Commencement 2011

Time and Place

11 a.m., Friday, May 27, 2011, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Avenue & 65th Street).


490 doctorates and 89 master’s degrees awarded

Honorary Degrees

Doctor of Humane Letters to Ina Caro, author, historian, scholar, and expert researcher for the biographer Robert Caro, her husband

Doctor of Humane Letters to Robert Caro, two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer for his monumental studies of Robert Moses and President Lyndon B. Johnson

Doctor of Humane Letters to John Harrison Streicker, Graduate Center Foundation Board member, instrumental in developing a new residential facility for students and faculty

Student Speaker

Andrew David Newman, Ph.D. in Anthropology, assistant professor at Wayne State University beginning in the fall of 2011.

Commencement Address

Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Urban Education, Liberal Studies, and Women’s Studies, CUNY Graduate Center: A specialist in the field of social-personality psychology, Michelle Fine is a founding member of the Graduate Center Participatory Action Research Collective. She uses critical feminist theory and method in her research, which focuses on youth in schools, communities, and prisons. Before coming to the Graduate Center in 1990, she taught at the University of Pennsylvania for over a decade. Her many books include Revolutionizing Education: Youth Participatory Action Research in Motion (with J. Cammorata, 2008); Muslim American Youth: Understanding Hyphenated Identities through Multiple Methods (with S. Sirin, 2008); and Beyond Silenced Voices: Class, Race, and Gender in United States Schools (with L. Weis, 2005, winner of the Critics Choice Award of the American Educational Studies Association). She earned her Ph.D. at Columbia University.

Closing Remarks

President William P. Kelly

Citation for Ina Caro — Doctor of Humane Letters

As an historian, you are a deeply learned authority on medieval and modern France. As a writer, you are the author of two elegant books that bring to life the rich past of France for travelers of today. As a scholar, you are renowned as one of the world’s great archival detectives: the sole researcher for your biographer husband’s magisterial studies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson. Your peerless gift for identifying the telling detail undergirds the rich texture and commanding authenticity of those biographies.

Your best-selling The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France leads your readers from the imperial Roman sites of Provence, past the fortified keeps of Languedoc and the castles that bound the Dordogne, through Chinon and the Loire Valley, and on to the Paris of Napoleon. At every turn, your sparkling prose brings history to life. Richly layering past and present, you rescue the consequential from the encrustations of time. Your perspective is comprehensive; your erudition vast. In the words of our great and beloved colleague, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “For all who love France and its history, The Road from the Past is the essential traveling companion.”

Your new book, Paris to the Past, builds on that earlier achievement. There you take us on twenty-five one-day trips from Paris. Each carries us into the past and brings us back informed, enriched, and delighted. Collectively these journeys stretch across eight centuries of French history, ranging from the twelfth-century construction of the Cathedral of Saint-Denis through the nineteenth-century restoration at Chantilly. We visit Chartres, Rouen, and Sainte-Chapelle; we encounter Joan of Arc, Monet, Francis I, and Henry IV, and we relive the siege of La Rochelle and the turmoil of the French Revolution. In these accounts, you draw in equal parts on your skill as a researcher and your talent as a stylist. A tour-de-force of engaged historiography, Paris to the Past is a great gift to your readers and a major contribution to the literature of travel.

With gratitude for the pleasure and the knowledge you share unstintingly with us, for your scholarship and profound understanding of France past and present, for your consummate archival skills, and for your invaluable contributions to our understanding of the careers of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York is proud to confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Citation for Robert Caro — Doctor of Humane Letters

Ours is an era rich in biographers, among whom none better exemplifies the marriage of scholarship and style that is the defining virtue of your art. None more passionately pursues truth, strives to capture the texture of a life as it was lived, or records more scrupulously the impact your subjects have upon the lives of others.

You have been richly and rightly honored for your efforts. Twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize, you also twice received the National Book Critics Circle Award for the Best Nonfiction Book of the Year, and you count among your many other honors the National Book Award, the Society of American Historians’ Francis Parkman Prize, and the Gold Medal in Biography of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Presenting you with a National Humanities Medal last year, President Obama recalled reading your biography of Robert Moses when he was 22, noting, “I’m sure it helped to shape how I think about politics.”

You began work on The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York in 1967, ten years after graduation from Princeton, following a six-year stretch as an investigative reporter for Newsday and a year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. Published in 1974, the widely acclaimed work was lauded by David Halberstam as “Surely, the greatest book ever written about a city,” and was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest nonfiction books of the twentieth century.

The extraordinary lengths to which you went in compiling research for The Power Broker have been more than matched by the efforts to uncover details of our 36th President’s life in the three published volumes of your Years of Lyndon Johnson. To give the first volume, The Path to Power, what you call “a sense of place,” you and your wife moved from Manhattan to Johnson City, Texas, population 372. Citing “Caro’s evocation of the Texas Hill Country, his elaboration of Johnson’s unsleeping ambition, his understanding of how politics actually works,” The Washington Post found The Path to Power “of radiant excellence” and “proof that we live in a great age of biography.”

No less praised have been the volumes that followed, Means of Ascent and Master of the Senate. You have, wrote Nicholas von Hoffman, “changed the art of political history.” Indeed you have, for the depth of your research and the pleasure of your prose make you an outstanding exemplar for our graduates, and it is a privilege for the Graduate Center of the City University of New York to confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Citation for John Harrison Streicker — Doctor of Humane Letters

Driving force of a worldwide real estate corporation and gifted philanthropist, you personify a style of wide-ranging social responsibility that willingly assumes obligations and generously seeks to serve the many communities of which you are a part.

A graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Yale Law School, you early left the field of law for the world of investment and joined Sentinel Real Estate Corporation in 1976. Under your leadership, as president and CEO and now as board chairman, Sentinel has grown and thrived and today manages more than $5 billion in real estate assets, including some sixty thousand apartments and nine million square feet of commercial properties.

Quick to take on community responsibilities, you chaired Manhattan’s Community Board 5, the citizen’s advisory group for much of midtown. In Washington, you served on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 2001 to 2005. You have taught at Yale University’s School of Organization and Management and serve on the Board of the Yale Law School Fund, as well as the boards of New York’s Temple Emanu-El and the Graduate Center Foundation.

You are not only a member of the Australia Wildlife Foundation’s board, but you are credited with having founded this U.S.-based international charitable organization. Supporting its mission of conservation and research, you have helped acquire land in Australia to preserve that continent’s threatened ecosystems and unique wildlife.

As a philanthropist, you exercise rare judgment and commitment to the projects you support. Your gift to Princeton of a pedestrian bridge that spans a road dividing the campus has both symbolic and practical value. It provides safe and easy passage for pedestrians, and, as that University’s president says, “It will stand as a symbol of connection among the various disciplines on campus.”

Here at the Graduate Center, you were the chief champion of affordable housing for students and faculty. When the first occupants move into the new Graduate Center Apartments on CUNY’S East Harlem campus this fall they will have you to thank, not only for your significant financial support but also for the many hours you spent advancing the project over the nine years it took to make our residence hall a reality.

In gratitude for your rare brand of public spirit, the wisdom you bring to your philanthropy, and the energy with which you pursue projects that enrich the lives of others, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York is pleased to confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.