Princeton awards six honorary degrees

Princeton University awarded honorary doctoral degrees during Commencement exercises Tuesday, June 4, to six individuals for their contributions to architecture, education, literature, the humanities, human rights, medicine and science.

Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman awarded degrees to Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health; Lorraine Daston, executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin; Frank Gehry, world-renowned architect; Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate and the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities Emeritus at Princeton; and Sakena Yacoobi, executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning. After conferring the degrees, Tilghman herself was awarded an honorary degree by Kathryn Hall, chair of Princeton's Board of Trustees, and received a standing ovation.

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

Francis Collins, Doctor of Science

Francis Collins is a physician-geneticist who since 2009 has been director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In that role he oversees the work of the largest biomedical research operation in the world, spanning basic to clinical research. From 1993 to 2008, after serving nearly a decade at the University of Michigan where he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, he became director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH. His leadership of the international Human Genome Project culminated in 2003 with the mapping of the human genome that is now used to discover genetic variations and their links to disease risk. Collins is known for his work in discovering important disease genes, including those responsible for cystic fibrosis, Huntington's disease, neurofibromatosis and adult-onset diabetes. In April, President Barack Obama, with Collins as an invited speaker at the White House, announced the BRAIN Initiative to bring together nanoscience, engineering and neurology to explore the workings of the brain. Collins has been an outspoken advocate for the compatibility of science and religion and wrote the best-selling book, "The Language of God." He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, and received the National Medal of Science in 2009. Collins received his bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia in 1970, his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1974 and his M.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1977.

His restless curiosity and deep concern for people led him from quantum physics to medicine, and propelled him on a quest to solve the very biggest puzzles, whether in matters of science or matters of faith. Because of his leadership, we can read the code book for the 3.1 billion letters that organize our growth from a single cell to the complex beings that we are. He directs our nation's efforts to expand even further the frontiers of biology, with the goal of increasing knowledge and improving lives. Now turning his focus to the brain, he offers the prospect of looking more deeply than ever into both our individuality and our shared humanity.

Lorraine Daston, Doctor of Humane Letters

Lorraine Daston is executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. She has published on a wide range of topics in the history of science, including the history of probability and statistics, the emergence of the scientific fact and objects of scientific inquiry. Daston is a visiting professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and has taught at Harvard, Princeton (1983-86), Brandeis and Göttingen universities, among other visiting faculty positions in Europe. Daston's work has garnered numerous awards. She received the Pfizer Prize of the History of Science Society for two books: "Classical Probability in the Enlightenment" and "Wonders and the Order of Nature 1150-1750" (with Katharine Park). In 2010, she was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Daston is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, corresponding member of the British Academy, as well as a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. She received her bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1973, her Dipl. from the University of Cambridge in 1974 and her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1979.

She began as a specialist on the Enlightenment, and over the years she has brought the curiosity and clarity of the 18th century to bear on every aspect of scientific life and thought, from medieval philosophy to modern physics. Her scholarship has taught us that all scientific ideals and practices—even objectivity and observation—have long, complex histories. A dedicated collaborator in a world of individualists, she is renowned for the devotion, generosity and insight with which she has mentored two generations of younger historians—many of them from Princeton—at the institute she directs in Berlin.

Frank Gehry, Doctor of Fine Arts

World-renowned design architect Frank Gehry is recognized for his playful, expressionistic work, as evident in the Lewis Library on Princeton's campus, which opened in 2008. Gehry established his practice in Los Angeles in 1962, working in the International Style initiated by Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus. By the mid-1980s his reputation had grown internationally, and his design began to adopt irregular, sweeping curves. In 1989 Gehry received the Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious prize in architecture. Gehry Partners LLP was formed in 2001 and supports a staff of more than 120 people engaged in a range of public and private projects across the globe. His spin-off company, Gehry Technologies, develops architectural software for design and construction. Among Gehry's best-known projects are the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain; the Dancing House in Prague; the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and BP Bridge in Millennium Park, Chicago; the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; and the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle. His many awards include the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture, the National Medal of Arts, the Order of Canada and an AIA Gold Medal. Gehry is the Judge Widney Professor of Architecture at the University of Southern California and has influenced countless students of architecture over his five-decade career. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California in 1954.

He is considered the greatest architect of our age, the ultimate experimentalist. As a young architect he challenged the profession by finding beauty in ordinary materials: chain link, asphalt shingles, billboards, plywood, corrugated metal and cardboard. He went on to build an entirely new language of form and space, capturing the movement, vitality and creative restlessness of contemporary culture. He absorbed digital innovation, changing the relationship between those who design and those who construct. With immense courage and curiosity he has transformed cities throughout the world and touched our lives with the magic of the human imagination.

Toni Morrison, Doctor of Literature

Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities Emeritus at Princeton. In 1993, Morrison became the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Morrison joined the Princeton faculty in 1989, transferring to emeritus status in 2006. She was a member of the University's creative writing program and founded the Princeton Atelier, which brings to campus renowned artists to collaborate with students on original work. Morrison is the author of 10 novels, including "Beloved," which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988, as well as "The Bluest Eye," "Sula," "Song of Solomon," "Jazz" and "Home," which was published last year. Morrison is also an acclaimed essayist and librettist. Her numerous awards include the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom and the 2000 National Humanities Medal. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Before joining the Princeton faculty, Morrison served as a senior editor at Random House for 20 years. She has held teaching posts at Yale University, Bard College and Rutgers University. Morrison received her bachelor's degree from Howard University in 1953 and her master's degree from Cornell University in 1955.

