Princeton awards five honorary degrees

Princeton University awarded honorary degrees during Commencement exercises Tuesday, June 3, to five individuals for their contributions to human rights, public life, business, the humanities, education and engineering. 

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber awarded degrees to Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chair of the nongovernmental development organization BRAC; Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. secretary of state; Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines; James McPherson, the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of History, Emeritus, at Princeton; and James West, an inventor and research professor of electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering.  

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

Fazle Hasan Abed, Doctor of Laws

Fazle Hasan Abed is the founder and chair of BRAC (formerly the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), the largest nongovernment development organization in the world. Abed formed the organization in 1972 to help rehabilitate refugees after the independence war in Bangladesh. For more than four decades, he has led BRAC in its efforts to alleviate poverty and empower the poor. Initially focused on microcredit, BRAC now helps an estimated 135 million people in 11 countries with health care, education, women's empowerment, enterprise development, microfinance and other anti-poverty programs. BRAC has more than 100,000 employees worldwide. Among his many honors, Abed is the recipient of the first Clinton Global Citizenship Award, the Ramon Magsaysay Prize, the UNICEF Maurice Pate Award, the UNDP Mahbub ul Haq Award, and the WISE Prize for Education. He was knighted in 2010. That same year, he was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Eminent Persons Group for the Least Developed Countries. 

What began as a relief effort for war refugees in his home country of Bangladesh has, over four decades, blossomed into a profoundly effective and universally admired organization devoted to alleviating poverty for millions worldwide. His organizational and leadership skills, combined with his ceaseless commitment to uplifting the less fortunate, have led to innovative and enduring programs in economic development, education and health care. He has created a model of how to have a lasting impact on those in need; he himself is a model of what it means to live one's life in the service of humanity.

Madeleine K. Albright, Doctor of Laws

Madeleine Albright served as U.S. secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. Nominated by President Bill Clinton, she was the first woman to hold that position, and at the time was the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. During her tenure, she reinforced America's alliances, advocated for democracy and human rights, and promoted American trade, business, labor and environmental standards abroad. In presenting her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, President Barack Obama recognized her "courage and toughness," which "helped bring peace to the Balkans and paved the way for progress in some of the most unstable corners of the world." From 1993 to1997, Albright served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. From 1989 to 1992, she served as president of the Center for National Policy. Since leaving office, she founded the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and is chair of Albright Capital Management, an investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets. She has returned to teaching at Georgetown University and has written five books, including her autobiography, "Madame Secretary: A Memoir." Albright chairs the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the Pew Global Attitudes Project and is president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Albright received her bachelor's degree from Wellesley College in 1959 and her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1976.

She stepped onto the world stage as Madame Secretary, two words that had never before been uttered in the echoing halls and paneled rooms of the U.S. State Department. A daughter of Prague, she led the fight to defend Kosovo's Pristina, championing and shaping an intervention that saved millions of people from exile and ethnic cleansing. She is a history maker and path breaker, inventing and reinventing herself as a scholar, teacher, entrepreneur, author, mother, grandmother and mentor. Her legacy is a vision of American leadership in the world that reflects our core values of liberty and justice for all.

Herb Kelleher, Doctor of Laws

Herbert Kelleher, a native of Camden, New Jersey, is co-founder and retired chairman, president and CEO of Southwest Airlines. After a career in law, in 1967 Kelleher established the airline with one of his clients, Rollin King. He retired from Southwest more than 40 years later. The founders pioneered a low-cost airline that eliminated unnecessary services and used secondary airports. Kelleher, who became president and CEO of Southwest in 1981, led the company through its difficult opening years, spikes in fuel costs and drops in business after 9/11. From its regional beginnings, Southwest Airlines is now a profitable major national carrier. In 1973, Southwest instituted its first profit-sharing program for employees. Kelleher has received numerous awards for leadership, including the Charles Lindbergh Award for Excellence in Aviation; the L. Welch Pogue Award for Lifetime Achievement in Aviation; the Bower Award for Business Leadership; and the Tony Jannus Award. Kelleher received his bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University in 1953 and his law degree from New York University School of Law in 1956. 

From English major at college to "CEO of the year" many times over, he composed a business plan on the back of a cocktail napkin in a San Antonio restaurant, and a small commuter airline with three planes grew to the world's largest low-cost carrier. A maverick as comfortable on a motorcycle as in a board meeting, he dared to manage differently when the airline industry hit turbulence, choosing to cut costs but not to jettison jobs. This son of Camden, New Jersey, showed clearly that a company can soar when firmly grounded in a commitment to the people who propel it: "Employees come first." 

James McPherson, Doctor of Humane Letters

James McPherson is the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of History, Emeritus, at Princeton. A pre-eminent Civil War scholar, McPherson joined the Princeton faculty in 1962, transferring to emeritus status in 2004. McPherson has published numerous books on the Civil War, including "Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution," "Drawn With the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War," and "For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War," which won the Lincoln Prize in 1998. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era." In 2007, McPherson received the first Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. In 2000, he delivered the National Endowment for the Humanities' annual Jefferson Lecture. Legendary for his intellectual generosity, McPherson taught popular courses in the history department and often led field trips to Civil War battle sites for students and alumni. A crusader for preservation, McPherson in 1991 was named by the U.S. Senate to the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission. He has served as president of the Society of American Historians and the American Historical Association. In 2004, he delivered Princeton's Baccalaureate address. He received his bachelor's degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1958 and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1963.

Fifty years after the publication of his first trailblazing book, he is our premier historian of the American Civil War. His writings have inspired and educated a vast readership, awakening us to how chance and contingency shaped the outcome of the nation's "Iliad." Although a master of complexity and nuance, he has never let us forget that the war fundamentally concerned the fate of what Abraham Lincoln called "the monstrous injustice of slavery." Literally as well as imaginatively, he has walked and re-walked the horrific battlefields of that struggle, with a wit and a sense of tragic irony surpassed only by his moral seriousness.

James West, Doctor of Science

James West, an inventor, engineer and educator, worked for more than 40 years at Bell Laboratories. Since 2002, he has been a research professor of electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering. In 1962, West co-invented the foil electret microphone with his colleague, Gerhard Sessler. The compact, battery-free invention is used widely in telephones, camcorders and audio recording devices. West holds more than 250 patents in the United States and other countries. Among his many awards, he received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. West is a dedicated advocate for increasing diversity in the fields of science and technology. He was instrumental in establishing the Corporate Research Fellowship Program at Bell Labs, which, along with the Graduate Research Program for Women, has funded and graduated more than 400 Ph.D. students over the last four decades. He served on the National Academy of Engineering's Committee on Diversity on the Engineering Workforce and co-founded the Association of Black Lab Employees. At Johns Hopkins, West chaired the Whiting School's Divisional Diversity Council. The graduate fellowships West created for minority and women have supported the graduate work of more than a dozen Princeton alumni. West received his bachelor's degree from Temple University in 1957.

As a child growing up in rural Virginia, he had a near miss with electrocution that sparked a lifelong fascination with electricity. Over more than 40 endlessly inventive years at the storied AT&T Bell Laboratories, he revolutionized the telephone and recording industries.  His tireless advocacy for increased diversity among professionals and students has helped transform the fields of science and technology. His still-growing legacy is manifest in the hundreds of patents he holds and the hundreds of women and minority scientists and engineers, some on our campus, who have benefited from his unending commitment to opening doors once shut.