Though the University’s winter commencement speaker isn’t the President of the United States, University President Mary Sue Coleman said she is excited for Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman to speak at next month’s ceremony.
Kahneman, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics, will address the graduates and receive a Doctor of Science degree. Astronomer Sandra Faber will also be awarded a Doctor of Sciences degree and Charles Munger, vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a University alum, will be presented a Doctor of Laws degree.
In an exclusive interview with The Michigan Daily last week, Coleman disclosed the honorary degree recipients. The selections, which were made public yesterday in the agenda for the University’s Board of Regents monthly meeting, will need to be approved by the regents when they meet on Thursday at the University’s Flint campus.
Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for his work in prospect theory, which he developed as a visiting scientist at the University from 1965 to 1967 with Amos Tversky, who received his Ph.D. from the University in 1964.
Prospect theory explains how individuals make choices in situations where they have to decide between two choices that are risky — like in the case of a financial investment.
Coleman said Kahneman and Tversky worked very closely together and added that Tversky would’ve also been awarded the Nobel Prize had he not died in 1996.
“(Khaneman) came here between 1965 and 1967 to do a visiting professorship and started collaborating with one of our recent Ph.D.s, Amos Tversky, and they did this work together and published together for a long time. But Amos died, otherwise he would’ve gotten the Nobel Prize with Daniel,” Coleman said.
“It’s very wonderful, and I’m very happy that he’s going to be the speaker,” she continued.
Kahneman was born in Palestine in 1934, but spent his childhood in France where he and his family escaped the Nazis during the Holocaust. After the war, Kahneman returned to Israel before he eventually immigrated to the United States in 1958. Currently, he is a professor emeritus at Princeton University.
Faber is a professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 1976, Faber helped to develop the Faber-Jackson Theory, which is used to estimate the distance between galaxies.
Coleman said Faber is a world-renowned astronomer, adding “she is very distinguished.”
Munger, the third individual to be awarded an honorary degree at winter commencement, is worth over $1 billion and donated $3 million to the University’s Law School in 2007. Munger has come to campus a number of times to speak, visiting most recently last September.
In the interview, Coleman called Munger, “one of the world’s leading investors” for his work at Berkshire Hathaway alongside Warren Buffett.
Honorary degree recipients are chosen by the University’s Honorary Degree Committee, which is chaired by Rackham Dean Janet Weiss. The committee reviews nominations for the degree recipients submitted by students, faculty and staff.
Winter commencement will be take place at 2 p.m. on Dec. 19, 2010 at Crisler Arena.