinberg ’65) is the Donald Bren Professor of Information and Computer Sciences Emerita at the University of California, Irvine. Olson has conducted research on human-computer interaction for more than 30 years. 

She holds the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction. She is also a fellow for the ACM and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2018.

Paterson (Weinberg ’71), who will receive a Doctor of Laws, is the co-founder and president of the Equal Justice Society, a nonprofit organization focused on transforming the nation’s consciousness on race through law, social science and the arts. She is also co-chair of the California Civil Rights Coalition, which she co-founded and chaired for 18 years.

Paterson served 13 years as executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, where she was part of a coalition that filed and won an anti-discrimination suit against the San Francisco Fire Department for racial and gender discrimination. 

“That lawsuit successfully desegregated the department, winning new opportunities for women and firefighters of color,” the release said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Eva Jefferson Paterson’s last name. The Daily regrets this error.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @carolinelbrew

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