Honorary Degrees Awarded to Blacks at This Spring’s Commencement Ceremonies of the Nation’s Highest-Ranked Universities

This spring the nation’s 30 highest-ranked universities and 30 highest-ranked liberal arts colleges bestowed honorary degrees on 34 blacks. This is four more than in 2010. The number of honorary degrees awarded to blacks peaked in 2007 when 44 were awarded. The lowest number of honorary degrees awarded to blacks by our top colleges and universities in the 17 years JBHE has tracked these awards was 24 in 2006.

This spring the nation’s 30 high-ranking universities bestowed 21 honorary degrees on blacks. Princeton University gave honorary degrees to three African Americans. Duke, Harvard, Tufts, the University of Michigan, Washington University, and the University of Pennsylvania, each gave out honorary degrees to two blacks.

Here is a list of the honorands at the nation’s leading research universities:

Brown University
Lynn Ida Nottage, a 1986 Brown graduate, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

Columbia University
Ornette Coleman is an American saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer.

Dartmouth College
Ruby Dee is an actress who has appeared on stage, screen, and television. She has been presented with the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.

Duke University
Rita Dove, former poet laureate of the United States, is the Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia.
Alan Page, former star defensive lineman of the Minnesota Vikings, is a justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Harvard University
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is president of the African nation, Liberia.
David Satcher, former Surgeon General of the United States, is now director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Johns Hopkins University
Freeman A. Hrabowski III is the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Northwestern University
Judith Jamison is the artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City.

Princeton University
Hank Aaron is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Geoffrey Canada is president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone.
Judith Jamison is a dancer, choreographer, and actress who enrolled at Fisk University at the age of 15.

Tufts University
Geoffrey Canada is a member of the board of directors of The After-School Corporation.
Jamaica Kincaid is an award-winning writer of fiction and nonfiction. She is currently a professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College.

University of Michigan
Shelton Spike Lee is an educator and filmmaker.
Eugene Robinson writes a twice-a-week column on politics and culture for The Washington Post.

University of Pennsylvania
Denzel Washington is an Academy Award-winning actor.
Mo Ibrahim is a Sudanese mobile communications entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Washington University
Shirley Ann Jackson, former chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
Griffin P. Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, also had a son in the graduating class. It was the first time in the university's history that a father and son won honorary and bachelor's degrees at the same time.

Yale University
Youssou Ndour is a Senegalese singer, percussionist, and actor.

Next week, we will list the honorary degrees given to blacks by the nation’s top liberal arts colleges.



The Higher Education of the New President-Elect of the PTA

Otha Thornton, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is the new president elect of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). When he takes office in July 2013, he will be the first black man to head the PTA.

Thornton is native of Georgia and a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta. He earned a master’s degree from Michigan Technological University. He earned a Bronze Star for his Army service in Iraq where he was an intelligence officer. In 2009, he received an honorary doctorate from Michigan Tech.

He has a son who is currently enrolled at Morehouse and a daughter who is a student at Spelman College.


The New Prime Minister of Thailand Holds a Degree From an HBCU

Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party scored a huge victory in last week’s parliamentary elections in Thailand. She is the first woman elected prime minister of the Asian nation. It is only the second time in Thailand’s history that one party has held an absolute majority in the country’s House of Representatives.

The new prime minister is the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra who served as prime minister until he was overthrown in a 2006 military coup. Yingluck Shinawatra is a graduate of Chiang Mai University in Thailand and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Kentucky State University.

Private HBCUs in Florida See Sharp Drop in State Aid

After a lot of legal maneuvering, the Florida legislature finalized a budget that contained a 4 percent cut for public higher education in the state. In addition, state universities will need to boost tuition by about 15 percent in order to balance their operating budgets.

Private black colleges and universities in the state will see an even bigger cut in state aid. The legislature cut state appropriations for private HBCUs by 7 percent to $8.7 million. The private black schools have seen a reduction of 27 percent in state aid since the 2007-08 academic year.

The private black colleges and universities in Florida include Bethune-Cookman University, Florida Memorial University, and Edward Waters College.



In Memoriam

Hershel K. Swinger (1939-2011)

Hershel K. Swinger, a clinical psychologist, children’s advocate, and longtime educator, died recently at his home in Baldwin Hills, California, from congestive heart failure. He was 72 years old.

