May 27, 2015, 5 p.m.
Avery Fisher Hall
10 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023
HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENTS
Patricia Phelps de Cisneros
Doctor of Humane Letters
One of art's foremost leaders, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros is a "a patron on a mission," as the Financial Times
has noted, praised for bringing art to audiences around the world. Supporting Latin American art, specifically — and encouraging appreciation of its diversity, range, and sophistication — has been her priority for more than four decades. The generosity with which Ms. Phelps de Cisneros shares her vast holdings, ranging from abstract sculpture to ethnographic material collected over more than three decades of expeditions, upends an art canon traditionally dominated by European and North American art. In the 1970s, along with her husband, Gustavo A. Cisneros, she founded the Fundación Cisneros, based in New York City and Caracas. In the years since, the foundation's Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC), its primary art program, has encouraged scholarship of Latin American art, excellence in visual arts education, and expertise among Latin American art professionals. The power of her work cannot be overestimated: more than seven million people in the last 16 years have seen objects from her Orinoco collection alone, a reflection of her insistence that art be accessible to all.
Doctor of Humane Letters
Lydia Davis is a novelist, a renowned translator of Proust and Flaubert, and an essayist. But among all of her accomplishments, she is best known as an author of short stories. Very short stories. Often with just a hint of narrative, they conjure entire worlds, with darkness, depth, and humor. Her wit and precision have earned her numerous awards, including the Man Booker International Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the Academy of Arts and Letters' Award of Merit Medal. She is also the winner of a Whiting Writer's Award and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her first full-length book, Break It Down
, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1986. More followed, leading to the 2009 publication of her Collected Stories
— 750 pages, with some 200 stories drawn from three decades of work. Last year saw the publication of her latest collection, Can't and Won't
, to international acclaim. Guiding and inspiring students to discover their own talents, Ms. Davis is a beloved professor and writer-in-residence at the University of Albany of the State University of New York.
Doctor of Humane Letters
A leading activist on behalf of immigrant women workers in the United States, Ai-jen Poo has helped empower the estimated two million domestic workers — nannies, caregivers, and housekeepers — who receive few protections under federal and state labor laws. Ms. Poo first embarked on her career as an activist and organizer two decades ago, when she became the Women Workers Project organizer at the Committee Against Asian-American Violence. In 2000, she co-founded Domestic Workers United, which spearheaded the successful passage in 2010 of New York State's historic Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. That same year, she also became the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the nation's leading proponent for dignity and fairness for millions. To help citizens age with dignity, security, and respect, Ms. Poo helped launch Caring Across Generations—"nothing less than a 180-degree turn in the way that Americans think about themselves, one another, the economy, and workers," as The Nation
described it. Last year, The New Press published her book, The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America
PRESIDENT'S DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI MEDAL
Maggie Johnson, Ph.D.
(Computer Science, 1991)
"Our future as a nation depends on the education of our children, and computer science must be a part of that education," Maggie Johnson wrote in 2012. As the director of education and university relations for Google, Dr. Johnson not only manages every facet of the company's technical training and content development, but also its K-12 education programs in STEM and computer science. She also serves as a senior lecturer in computer science at Stanford University — a role she maintains after nearly a quarter century — teaching courses ranging from discrete mathematics and introductory graphics to ethics and social responsibility. For three years beginning in 2003, she helped lead the department as assistant chair and director of educational affairs and undergraduate studies, setting institutional direction for computer science. Not incidentally, the program continues to appear at or near the top of every major academic ranking. Dr. Johnson has also sought to advance education, computing, and science through her work for the National Science Foundation's National STEM Education Distributed Learning program, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the University of California College Prep Initiative.
Distinguished Professor Stephen Neale
Ph.D. Programs in Philosophy and Linguistics
Kornblith Chair in the Philosophy of Science and Value
Professor Stephen Neale, who came to the Graduate Center in 2007, is generally acknowledged as one of the best philosophers of his generation in the English-speaking world, and the best working at the interface between philosophy of language and linguistics. "To date my work has been primarily in the philosophy of language," he has said, "which I construe broadly so as to intersect meaningfully with generative linguistics, the philosophy of mind, cognitive science, philosophical logic, metaphysics, theory of legal interpretation, and literary theory. Much of my writing, research and lecturing has been on interlaced questions about meaning, interpretation, context, structure, and representation." His two books, Descriptions (1993) and Facing Facts (2002), have both been tremendously influential, and he has two books forthcoming with Oxford University Press: Linguistic Pragmatism and Term Limits. Professor Neale has served as an adviser to the Department of Justice on linguistic, logical, and philosophical issues, particularly in connection with Internet filtering technology.
STUDENT SPEAKER: ON BEHALF OF THE GRADUATES
D.M.A Program in Music
Dr. Alice Jones graduated in May 2015 with a D.M.A. in Music from the Graduate Center. An avid symphonic, chamber, theater, and contemporary musician, with performances ranging from the Brandenburg Concerti to New York City's Look and Listen Festival, Dr. Jones was praised by Mario Davidovsky as "the flute player who could really play." She has been a featured soloist and chamber musician at the Composers Now Festival at Symphony Space in New York City (2010 and 2011), the Yale-China Music Exchange in China (2007 and 2008), the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival (2010), and Chamber Music Campania in Italy (2013-2015).
Photo credit: Rachel Ramirez, Howard Heyman