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For immediate release: June 3, 2003
Contact: Patricia Allen, (609) 258-6108, pallen@princeton.edu

Princeton awards five honorary degrees

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Princeton University awarded honorary degrees today to five distinguished individuals for their contributions in the fields of education, science, international and human rights law and the humanities at the 256th Commencement.

Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman awarded degrees to Natalie Zemon Davis, historian and professor emeritus of Princeton; South African Constitutional Court Justice Richard J. Goldstone, human rights and international lawyer; Claude M. Steele, social scientist and Stanford University professor; Joan Argetsinger Steitz, scientist and Yale University professor; and Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers.

Honorary degree recipients are elected by Princeton's Board of Trustees. A trustee committee solicits nomination from the entire University.

The following is biographical information on the recipients and the official citations.

Natalie Zemon Davis, Doctor of Humane Letters
From 1978 until her retirement in 1996, Natalie Davis was a member of the faculty of Princeton University, where she became the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History and served as director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies. Her research activity and publications have centered on the social and cultural history of sixteenth-century France and early modern Europe. She has been especially concerned to uncover the lives and values of peasants, artisans and women. Her numerous and acclaimed publications include "The Return of Martin Guerre" (1983), which was made into a film. She is now an adjunct professor of history and anthropology, senior fellow in comparative literature and professor of medieval studies at the University of Toronto.

Supremely gifted, she has made giving a way of life. She gives of herself to students, colleagues, friends, readers and viewers in the vast public touched by her words and moved by her spirit. She has made “the gift” a subject of study along with such an array of other themes that her scholarship extends across the full range of the human arts and sciences. Not content to write about women on the margins, she has guided them to the center of university life; and she has enriched the university by opening it up to talent and ideas beyond the confines of disciplines and conventions.

Richard J. Goldstone, Doctor of Laws
Richard Goldstone is known internationally as one of the world’s experts on constitutional law, human rights and war crimes. In 1989, while a judge of the Transvaal Supreme Court, he was appointed judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of South Africa and named head of the Commission of Inquiry regarding the prevention of public violence and intimidation, which came to be known as the Goldstone Commission. In 1994, he was appointed to his current position as a justice on South Africa’s Constitutional Court. He served as chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Since August 1999, he has chaired the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo. In December 2001, he was appointed chair of the International Task Force on Terrorism established by the International Bar Association. His other responsibilities include being chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.

In the face of the horrific injustices throughout the world, he has devoted his life to justice, freedom and peace. In his home of South Africa, his jurisprudence smoothed the transition from apartheid to democracy and vigilantly safeguarded the free country’s young constitution. Although much of the world closed its eyes to the genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia, he reminded us that a political leader who seeks to destroy an entire people must be held accountable. A tireless advocate for humanity and human rights, he holds the rank of supreme judge on the court of our highest aspirations.

Claude M. Steele, Doctor of Humane Letters
Claude Steele is the Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences at Stanford University, where he has been a professor of psychology since 1991. Steele has revolutionized the way social scientists think about prejudice and stereotypes. He developed a general theory of self-affirmation and expanded this theory to address how group stereotypes can influence intellectual performance and academic identities. He has focused on the impact of group stereotypes on African Americans and women. He is also an authority on addictive behaviors. His research has changed how addictions are conceptualized, studied and treated. Before joining the faculty at Stanford, Steele served on the faculties of the universities of Michigan, Washington and Utah.

In masterful lectures and eloquent prose, he lays bare the experience of finding oneself on the wrong side of cultural stereotypes. His penetrating analysis reveals the burden borne by African-American students and by women who seek to excel in domains in which society questions their abilities and encumbers them with negative expectations. Through rigorous experiments elegant in their simplicity, with extraordinary insight and clarity, he enables us to see through the eyes of others, and points the way to the creation of educational environments in which all students can achieve and flourish.

Joan Argetsinger Steitz, Doctor of Science
Joan Steitz is the Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Yale University. She is internationally recognized for fundamental and pioneering contributions to understanding of the DNA of the genome of living organisms. Her research has implications for improved diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune diseases. Her many honors include the National Medal of Science (1986), the Weizmann Women and Science Award (1994) and the Lewis S. Rosensteil Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research (2002). Throughout her career, she has been an advocate for women in the sciences, a role model and mentor to women in her field. Steitz is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Through her precise experiments, she discovered the biochemical mechanisms that allow the cell to make sense from nonsense in the genome, cutting and pasting segments to form a working blueprint for the proteins in the living cell. Where the resources of the laboratory have proved inadequate to nature’s subtlety, she has shown how to reason back from the body’s autoimmune responses to reveal the intricate machinery of biological information processing. In achieving distinction at a time when few women were accepted in her field, she has opened the door for other women to follow her into the front ranks of research and teaching in the sciences.

Lawrence H. Summers, Doctor of Laws
Lawrence Summers, former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, assumed office as the 27th president of Harvard University on July 1, 2001. Summers became a professor of economics at Harvard University in 1983 and served as the Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy from 1987 until 1993, when he was appointed undersecretary of the treasury for international affairs. In 1995 he became deputy secretary of the treasury. In 1999 Summers was appointed Secretary of the Treasury. At the end of his term as treasury secretary, President Summers was awarded the Alexander Hamilton Medal, the treasury department’s highest honor. His other honors include the John Bates Clark Medal (1993) and the National Science Foundation’s Alan Waterman Award (1987). Summers is also a fellow of the Econometric Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

As a public servant, most notably as Secretary of the Treasury, he was a steward of our nation’s economic well-being. He presided over a period of prosperity marked by an increase in productivity, an increase in employment, and a decrease in our national debt. As president of our pre-eminent sister institution on the Charles, he is now entrusted with assets more valued than gold—students and scholars who will help shape the world’s future. Whether as steward of our financial or of our intellectual resources, he is ever guided by the pursuit of excellence.

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