GC Announces 2016 Honorary Degree Recipients

The Graduate Center will award three honorary degrees and the President’s Distinguished Alumni Medal at its Fifty-Second Commencement Exercises on Friday, June 3, President Chase F. Robinson announced.
Renowned artist Lorna Simpson; writer, art expert, and philanthropist Reba White Williams; and digital media/entertainment pioneer Curtis Wong have been selected as this year's honorary degree recipients.

Dennis C. Liotta (Ph.D. Chemistry, 1974), the chemist who developed life-saving drugs for HIV and AIDS, will receive the 2016 President's Distinguished Alumni Medal.
Additional details about 2016 Commencement will be posted Monday. Read more about this year’s honorands below:


Lorna Simpson (Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa) is a boundary-pushing artist whose work has been heralded as “refined and impassioned” by The New York Times.


Simpson first achieved national prominence in the 1980s with large-scale works that drew on photography and text to confront the topic of race. Today, Simpson is known internationally for her provocative works that address concepts of gender, ethnicity, culture, and identity.
She was born in Brooklyn, attended the High School of Art and Design and the School of Visual Arts in New York, and received an M.F.A. from the University of California, San Diego. She started as a documentary street photographer; later, she composed photographs in her studio.
By the mid-1980s, Simpson was celebrated as a pioneer of conceptual photography. A decade later, she was creating multi-panel works, printed on felt. More recently, she has expanded to include film and video. Her work has been widely exhibited by museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2007, the Whitney Museum of American Art presented a 20-year retrospective of her work.


Reba White Williams (Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa) has had a wide and varied career — as an expert on fine art prints, a mystery writer, and a philanthropist.

Williams was raised in Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina, and earned her Bachelor of Arts from Duke University. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she hoped to make it as a fiction writer. Instead, she began writing articles on art, business, and finance.
She went on to earn an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1970, where she was one of 30 women in her graduating class; an M.A. in Art History from Hunter College; and a Ph.D. in Art History from the Graduate Center. She also received an M.A. in Fiction Writing from Antioch University. Her writing has appeared in American ArtistArt and AuctionPrint Quarterly, and Journal of the Print World. More recently, she fulfilled her dream of writing fiction; she is the author of four mystery novels.
In the mid-1970s, Williams and her husband, Dave H. Williams, began to collect American fine-art prints, focusing on the early 20th century. Over the next three decades, they had amassed a collection of more than 5,000 prints, most of which they donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 2008.


Curtis Wong (Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa), principal researcher at Microsoft Research, is an inventor and creator devoted to the future of digital media and interactive for learning.


He has been granted 57 patents, in areas ranging from data visualization and user interaction to media browsing and automated cinematography.
His recent work has included leading Microsoft’s interactive spatial-temporal data visualization efforts in Excel which allows users to gain insight from the patterns of data rendered on a map over time. In 2008, he fulfilled a long-held dream: leading the vision for the WorldWide Telescope, a free, rich interactive virtual simulation that allows children of all ages to explore and understand the universe. Millions of kids of all ages around the world have used the WorldWide Telescope, known as WWT, to learn about astronomy from scientists and educators, and the PBS station WGBH was awarded a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation to leverage WWT for science education.
Before joining Microsoft, Wong was the Director at Intel Productions in Silicon Valley, where he developed the first broadband major art museum exhibition network on the Web in 1998, featuring 3D recreations of art exhibitions at the Whitney Museum, the National Gallery of Art, and other museums. His work has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the first Interactive Television Emmy nomination in 2002, a British Academy Award for Online Learning, and several New York Film Festivals Gold Medals.  


Dennis C. Liotta (President’s Distinguished Alumni Medal) helped develop a component of the combination therapy that is the standard for treating patients with HIV, and has been credited with saving and extending many lives.


According to Emory’s estimates, more than nine out of 10 patients with HIV have taken a drug developed by Liotta.
His medical breakthroughs have not been limited to AIDS research. Liotta discovered the first drug approved for the treatment of hepatitis B, and a pharmaceutical company he founded went on to develop what is now the first-line therapy for treating hepatitis C. Other biotech companies founded by Liotta are researching potential treatments for various types of cancer, stroke, and traumatic brain injuries.
Liotta also founded a series of outreach programs in South Africa, including a scholar exchange program that offers postdoctoral researchers and graduate students the chance to spend a year at pharmaceutical companies in the United States and Europe. He has received many awards for his teaching and research, including Emory’s Thomas Jefferson Award.

Submitted on: MAY 10, 2016

Category: Chemistry | Diversity | General GC News