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Eight, including Obama, receive ND honorary degrees

Aaron Steiner | Sunday, May 17, 2009

Although the conferral of an honorary degree caused much controversy at Sunday’s Commencement at Notre Dame, President Barack Obama was not the only person to receive the honor.

The University conferred honorary doctorates on eight “distinguished figures in academia, business, athletics, engineering, law and philanthropy,” according to a University press release.

The inscription on Obama’s degree noted his “historic election” which opened “a new era of hope in a country long divided by its history of slavery and racism.

“A community organizer who honed his advocacy for the poor, the marginalized and the worker in the streets of Chicago, he now organizes a large community, bringing to the world stage a renewed American dedication to diplomacy and dialogue,” the degree read.

“Through his willingness to engage with those who disagree with him and encourage people of faith to bring their beliefs to the public debate, he is inspiring this nation to heal its divisions of religion, culture, race and politics in the audacious hope for a brighter tomorrow,” the degree concluded.

Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court Randall T. Shepard received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Having served as chief justice since 1987, Shepard was recently appointed to the U.S. Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules by United States Chief Justice John Roberts.

Shepard’s degree called him a “political visionary, civic reformer and public educator.”

Myles Brand, president of the NCAA, will was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Brand, who is ill, was unable to attend the ceremony. His degree noted that this “philosopher by training” is “a reform-minded leader who … is pushing universities to prioritize the academic experience for student-athletes.”

A Doctor of Humane Letters degree was awarded to Cindy Parseghian, a Notre Dame graduate who founded the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation along with her husband. The Foundation works to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C disease.

“With the strength and heart that only a mother can possess, she has combined deep determination with unwavering faith to become an inspiration and example to all,” her degree read.

Parseghian, the daughter of the legendary Notre Dame football coach, received a standing ovation upon receipt of her degree.

President Emeritus of Purdue University Steven Beering received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Beering served as president of Purdue from 1983 to 2000 and is currently the chair of the National Science Board.

His degree noted he has “helped forge the principles of translational research that inform and guide the research aspirations on this campus.”

An honorary Doctor of Engineering degree was awarded to Patrick Finneran, vice president of program management and business excellence for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. Finneran, a Notre Dame graduate, has “led every military aircraft program at Boeing’s St. Louis site,” according to a University press release.

His degree called him a “skilled leader, adroit manager, active citizen and proud alumnus” who “has live a life of honor, courage and commitment.”

Fritz L. Duda, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Duda is the chief executive officer of a Dallas-based investment company, and he owns a real estate and investment firm.

“This visionary’s many contributions to Notre Dame seamlessly serve the past, present and future, and weave together a tapestry with the grace and beauty which befit the home of Our Lady’s University,” his degree read.

President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Don Michael Randel also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Randel taught at Cornell University for 32 years and served as the dean of the university’s college of arts and letters. He was appointed president of the University of Chicago in 2000.

“A scholar, educator and philanthropist,” according to the inscription on his degree, “he deftly directs one of the nation’s leading contributors to a broad range of initiatives in higher education” as president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.