Princeton awards six honorary degrees

Princeton University awarded honorary degrees during Commencement exercises May 31 to six distinguished individuals for their contributions to the financial industry, the arts and humanities, and science.

Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman awarded degrees to John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard mutual fund group; Anne d'Harnoncourt, director and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; J. Lionel Gossman, Princeton's M. Taylor Pyne Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Emeritus; Yo-Yo Ma, award-winning cellist; Vera Rubin, astronomer and pioneer in research on dark matter; and Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate, playwright, poet, novelist and political rights activist.

Honorary degree recipients are elected by Princeton's Board of Trustees. A trustee committee, which includes faculty and students, solicits nominations from the entire University.

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

John Bogle, Doctor of Laws

John Bogle, a 1951 Princeton graduate and a pioneer of the mutual funds industry, created Vanguard Capital Management in 1974. He served as Vanguard's chairman and chief executive officer until 1996 and senior chairman until 2000, when he became president of the Bogle Financial Markets Research Center. Called one of the four "giants of the 20th century" by Fortune magazine in 1999, Bogle introduced the first index mutual fund and has sought throughout his career to create low-cost, low-maintenance investment vehicles.

Bogle has been a member of the board of governors of the Investment Company Institute; the board of directors of the Princeton University Investment Company; the Market Oversight and Financial Services Advisory Committee of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and the Independence Standards Board. He serves as chairman of the National Constitution Center. A recipient of many awards, Bogle was named as one of the world's 100 most powerful and influential people by Time magazine in 2004, and Institutional Investor magazine presented him with its 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1999, he received Princeton's Woodrow Wilson Award, which honors an alumnus for service to the nation. He has written several influential books, including "Common Sense on Mutual Funds: New Imperatives for the Intelligent Investor" (1999), "Character Counts: The Creation and Building of the Vanguard Group" (2002) and the forthcoming "The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism."

In 1951, as an idealistic economics major, he proposed in his senior thesis the then-revolutionary concept of an efficient and economical  mutual fund run primarily for the benefit of the investor. Known as a pioneer of index fund investing, he is an unrelenting crusader against high fees and hidden costs and an outspoken advocate for intelligent investing.  Honesty is an integral element  of his management strategy, reflecting his precept that character counts, in investing as in other walks of life. We honor him today for over half a century of making sure that  the individual investor's interest remains always in the vanguard.

Anne d'Harnoncourt, Doctor of Laws

Anne d'Harnoncourt has served as the George D. Widener Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1982 and as both director and chief executive officer of the museum since 1997. She has been credited with building a distinguished professional staff and encouraging a series of major exhibitions and publications by the museum's curators, in addition to overseeing a massive project to reinstall all of the European collections and the recent purchase of a neighboring landmark building to enable future expansion.

Prior to her role as director, d'Harnoncourt served as curator of 20th-century art at the museum from 1972 to 1982. As a specialist in the art of Marcel Duchamp, she organized a major retrospective exhibition in 1973-74, which also traveled to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. While d'Harnoncourt was curator, the museum made a commitment to build its contemporary collections and acquired important works by Jasper Johns, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Elizabeth Murray and Sol LeWitt, among others. She has written numerous articles and publications about Duchamp, John Cage and other topics in 20th-century art.

Under her leadership for nearly a quarter-century, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has grown in scope, accessibility and influence, a model in illuminating the history and power of human creativity. A scholar of undisputed stature and a commanding presence among her peers, she is, in the broadest sense of the word, a curator of the arts. Fostering outreach and education, she sees museums not as places where art is confined, but as places where art engages, enlightens and inspires -- helping us to picture our past, and begin to sculpt our future.

J. Lionel Gossman, Doctor of Humanities

A member of Princeton's faculty since 1976, J. Lionel Gossman transferred to emeritus status in 1999 and continues his affiliation with the Department of French and Italian. His scholarship and teaching interests focus on the relationship between European history and literature in the period from the 17th to the 19th centuries -- especially on questions, as he has put it, of "humanistic education as it is and as it should be."

Gossman began his career at the universities of Lille and Glasgow. He came to the United States in 1958 and joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins University, where he taught until 1976. After coming to Princeton, he was appointed to the M. Taylor Pyne Professorship of Romance Languages and Literatures in 1983 and received the University's Behrman Award for distinguished achievement in the humanities in 1990. Named an Officier des Palmes Académiques in 1991, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1996. Among his publications are "Men and Masks: A Study of Molière" (1963), "Medievalism and the Ideologies of the Enlightenment" (1968), "The Empire Unpossess'd" (1981), "Between History and Literature" (1990) and "Basel in the Age of Burckhardt: A Study in Unseasonable Ideas" (2000), which won the George L. Mosse Prize of the American Historical Association.

This contemporary heir of those enlightened Scots who were our founders has combined commanding gravitas with lithe intellection and agile prose in his penetrating investigations of the fundamental monuments of modern European thought. Renowned scholar, venerated teacher, colleague nonpareil, he has for many decades set up his shop at that busy historical crossroads where reason and rhetoric meet. Deeply traditional in his intellectual formation, avant-garde in his thought, a living neoclassic in a class of his own, he today receives the just applause of the community he has so long adorned.

