Two Alumni Among Honorary Degree Recipients

Dr. Atul Gawande.

Dr. Atul Gawande

The Carolina students who received degrees during Commencement weekend 2014 had an opportunity to find a sense of community during their years in Chapel Hill, said Dr. Atul Gawande, a celebrated surgeon and best-selling author, who delivered the Commencement address.

Their goal now, he told the class of 2014: Create new ones.

“One thing I came to realize after college was that the search for purpose is really a search for a place, not an idea,’’ Gawande told the crowd of approximately 33,000 graduates, family and friends. “It is a search for a location in the world where you want to be part of making things better for others in our own small way.

“…If you find yourself in a place where you stop caring — where your greatest concern becomes only you — get out of there. You want to put yourself in a place that suits who you are, links you to others and gives you a purpose larger than yourself in some way.”

May 11’s purpose at sunny Kenan Stadium was to celebrate the tassel-turning of the estimated 5,516 undergraduate, graduate and professional Carolina students who studied, served, led and learned at UNC.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt, presiding over her first spring Carolina Commencement, congratulated the new alumni, telling them they “will forever by my first class of graduates at Carolina, and I am so proud of you.”

Six honorary degrees also were given at this year’s Commencement:

  • Marjorie Bryan Buckley ’62,a former teacher, lifelong volunteer and visionary philanthropist, who will receive a doctor of laws degree. Buckley, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Carolina, led an effort in 1965-67 to establish the N.C. Outward Bound School, which has program areas in Western North Carolina, the Outer Banks, Florida and Patagonia, South America. Its programs include courses designed for practicing teachers and students earning a master of education degree and an annual course for incoming student body leaders. Buckley’s support was instrumental in founding the Carolina Center for Public Service 15 years ago. In honor of her father, Robert Emmet Bryan Sr. ’26, the center awards five Bryan Public Service Awards each year honoring public service work on behalf of the University. Buckley also has endowed the Joseph P. Archie Jr. Eminent Professorship in medicine, named for Dr. Joseph P. Archie Jr. ’68 (MD); the professorship focuses on autoimmune disease. She also has endowed the Thomas James Distinguished Professorship Fund in experiential education. In addition to her service on University committees and boards, Buckley has received the GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal; the Board of Trustees’ William Richardson Davie Award; the governor of North Carolina’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine; and the Kurt Hahn Award, the highest form of recognition conferred by Outward Bound in the United States.
  • Biddy Martin, president of Amherst College since 2011, who will receive a doctor of laws degree. Previously, Martin served as provost of Cornell University and chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Martin graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the College of William and Mary and earned a doctorate in German literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of many scholarly articles and two books, Woman and Modernity: The Lifestyles of Lou Andreas-Salome and Femininity Played Straight: The Significance of Being Lesbian. Her record of teaching and scholarship in German studies and women’s studies has earned her membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, but it is as an administrative leader in higher education that she has made her most enduring contributions. At Cornell, Martin worked on initiatives to enhance recruitment and training of women in the sciences and tackled the question of access and financial aid with the goal of enabling first-generation college students to graduate debt-free. At UW-Madison, she led efforts to increase need-based financial aid, improve undergraduate education and enhance research. At Amherst, she has led the institution through soul-searching following reports of a culture of sexual misconduct among undergraduates, something The New York Times said no other college leader in the country was as well prepared to face.
  • Best-selling author Armistead J. Maupin Jr. ’66, who will receive a doctor of letters degree. Maupin wrote a column for The Daily Tar Heel as an undergraduate and was elected vice president of the senior class. After graduation, he worked at WRAL-TV before enlisting in the Navy. After his return from Vietnam in 1970, he won a top award from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge under the sponsorship of the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. Maupin worked as a reporter in Charleston, S.C., and then with The Associated Press in San Francisco. In 1976, while at the San Francisco Chronicle, he launched the groundbreaking work that would propel his literary career for almost four decades. Tales of the City began as a serialized novel and eventually became a sequence of nine globally best-selling books that set a precedent for presenting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters as people who experience the same foibles, follies and desire for love that lie at the heart of the human condition everywhere. In 1994, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City became a controversial PBS miniseries whose vocal opponents included Helms. The miniseries earned record high ratings and a Peabody Award, broadcasting’s most prestigious honor. His other novels include Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener.
  • Beverly Eaves Perdue, N.C.’s governor from 2009 to 2013 following two terms as lieutenant governor, who will receive a doctor of laws degree. Previously, Perdue had served in both houses of the N.C. General Assembly, including five terms in the Senate. She is the first woman to have held either of North Carolina’s highest elective offices. As governor during the most difficult economic times in decades, Perdue maintained the state’s triple-A credit rating and worked tirelessly to preserve North Carolina’s commitment to education from kindergarten to college. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky and both a master’s degree in education and a doctoral degree in education administration from the University of Florida. Before entering state politics, Perdue worked as a public school teacher and as director of geriatric services at a community hospital in New Bern. In 2013, Perdue served as a resident fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics and was later named a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, where she also serves as an adviser to Duke’s Center for Child and Family Policy. Currently she is founder and chair of the Digital Learning Institute, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corp. of New York.
  • Anne Firor Scott, a pioneering historian of American women whose efforts helped open the doors of the history profession to female scholars, who will receive a doctor of humane letters degree. In the 1960s and ’70s, Scott was a founder of the field of U.S. women’s history, and especially of Southern women’s history. Her path-breaking book The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics moved women from the margins to the center of Southern history, and later works explored women’s biography, voluntary organizations, education and relationships across racial lines. Inspired to study women reformers after working for the National League of Women Voters in the 1940s, Scott had earned her doctorate at Harvard/Radcliffe in 1958. In 1961, she took a history position at Duke, and by 1980 she was William K. Boyd Professor of history and the first woman to chair Duke’s history department. She went on to serve as president of the Organization of American Historians and then the Southern Historical Association and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. Scott reflected upon her professional journey in An Historian’s Odyssey. In 2008, at the age of 87, she published the edited collection, Pauli Murray and Caroline Ware: Forty Years of Letters in Black and White.

Gawande also received an honorary doctor of science degree. As a public health researcher, Gawande practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He also is a professor in the department of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health, professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation. He also is the founder and chair of Lifebox, an international not-for-profit that implements systems and technologies to reduce surgical deaths globally. Gawande has been a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine since 1998 and has written three best-selling books: Complications, Better and The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.

On May 10, Timothy Beatley ’85 (MA, ’86 PhD), a researcher in the field of “green urbanism” and sustainability, spoke at the doctoral hooding ceremony. Beatley, the Teresa Heinz Professor of sustainable communities in the department of urban and environmental planning in the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture, has written or co-written more than 15 books. The American Planning Association has recognized his book Ethical Land Use as one of its “100 Essential Books in Planning.”

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