Novelist, editor, playwright, essayist, librettist and children’s book author, she ranks among the most versatile, gifted, acclaimed and beloved artists and intellectuals this nation has produced. In prose that is elegant, spare, deeply learned and redolent with the cadences of colloquial speech, she reanimates and reframes the past through stories of the aspirations and losses, desires and despair of those who have been written out of history. A global ambassador for the arts and humanities, she reminds us all of the power of the creative and performing arts to heal traumatic suffering, traverse our differences and attune the moral imagination.

Sakena Yacoobi, Doctor of Laws

Sakena Yacoobi is the executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), a women-led nongovernmental organization she founded in 1995. Through a grassroots approach, the organization provides teacher training to women, supports education for girls and boys, and offers health education to women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Born in Herat, Afghanistan, Yacoobi came to the United States in the 1970s. After her studies and work in education and health services, she returned to her home country in 1990 and started working with Afghan refugees on the Pakistan border. After the Taliban closed girls' schools in the 1990s, AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls in Afghanistan. The schools and clinics Yacoobi has helped establish emphasize community partnership and self-sufficiency. She is co-founder and vice president of Creating Hope International, a Michigan-based nonprofit that supports humanitarian efforts globally. Yacoobi regularly speaks at forums on education for women and children and is involved in several international organizations. She has received numerous honors for her work, and in 2011 was awarded the National Peace Award by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Yacoobi received her bachelor's degree from the University of the Pacific in 1977 and her master's degree from Loma Linda University in 1981.

With a profound reverence for the well-being of others, this visionary leader devotes her life to the empowerment of poor Afghan women and children. With an unwavering commitment to social justice, against all odds, and often at great personal risk, she built and sustains an institute that makes healthcare and education possible for the most vulnerable. It owes its success in establishing clinics, teaching children, and training educators and caregivers to the deep and lasting ties she has forged with the people she serves and with global communities of care. After decades of work, she is still creating hope, in her home country and throughout the world.

Shirley M. Tilghman, Doctor of Laws

Shirley M. Tilghman was elected Princeton University's 19th president on May 5, 2001, and assumed office on June 15, 2001. An exceptional teacher and a world-renowned scholar and leader in the field of molecular biology, she served on the Princeton faculty for 15 years before being named president. She will be stepping down as president at the end of the 2012-13 academic year and will return to the faculty.

During her time as Princeton's leader, Tilghman oversaw significant developments, including: expanding the undergraduate student body and launching the four-year residential college system; greatly increasing the number of students on financial aid and more than doubling the average aid they receive; creating a master plan for the future development of the campus, including a major project for the arts now in the first stage of construction; creating new academic facilities for neuroscience and psychology and establishing centers for African American studies and energy and the environment; and expanding international opportunities for students, as well as partnerships with research institutions around the world. Her tenure also included the successful completion of the five-year Aspire campaign, which raised a record $1.88 billion for the University.

Tilghman, a native of Canada, received her Honors B.Sc. in chemistry from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, in 1968. After two years of secondary school teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa, she obtained her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Temple University in Philadelphia.

During postdoctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health, she made a number of groundbreaking discoveries while participating in cloning the first mammalian gene, and then continued to make scientific breakthroughs as an independent investigator at the Institute for Cancer Research in Philadelphia and an adjunct associate professor of human genetics and biochemistry and biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Tilghman came to Princeton in 1986 as the Howard A. Prior Professor of the Life Sciences. Two years later, she also joined the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as an investigator. In 1998, she took on additional responsibilities as the founding director of Princeton's multidisciplinary Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics.

A member of the National Research Council's committee that set the blueprint for the U.S. effort in the Human Genome Project, Tilghman also was one of the founding members of the National Advisory Council of the Human Genome Project for the National Institutes of Health.

She is renowned not only for her pioneering research, but for her national leadership on behalf of women in science and for promoting efforts to make the early careers of young scientists as meaningful and productive as possible.

From 1993 through 2000, Tilghman chaired Princeton's Council on Science and Technology, which encourages the teaching of science and technology to students outside the sciences, and in 1996 she received Princeton's President's Award for Distinguished Teaching. She initiated the Princeton Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship, a program across all the science and engineering disciplines that brings postdoctoral students to Princeton each year to gain experience in both research and teaching.

In 2002, Tilghman was one of five winners of the L'Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science. In the following year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Developmental Biology, and in 2007, she was awarded the Genetics Society of America Medal for outstanding contributions to her field.

Tilghman is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the Royal Society of London. She serves as a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and as a director of Google Inc.

For 12 transformative years, she has led this University with exceptional integrity, humanity and courage. Passionate scientist, teacher and champion of the arts, she has blazed new paths of discovery, learning, expression and service; she has widened the doors of opportunity in the name of equity and excellence; and she has strengthened Princeton's presence throughout the world. Greatly admired and much beloved, she has been the personification of Tiger spirit, aiming always, with determination and grace, to live up to her own admonition to aim high and be bold.