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ND, SMC award honorary degrees

Amanda Michaels and Kelly Meehan | Friday, May 19, 2006

Joining the more than 2,000 undergraduate and advanced degree candidates receiving diplomas at Notre Dame’s 161st Commencement exercises Sunday will be 12 prominent visitors – including Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Harper Lee.

Along with keynote speaker Irish President Mary McAleese, the recipients – three women and 10 men, including McAleese – will be awarded honorary degrees from the University acknowledging their work in a wide spectrum of professional fields.

Honorary degrees are conferred in recognition of the accomplishments of various individuals. Students, faculty and staff members are all allowed to nominate a person for an honorary degree. University officers, including University President Father John Jenkins, narrow down the pool. Honorees do not necessarily need a connection to the University.

Landrum Bolling, a leader in higher education whose many former roles include president and chairman of the board of Lilly Endowment Inc., chairman and chief executive officer of the National Council on Foundations and president and rector of the Notre Dame-founded Ecumenical Institute in Israel, will receive a doctor of laws.

Kevin Cahill, an expert on tropical medicine who has worked internationally in disaster and crises areas and treated Pope John Paul II after the assassination attempt in 1981, will receive a doctor of science.

Anthony Earley Jr., chairman of the board, chief executive officer, chief operating officer and president of DTE Energy Company, will receive a doctor of engineering.

Norman Francis, president of the nation’s only black Catholic college, Xavier University in New Orleans, who has worked to rebuild the institution since the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, will receive a doctor of humanities.

Lee, author of the widely-read and influential novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961, will receive a doctor of humane letters.

Gil Loescher, political science professor emeritus at Notre Dame and sole survivor of the August 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, which left him badly-injured, will receive a doctor of laws.

Francis Oakley, the president emeritus of Williams College and prominent medieval scholar, will also receive a doctor of laws.

Karen Rauenhorst, a Minneapolis-area community leader and philanthropist who serves on the boards of several Catholic charities and heads the Mark and Karen Rauenhorst Family Foundation with husband Mark, will also receive a doctor of laws.

John Sandner, the retired chair of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the chair of the new futures group of E*trade Securities, will also receive a doctor of laws.

Archbishop Michael Sheehan of the Diocese of Santa Fe, New Mex., recognized for his strong leadership in dealing with a sexual abuse scandal existing in the archdiocese prior to his arrival, will also receive a doctor of laws.

Matthew Storin, a respected journalist who served as editor of the Boston Globe for nine years and is the former associate vice president for News and Information at Notre Dame, will also receive a doctor of laws.

Nationally-recognized trial lawyer Thomas Sullivan, who has worked to improve the criminal justice system, most recently in regards to death penalty reform, will also receive a doctor of laws.

In addition to the honorary degrees, jazz musician Dave Brubeck will be awarded the Laetare Medal, Notre Dame’s highest honor.

Saint Mary’s degrees

Longtime philanthropist MaryAnn Mathile and renowned judges Denise Cote and Ann Claire Williams comprise the 2006 recipient pool of Saint Mary’s honorary degrees, which will be awarded during the College’s May 20 commencement ceremony.

Executive Assistant to the President Susan Dampeer said the recipients are a “great group of amazing women” who serve as examples for what she hopes Saint Mary’s students can become.

“Not only have each of these women reached a pinnacle of perfecting their careers, they are really committed to serve and understand the needs of our population,” Dampeer said.

Mathile, a generous philanthropist from Dayton, Ohio, has focused her efforts on the Mathile Family Foundation, which was established in 1989 to give hope and change in the lives of needy children and families. Today the Foundation benefits Mercy Manor, Womanline and Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley.

Dampeer said Mathile – who specializes in hands-on volunteer work offered up to God – is an “extraordinarily generous woman who has a deep love for the College.” Mathile’s admiration for the College grew from her daughter’s positive experiences while attending Saint Mary’s, Dampeer said.

Cote, a 1968 Saint Mary’s alumna, is a United States District Judge who presided over the WorldCom Trial – one of the largest securities class action settlements in history. She has also served as a judge in cases involving sex discrimination suits, Wall Street, police brutality and immigrant smuggling.

Dampeer said Cote’s successful law career has gained her national attention, which ultimately draws positive attention to the high caliber of undergraduate education offered Saint Mary’s.

Before embarking upon her law career, Cote taught American history, black history and world history at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan.

Williams, who will also address graduates at the May 20 ceremony, serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals. She was the first black woman to sit on the bench for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the first black woman to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

All three recipients were chosen through the College’s selection process, in which candidates are nominated by the Board of Trustees, advisory boards of the College, faculty, staff and students.

According to the selection process guidelines, nominees must exhibit significant achievements marked by “recognized intellectual and personal attainment,” “significant contribution to the enhancement of Saint Mary’s College” and “contribution to other recognized organizations in the city, state or world.”

Nominations must be supported by significant information and then pass several reviews by College committees before the final decision is made by the College president.

Dampeer said it is a “great honor” to have all three recipients present at the 2006 commencement ceremony.

Each of these women show a sincere love for the College and have “done great work throughout the country,” she said.