Dr. Swinger was the founder and director of Project Fatherhood, which provided support and training for more than 7,000 low-income, urban fathers over the past 15 years. In 2006 he received a $7.5 million grant to institute Project Fatherhood in 50 locations throughout Los Angeles County.

Swinger was a native of Parsons, Kansas. After graduating from high school, he moved to California and enrolled at Los Angeles City College. After two years, he transferred to California State University at Los Angeles where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He later received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Southern California.

He was on the faculty at CalState Los Angeles for 30 years. He was also senior vice president of the Children’s Institute in Los Angeles.

Billy Lewis (1938-2011)

Billy Lewis, the first African-American basketball player at the University of Colorado, who later served as general counsel at Howard University, died at his home in Atlanta after suffering cardiac arrest. He was 72 years old.

Lewis was born in Kansas City but went to high school in Denver. In 1957 Lewis was the first black varsity basketball player to see action for the University of Colorado. He was also the first African American to be elected student body president at the university.

Lewis went on to work for U.S. senator Peter Dominic while earning his law degree at Howard University. In 1964 he was the first black corporate attorney at IBM’s headquarters in Armonk, New York. He later served as general counsel for Howard University.


Honors and Awards

Diebedo Francis Kere, was awarded the Marcus Prize for Architecture from the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The award comes with a $50,000 cash prize.

Kere is a native of Burkina Faso. He is a graduate of the School of Architecture at the Technical University of Berlin. He later founded his own architectural firm in the German capital. Kere was honored for his works which include a Red Cross museum in Switzerland, a school for girls in India, and an international conference center in Burkina Faso.

Dolph Pulliam, director of community outreach and development at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, was named Citizen of the Year at the Iowa Juneteenth Observance. Earlier in his career, Pulliam was the first African-American television broadcaster in the state of Iowa.


Grants and Gifts

Government statistics show that one of every 10 African-American women over the age of 20 and one of every four African-American women over the age of 55 have diabetes. The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation has made five grants totaling $1.5 million to help these women better manage their disease. Two of the five grants went to universities.

The University of Virginia received a grant to evaluate the effectiveness of a program that uses text messaging and a “buddy” system to support African-American women with diabetes.

East Carolina University received a grant to support a care navigation system for African-American women in four rural communities in eastern North Carolina.

The Marin County Foundation in California announced more than $6 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and local school districts to help low-income and minority students attend college. The grants include funds for college scholarships and for college readiness programs.

President William Harvey and his wife Norma have donated $166,000 to Hampton University to support a wage increase to $8 an hour for 118 staff members who earned below that level.

This past spring, the Harveys donated $1 million to the university to raise salaries for about 300 instructional staff members at Hampton.

The University of California at Los Angeles, historically black Charles R. University of Medicine and Science and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center are sharing a five-year $81.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to improve health care in Los Angeles County.

The unemployment rate in June for African Americans was 16.2 percent, exactly double the rate for whites. What is your prediction for the immediate trend in black unemployment?
It will move higher before it gets better.
It will hover around the same rate.
Improvement is coming soon.


Howard University Names a New Dean of Its College of Medicine

Mark S. Johnson was appointed dean of the College of Medicine at Howard University. When he takes office on August 1, Dr. Johnson will be the college’s 17th dean since its founding in 1868. Dr. Johnson was the founding chair of the department of family medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Previously he taught at Meharry Medical College in Nashville and the University of South Alabama.

A native of Newark, New Jerse,. Dr. Johnson graduated from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He holds a master of public health degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a medical doctorate from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.



Several New Degree Programs Announced at HBCUs

• The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is adding three new science degree programs. The university will offer a bachelor’s degree program in biochemistry, beginning this fall. Within four years, the university hopes to have 35 majors in the subject.

In addition, the university will offer a master’s degree program in chemistry and a master’s degree in physician assistant studies. The master’s degree in chemistry program will begin accepting students this fall. The physician assistant master’s program will begin in 2013.

Fort Valley State University in Georgia will now be offering a master’s degree program in history. The university has received several applicants for the new program.

• The School of Business at Howard University is offering an online executive MBA program. The program, scheduled to begin in January 2012, will allow students to complete their degree program in 18 months while continuing to hold full-time jobs.

