February 11, 2009
To Members of the Bowdoin Community:
I am delighted to announce that the Board of Trustees has approved the recommendation of the Subcommittee on Honors to award five honorary degrees during Bowdoin’s 204th Commencement exercises on May 23.
Honorary degrees will be awarded to esteemed playwright Edward Albee; renowned artist Stephen W. Hannock ‘74; leading cancer researcher Olufunmilayo Olopade; human rights advocate Kenneth Roth; and environmental activist and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Shelia Watt-Cloutier. Additional biographical information about these distinguished individuals appears below.
We are currently planning for Commencement Weekend and anticipate events led by each of our honorands that will permit our community to meet and learn from these exceptionally talented people. I hope you will mark your calendars to celebrate with us.
My thanks to the Subcommittee on Honors, led by its chair, John Studzinski ‘78, for their work and for recommending such an inspiring group of honorands.
With best wishes,
Edward Albee established himself as one of America’s premier playwrights more than a half-century ago. Over the course of his extraordinary career he received three Pulitzer Prizes for drama (for "A Delicate Balance" , "Seascape" , and "Three Tall Women" ), a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005, the Gold Medal in Drama from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1980), Kennedy Center Honors (1996), and the National Medal of Arts (1996). Born in Virginia in 1928, he was adopted at an early age and grew up in New York, where he became familiar with the theater. He briefly attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, before taking a series of jobs – dialogue writer for a radio station, Western Union messenger – that allowed him time to write. He wrote his first play, The Zoo Story, in 1958, which had its premiere in Berlin, Germany. His plays include "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," "The Sandbox," "The American Dream," and "The Play About the Baby." He once described his plays as “an examination of the American Scene, an attack on the substitution of artificial for real values in our society, a condemnation of complacency, cruelty, and emasculation and vacuity, a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen.” Since 1988 he has been a Distinguished Professor of Theater in the School of Theater at the University of Houston, which holds the Edward Albee New Playwrights Workshop each year. Mr. Albee established the Edward F. Albee Foundation in 1967, which maintains the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Persons Center on Montauk, Long Island. In the fall of 2008 Mr. Albee spoke at the Common Hour.
Stephen W. Hannock ’74
Stephen W. Hannock is a renowned luminist landscape artist and a member of the Bowdoin Class of 1974. A native of Albany, New York, he attended Bowdoin and Smith College, and graduated from Hampshire College in 1975. While at Smith he studied with Leonard Baskin. From his early work with phosphorescent paints, Mr. Hannock demonstrated a keen appreciation for the quality of light and for the limitations of conventional materials and techniques for capturing that light. His experiments with machine-polishing the surfaces of his paintings give a trademark luminous quality to his large landscapes. His design of visual effects for the 1998 film "What Dreams May Come" won an Academy Award. Mr. Hannock returned to the College in 200 as a Common Hour speaker. His recently created work for the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, “Oxbow for Bowdoin College; Flooded River for Leonard Baskin and David P. Becker (Mass MoCA #49), was the only solo-opening at the re-dedication of the renovated Walker Art Building. His works are in the collections of the Smith College Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, as well as in a number of prominent private collections.
Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade is a professor of medicine and human genetics and the director of the Cancer Risk Clinic at the University of Chicago Hospitals; she is an international leader in breast cancer research. Dr. Olopade grew up in Nigeria, received her M.D. in 1980 from the University of Ibadan and served as a medical officer at the Nigerian Navy Hospital in Lagos. She completed her internship and residency at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital, was a postdoctoral fellow in hematology and oncology at the University of Chicago from 1987 to 1991, and has been on the University of Chicago faculty since 1991. A highly skilled hematology oncologist and expert on cancer risk assessment, she received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2005 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for “translating findings on the molecular genetics of breast cancer in African and African-American women into innovative clinical practices in the United States and abroad.” Dr. Olopade has received numerous awards, including the University of Ibadan Sir Samuel Manuwa Gold Medal for Excellence in Clinical Sciences in 1980, the Association for Brain Tumor Research/Ellen Ruth Lebow Fellowship in 1990, the American Society for Clinical Oncology Young Investigator Award in 1991, the James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar award in 1992, the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award in 2000, the Phenomenal Woman Award in 2003 for her work in the African-American community, and the Heroes in Healthcare Award from the Access Community Network in 2005.
Kenneth Roth has been the executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993. Born in Elmhurst, Illinois, he graduated magna cum laude from Brown University in 1977 and received a J.D. degree from Yale University in 1980. From 1981-83 he was a litigator in a private law practice in New York, and from 1983-87 served as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. He was an associate counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra before becoming the deputy director of Human Rights Watch in New York City in 1987. Mr. Roth’s commitment to human rights issues grew from his father’s experiences fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938 and his own reactions to the declaration of martial law in Poland in 1981 and top military repression in Haiti. Under his leadership Human Rights Watch has expanded the scope of its investigations to 70 countries, has quadrupled in the number of staff engaged in human rights work, and has added special programs to address issues of refugees, human rights emergencies, children’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, AIDS, terrorism and counterterrorism, and the responsibilities of multinational corporations to uphold human rights. Mr. Roth has written many reports on human rights abuses around the world, contributes important articles and essays, and gives interviews and speeches about the ongoing work of Human Rights Watch. By shining a bright light on abuses that occur in corners of the world that receive little media attention, or by taking on human rights issues that are in the center of the hot spotlight of international debate, Human Rights Watch exposes uncomfortable truths and provokes reactions from all sides of an issue. For 16 years the public face, voice, and words of Human Rights watch have been Kenneth Roth.
Environmental activist and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier has been a powerful and effective voice in the growing discussion of global climate change, human rights, and political and economic policies within the international arena. A Canadian Inuit, Ms. Watt-Cloutier was born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, Northern Quebec, in 1953. For the first ten years of her life she was raised in a traditional Inuit community, traveling by dog sled. She attended school in Nova Scotia and in Churchill, Manitoba, before enrolling at McGill University. She worked at Ungava Hospital as an Inuktitut translator and for years was an advocate for improving the health and education systems that served Inuit communities. Beginning in 1995 she became an important figure on the international stage as corporate secretary of Makivik Corporation, the Canadian Inuit land-claim organization established for Nunavik. As president of Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) Canada she represented the interests of 155,000 Inuit in Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland at the Stockholm Convention that banned the manufacture and use of persistent organic pollutants that enter the Arctic food chain. She served as the International Chair of ICC from 2002-2006. In 2005 Ms. Watt-Cloutier and others filed a landmark petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging that unchecked greenhouse gas emissions violated Inuit cultural and environmental rights. She has argued persuasively that Arctic peoples and ecosystems are the first to feel the effects of global warming, and that “we have the right to be cold.” She is an Officer of the Order of Canada. She has been honored with eight honorary degrees from Canadian universities (seven in 2008), the 2004 National Aboriginal Achievement Award (Canada), the 2005 Sophie Prize (Norway), Champion of the Earth Award by the United Nations Environment Programme, as the first recipient of the Northern Medal (Canada), the Order of Greenland from the Inuit Circumpolar Conference General Assembly, the 2007 Rachel Carson Prize, and the Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Award by the United Nations.