Yo-Yo Ma, Doctor of Music

Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma has earned a distinguished international reputation as an ambassador for music and its vital role in society. He is known for his exploration of music as a means of communication and as a vehicle for the migration of ideas across a range of cultures throughout the world. Ma established the Silk Road Project to promote the study of the cultural, artistic and intellectual traditions along the ancient Silk Road trade route that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. The project produces programs in partnership with organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution.

Through the Silk Road Project, as through his performing career, Ma has sought to expand the cello repertoire, premiering works by a diverse group of composers. His wide circle of collaborators includes Emanuel Ax, Daniel Barenboim, Jaime Laredo, Edgar Meyer, Mark Morris and David Zinman. His albums have won 15 Grammy Awards. Strongly committed to educational programs, Ma connects music to students' daily surroundings and activities with the goal of making music and creativity a vital part of children's lives from an early age. Princeton undergraduates have benefited from his participation in the University's Atelier program, and the Princeton community has enjoyed his frequent appearances at McCarter Theatre.

He began as a spellbinding cellist; he has grown into the world's foremost ambassador of music. Collaborating with musicians from the Kalahari to Brazil, and along the fabled Silk Road that binds Europe with Asia, he teaches us that the surest way to hear and understand people from different cultures is to share their music. The bridges he builds lead always to the same place: the place where music performs and celebrates humanity.

Vera Rubin, Doctor of Science

Vera Rubin has spent her career as an observational astronomer looking at the spectra, or light signatures, of galaxies to determine their motions. After graduating from Vassar College, and while raising a family, she did advanced degree work at Cornell University then at Georgetown University, where she received her doctorate and began her research career. She joined the faculty of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1965. Her doctoral work showed that galaxies are not evenly distributed in the universe, a finding that contradicted widely accepted predictions but was validated 15 years later. In 1970, she and W. Kent Ford Jr. made meticulous observations of the rotation of galaxies and reached surprising conclusions that are now viewed as confirmation of the existence of dark matter -- the mysterious, unseen material that pervades the universe. Her recent research focuses on low-surface brightness galaxies -- objects that are fainter than the night sky and most of whose mass is composed of dark matter.

Rubin is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. President Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Science in 1993, and in 1996 she was presented with the Weizmann Women and Science Award. She also has received the Bruce Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the Gruber International Cosmology Prize, and became the first woman since 1828 to receive the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. She remains a senior fellow of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution, where she continues to conduct research and actively mentor women in science.

A childhood fascination with the motion of stars led her to a half-century career that has illuminated our view of the universe. Through meticulous observations, she revealed the presence of vast quantities of a mysterious, unseen substance called dark matter. Her research leaves us with the unsettling yet inspiring conclusion that all the familiar materials of our Earth and sun -- hydrogen, oxygen, even gold and silver -- are but minor players in a universe made mostly of matter we can barely fathom. Even when facing the skepticism of peers, her contagious enthusiasm and dedicated professionalism have made her a mentor and role model to many who follow the beacon of her example.

Wole Soyinka, Doctor of Humane Letters

Nigerian playwright, poet, novelist and political rights activist Wole Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1986 -- the first African to receive this honor -- as a writer "who, in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones, fashions the drama of existence." Drawing on Yoruba tribal descriptions of the world of the ancestors and the world of the unborn, Soyinka has written plays that illuminate a colonial and post-colonial Nigeria caught between tradition and change. Drawing on Euripides' "The Bacchae" and Brecht's "Threepenny Opera," he also has rewritten Western classics to address contemporary African realities. Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, writes in his biography of Soyinka: "Soyinka's texts are superbly realized, complex mediations between the European dramatic tradition and the equally splendid Yoruba dramatic tradition. This form of verbal expression, uniquely his own, he uses to address the profoundest matters of human moral order and cosmic will."

An outspoken critic of totalitarian regimes in his homeland, Soyinka has been described as the "conscience of Nigeria." He has been both imprisoned in and exiled from his country. An acclaimed actor, director and producer, he was named president of UNESCO's International Theatre Institute in 1985. He has taught in the United States and abroad, holding faculty positions at several institutions, including Yale, Cornell, Cambridge and Harvard universities. His works include "Myth, Literature and the African World" (1976); "The Man Died" (1972), drawn from his experiences in prison; and the autobiographical "Ake: The Years of Childhood" (1981). His most recent book, published this year, is "Climate of Fear: The Quest for Dignity in a Dehumanized World."

The worlds of the ancestors and the unborn join the world of the living to celebrate his heroic achievements as writer and citizen. On the page and on the stage, he has courageously wedded the many traditions of Nigeria and traditions beyond Africa's borders to create a new kind of literature -- rooted in his homeland but in dialogue with the universe of letters. The expansiveness of his imagination, the generosity of his spirit, the richness of his interior life and the inventiveness of his language have won him loyal audiences. And while his love of democracy and devotion to truth have often endangered his freedom and his life, his voice continues unmuted, demanding that we all live up to our highest cultural, moral and political ideals.