North Carolina Central University in Durham will offer a Ph.D. program in integrated biosciences. The program will be offered on two tracks, biomedical sciences and pharmaceutical sciences. It will be the first Ph.D. program and second doctoral program at the university. NCCU had an educational doctorate program from 1955 to 1964.

The university hopes to have 20 students enrolled in the new Ph.D. program within four years.


The University of Colorado Reports Progress in Increasing Student Diversity

The University of Colorado at Boulder reports that minority student enrollments have reached an all-time high. In the 2010-11 academic year, minorities made up 16 percent of all students. That year there were 4,082 minority students on campus, compared to 3,832 the year before.

The number of minority students earning bachelor degrees hit an all-time high of 795 in 2010. This is an increase of 45 percent since 2003.

The university reports that the retention rate, the percentage of freshman students who return for their second year, was 84 percent for minority students. For white students, the retention rate was 85 percent.


Higher Education Behind Prison Walls

The Prison University Project at San Quentin Prison in California enrolls about 320 students in associate’s degree programs. More than 100 faculty members from Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and other educational institutions volunteer their time as instructors. Of the total number of students enrolled in the Prison University Project, more than half are African Americans.

The Nonprofit That Helps Minority Women Earn Doctorates

EduSeed is a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that seeks to improve the educational opportunities for disadvantaged groups. One of its projects, called SisterMentors, help women of color who are seeking doctoral degrees. By using women mentors who have gone through the process before, the program helps doctoral candidates prepare for examinations and guides them through the dissertation process.

This June five members of the SisterMentors organization completed their doctoral studies. They are:

• Fanta Aw earned a Ph.D. in sociology at American University in Washington. D.C.

• Joelle Davis Carter was awarded a doctorate in educational leadership, higher education, and international studies from the University of Maryland.

• Barbara Ceptus was awarded a Ph.D. in cultural studies at the University of California at Davis.

• Kendra Kittrell earned a doctor of science degree in physical therapy at the University Maryland at Baltimore.

• Melanie Harris was awarded a Ph.D. in marine estuarine and environmental science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Over the past 15 years, 40 minority women have been aided by the organization on their way to doctoral degrees. For more information in the program, click here.

New Military Resource Center at Fort Valley State University

Fort Valley State University, the historically black educational institution in Georgia, has established a new center on campus to help military personnel make the transition from the armed forces to college life. The Military Resource Center will help military men and women and their dependents with all aspects of the college experience from admission to graduation. The center will provide counseling, financial aid, peer support groups, and assistance with health matters. The program is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.


Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

The Oklahoma State University Board of Regents has bestowed the title of Regents Professor on Estella Atekwana. She holds the Sun Chair in geology at Oklahoma State.

Dr. Atekwana holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and a Ph.D. in geophysics from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

James Brooks was named director of student financial aid and scholarships at the University of Oregon. He was director of student financial aid at the University of Missouri’s flagship campus in Columbia.

Brooks is a graduate of Anderson College in Indiana. He holds a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Notre Dame.

Terrence Hardee was named director of the Shirlee and Bernard Brown University Center at Cumberland County College in Vineland, New Jersey. He was director of residential life at Richard Stockton College.

Dr. Hardee is a graduate of Concord College. He earned a master’s degree at Marshall University and a doctorate at Drew University.

Pamela Waldon-Moore was promoted from associate professor to professor of political science at Xavier University in New Orleans. She has served on the university’s faculty for 13 years.

Dr. Waldon-Moore holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Houston.

Carleton Pickron was named interim vice president for student affairs at Westfield State University in Massachusetts. He has been serving as dean of multicultural affairs at the university.

Dr. Pickron holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Springfield College and a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Gerard Robinson was appointed commissioner of education for the state of Florida. He was secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Robinson holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Howard University and a master’s degree from Harvard University.

E. Janyce Dawkins was named interim director of the Equal Opportunity Office at the University of Georgia. She has been serving as the office's associate director.

Dawkins holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She is a graduate of the Florida State University School of Law. She previously taught business law at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

Mary P. Watkins, professor of nursing at Delaware State University in Dover, is retiring. She has been granted emerita status by the university's board of trustees. Professor Watkins came to Delaware State in 1993 after teaching at Coppin State University in Baltimore.

Professor Watkins will now concentrate on completing a textbook in pathophysiology in advanced practice nursing.




Copyright © 2011. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.