Five to Receive Honorary Degrees at Spring Commencement

A Nobel Prize-winning chemist, a genome scientist, one of Canada’s most powerful women, a celebrated performing artist and a state senator will receive honorary degrees May 11 at UNC’s spring Commencement.

The recipients will be:

  • Peter Courtland Agre, co-recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry, vice chancellor for science and technology and professor of cell biology and medicine at Duke University, who will receive a doctor of science degree;
  • Philip Palmer Green III, a Chapel Hill native and professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington, who will receive a doctor of science degree;
  • Heather Munroe-Blum ’83 (PhD), principal and vice chancellor of McGill University in Montreal, who will receive a doctor of science degree;
  • Jessye Norman, recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award for classical music and honorary ambassador to the United Nations, who will receive a doctor of music degree; and
  • Anthony Eden Rand ’61, a Fayetteville attorney and N.C. senator for the 19th district, who will receive a doctor of laws degree. Rand also received his law degree from Carolina in 1964.

Chancellor James Moeser will preside at the ceremony, his last as chancellor. The ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Kenan Stadium. Norman will be the featured speaker.

Jessye Norman

Norman, who with Moeser was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007, is an honorary fellow at Harvard and Cambridge universities. In addition to being named an honorary ambassador to the United Nations by former U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, Norman was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award for classical music, one of only four opera/classical music singers to receive the honor.

Norman, whom the Kennedy Center called “one of the most celebrated artists of our country,” was born into a musical family in Augusta, Ga., and learned to play the piano when she could barely walk. Stemming from her musical beginning, she pursued formal musical studies at Howard University and later at the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Michigan before making her operatic debut in the 1969 production of Tannhaeuser at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.

Peter Courtland Agre

Agre, vice chancellor for science and technology and professor of cell biology and medicine at Duke University since 2005, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2000. He was also elected to the American Academy of Arts in 2003.

He shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2003 for his revelation concerning the molecular basis for the movement of water into and out of cells through the discovery of the first water-channel protein, called an aquaporin.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Augsburg College, Agre earned his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1974 and did his internship and residency in medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Agre pursued his postdoctoral training at UNC in hematology and continues to have strong ties with the University.

Philip Palmer Green III

A native of Chapel Hill, Green is now the professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington. He also is an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Accredited with key algorithms and software tools that made possible the systematic analysis of complex genomes, Green received his undergraduate degree from Harvard and his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley.

Nobel Prize winner James D. Watson stated that “without his [Green’s] Phred and Prap computation tools, the assembly of the human genome would have moved ahead much more hesitantly, if not chaotically.”

Green became a postdoctoral fellow in the biostatistics department of UNC’s School of Public Health and worked on the Lipids Research Clinic Project and joined the Washington faculty in 1994.

Heather Munroe-Blum ’83 (PhD)

Born in Montreal and raised in Ontario, Munroe-Blum earned her undergraduate degree at McMaster University and her doctorate from Carolina’s School of Public Health in 1983. A specialist in psychiatric epidemiology, Munroe-Blum has held faculty positions at the University of Toronto and York University.

She has led large-scale epidemiological investigations of the distribution, prevention, course and treatment of major psychiatric disorders. Her work in the field has earned her major support from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Canadian National Health Research and Development Program.

She was also selected as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100, and continues to promote the development of effective public policy in support of innovation through science. She is a fellow of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada, and past winner of the School of Public Health’s Outstanding Alumna Award.

Anthony Eden Rand ’61

Currently the N.C. Senate majority leader and chair of the Senate Rules Committee, Rand has long been a constant in the N.C. Senate, having been re-elected 10 times since 1981. He earned his bachelor’s in political science and in his law degree from Carolina, in 1961 and 1964, respectively.

Rand has co-chaired the Joint Selection Committee on Higher Education Facilities Needs and is currently treasurer and a member of the board of directors of the General Alumni Association, where he has served previously as chair. He also served on the Carolina First Campaign Steering Committee and on the University’s Board of Visitors.

Rand’s previous honors at Carolina include induction into the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1961, the William R. Davie Award in 1995, and the GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal in 1998. He received the 2000 Legislative Leadership Award from the N.C. Council of Community Programs and holds an honorary degree and Chancellor’s Medallion from Fayetteville State University.

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