Harvard Law dean to give Winter 2015 graduation address

Sunday, October 11, 2015 - 10:10pm

University alum Martha Minow, dean of the Harvard Law School, will deliver the 2015 Winter Commencement address, pending approval this week from the University’s Board of Regents.

Minow is one of four individuals who may receive honorary degrees, pending the regents’ approval. Others include Graham Beal, director emeritus of the Detroit Institute of Arts; Pedro Cuatrecasas, professor of pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego; and George Shirley, a professor emeritus at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Martha Minow, who graduated from the University in 1975 with an honors concentration in history, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws.

In addition to serving as the dean of Harvard Law School, Minow is currently the vice chair of the Legal Services Corporation, which, according to its website, is “the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans in the nation.” She was appointed by President Barack Obama to the LSC board in 2009.

She has also worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, among other organizations.

“Martha Minow’s career exemplifies all the University of Michigan should hope for in a Michigan graduate,” the action request reads. “Therefore, it will be appropriate to publicly recognize her with an honorary degree.”

Graham Beal, who retired from his post at the DIA in June after 16 years as its director, is widely known for protecting city-owned art pieces during Detroit’s bankruptcy proceedings, among other financial successes at the museum under his oversight.

He would earn a Doctor of Humane Letters degree if approved by the regents.

“Awarding Graham W.J. Beal an honorary degree would acknowledge his leadership in expanding museum audiences, revitalizing and preserving the DIA … and his significant contributions to Southeast Michigan and the University, especially the Museum Studies Program,” the action request reads.

Pedro Cuatrecasas is known for inventing affinity chromatography — a process of separating biochemical mixtures, often to purify specific solutions. Doing so earned him the Wolf Prize of Medicine in 1987.

According to the action request, “He was involved in the discovery, development and marketing registration of more than forty medicines,” including the cholesterol-lowering Lipitor and AZT, an antiretroviral drug which fights HIV/AIDS.

If approved by the regents, Cuatrecasas would receive an honorary Doctor of Science.

George Shirley, if approved by the regents, would receive an honorary Doctor of Music.

In early September, the professor emeritus earned the National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony. Shirley also won a Grammy Award in 1968 for his rendition of Ferrando in Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte.”

He was the first Black male to play a leading role in the Metropolitan Opera, and was the first Black high school music teacher in Detroit Public Schools.

Professor emeritus William Bolcom said in the action request that he “can’t imagine a more deserving person” to receive an honorary degree.

Winter Commencement is Sunday, Dec. 20.