At their monthly meeting this Thursday, the University’s Board of Regents will be asked to approve a recommendation from University President Mary Sue Coleman to award six honorary degrees at this year’s spring commencement — including one for President Barack Obama.

Obama is set to deliver the commencement address at this year’s graduation and, once approved by the regents, will receive a Doctor of Laws degree while on campus. Obama will be the third sitting president to deliver a commencement address at the University.

In addition to delivering the commencement address at the Naval Academy last year, Obama spoke at the University of Notre Dame last spring, where he was given an honorary degree, and at Arizona State University, where he was not given an honorary degree. Arizona State University’s decision not to award Obama an honorary degree drew criticism from many, but school officials stood firm in their beliefs that Obama had not accomplished enough as president to warrant an honorary degree.

Others recommended by Coleman to receive an honorary degree at this spring’s commencement ceremony include Jean Campbell, who founded the University’s Center for the Education of Women, and Charles Vest — president of the National Academy of Engineering. Both are being recommended for a Doctor of Laws degree.

Coleman is also recommending that Stanford Ovshinsky — president of Ovshinsky Innovation LLC — receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Ovshinsky is an inventor with hundreds of patents to his name, including a battery technology widely used in today’s portable electronics and technology needed for a wider use of hydrogen.

Susan Stamberg, a special correspondent for National Public Radio, is being recommended for an honorary Doctor of Human Letters degree and Ornette Coleman, a jazz musician, is being recommended for an honorary Doctor of Music degree.


The regents will also consider requests for $3.8 million in repairs to two buildings on campus on Thursday.

The regents are expected to approve the request for $2.2 million to correct air penetration and condensation problems within the James and Anne Duderstadt Center. It’s anticipated that the regents will allocate an additional $1.6 million to fix exterior and structural deficiencies of Lorch Hall.

According to Tim Slottow’s communication with the regents, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, the project at the Duderstadt Center would fix soffits, or the underside of the building’s roof, on the building that have been damaged by breaches of air and water condensation.

To correct the problem, Slottow is requesting money to install vapor and air barriers and to add thermal insulation to the affected areas. Additionally, the project seeks to upgrade current mechanical systems.

In his letter to the regents, Slottow wrote that without the necessary repairs, parts of the building’s soffit could eventually fall off the building.

If passed by the regents, funding for the project will be taken from the University’s General Fund and will be completed by fall 2010.

In a separate communication to the University’s Board of Regents, Slottow submitted a request for $1.6 million to make improvements to “areas of significant deterioration” of Lorch Hall — including the building’s masonry, steel structures, roofing and rain conductors.

The improvements being proposed to the building, which houses the Departments of Economics and Linguistics, were taken from a recent study that measured and prioritized the building’s structural needs.

If approved, funding for the project will come from the University’s General Fund and the project is expected to be finished by fall 2010.

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