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Syracuse University to present honorary degrees to nine individuals of exceptional achievement at Commencement May 11

May 01, 2008

Sara Miller
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Sara Miller

Syracuse University will award honorary degrees to nine individuals of exceptional achievement in the areas of business, physical sciences, performing arts, global literacy, literature, economics and journalism. Honorary degrees will be presented at the 154th Commencement exercises to John Allan Couri '63, Jacques d'Amboise, Edith Marie Flanigen G'52, Lynn Margulis, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, Paul A. Volcker, Robert Wedgeworth, Martin J. Whitman '49 and Bob Woodruff, who will deliver the Commencement address to the Class of 2008 on Sunday, May 11, in the Carrier Dome.

John Allan Couri '63
Doctor of Humane Letters

John Couri is president of the Couri Foundation Inc., an organization founded in 1988 that operates senior centers in Bangor and Moose River, Maine. He is also president of the Ridgefield Senior Center Foundation Inc., based in his hometown of Ridgefield. Couri has served as chairman of Syracuse University's Board of Trustees since 2004.

He was a co-founder of Duty Free International Inc. (DFI) -- now Duty Free Americas Inc. -- in 1983 and served as president and CEO for a decade, chairman of the board until 1994, and as consultant to the company until 1999. Couri served on the Listed Company Advisory Committee of the New York Stock Exchange Board of Directors from 1993-95. DFI was recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of 100 Fastest Growing Companies for 1992 and was listed three times as one of Forbes' 200 Best Small Companies in America.

Prior to 1972, Couri was a salesman for Couristan Inc., a rug and carpet importer; a former chairman of the Datahr Rehabilitation Institute in Brookfield, Conn., a for-profit medical rehabilitation provider; and a director for bicycle manufacturer Cannondale Corp. He served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army from 1964-66.

Couri is on the board of the Hudson Group (owner of the Hudson News outlets), Dairyland USA Corp. and the Win-Holt Equipment Group of Garden City, N.Y. He also serves on the advisory board of Nat Sherman Inc. In Connecticut, he serves his community as a member of the Ridgefield Historical Society and the Ridgefield Boys and Girls Club.

In addition to serving as a member of the SU Board of Trustees, he is a member of the Whitman School of Management Corporate Advisory Board and supports the Couri Endowed Scholarship in the Whitman School. In 1993, the University awarded Couri its highest alumni honor, the George Arents Pioneer Medal, for his outstanding accomplishments in business. The Whitman School honored Couri with a Dean's Citation for Exceptional Service in 1995, for his broad humanitarian ideals and endeavors.

Couri received a bachelor's degree in economics and business administration from SU.

 Jacques d'Amboise
Doctor of Fine Arts

Jacques d'Amboise is a choreographer, founder of the National Dance Institute (NDI) and one of the finest classical dancers of our time. Today, d'Amboise leads the field of arts education with a model program that exposes thousands of school children to the magic and discipline of dance.

At the age of 8, d'Amboise enrolled at the School of American Ballet to train with George Balanchine, Anatola Oboukhoff and Pierre Vladimiroff; at age 12, he performed with Ballet Society, the immediate predecessor to the New York City Ballet. Three years later, he joined NYCB and the following year made his European debut at London's Covent Garden. As Balanchine's protege, d'Amboise had more works choreographed specifically for him by "The Ballet Master" than had any other dancer. These include the ballets "Stars and Stripes," "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux," "Episodes," "Figures in the Carpet," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Jewels," "Raymonda Variations," "Meditation" and "Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet." D'Amboise is most remembered for his portrayal of what critics called "the definitive Apollo."

In 1976, while a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet, d'Amboise founded the NDI in the belief that the arts have a unique power to engage and motivate individuals toward excellence. "He Makes Me Feel Like Dancing," a 1984 PBS documentary film about his work with NDI, won an Academy Award, six Emmy Awards, the Peabody Award, the Golden Cine Award and the National Education Association Award for the advancement of learning through broadcasting.

As a choreographer, d'Amboise's credits include almost 20 works commissioned for the New York City Ballet. He has written and directed for theater, film and television, including the musicals "Roberta," "Lady in the Dark," "Peter Pan," "Thurber Carnival" and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," and the films "Event of the Year" and "Fifth Position."

D'Amboise also served as a full professor and dean of dance for two years at SUNY College at Purchase and for 11 years was a visiting professor at the College of Creative Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

His contributions in arts education have earned him numerous awards, recognitions and honorary degrees, including honors from The American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the National Medal of Arts, The Kennedy Center Honors, The Paul Robeson Award for Excellence in the field of the humanities, and the Governor's Award for outstanding contributions to the Arts and Culture of New York State.

Edith Marie Flanigen G'52
Doctor of Science

In the course of a 42-year career in the industrial chemical industry, Edith Flanigen has attained international prominence for her work in the fields of silicate chemistry and the chemistry of zeolites and molecular sieve materials. Molecular sieve zeolites are a class of industrial materials used widely throughout the chemical, petrochemical and petroleum refining industries. Her accomplishments include synthesizing new molecular sieve materials for application as adsorbents and catalysts, inventing the hydrothermal emerald synthesis process, and pioneering the use of mid-range infrared spectroscopy for interpreting zeolite structures. She has authored or co-authored more than 36 publications and has been granted 109 U.S. patents. She is considered by many of her peers to be the foremost authority on zeolite chemisty.

Flanigen's most recent contribution has been in the discovery of new generations of molecular sieve materials, including families of aluminophosphates, ilicoaluminophosphates and other novel molecular sieves. These materials comprise more than two dozen structures and 200 compositions, and have generally been recognized as a landmark discovery in molecular sieve and inorganic materials. Several are commercialized or are under commercial development, and help make oil refining more efficient, cleaner and safer.

After receiving her master's degree in inorganic-physical chemistry from SU in 1952, Flanigen joined Union Carbide Corp. as a research chemist. Flanigen worked at Union Carbide at a time when few women ventured into science careers. In 1973, Flanigen became the first woman at Union Carbide to be named Corporate Research Fellow and then in 1982, Senior Corporate Research Fellow -- the highest technical position at Union Carbide. In 1988, Flanigen was named Senior Corporate Research Fellow with UOP, a joint venture of Union Carbide and Allied Signal, and was promoted to UOP Fellow in 1991. She retired in 1994.

Since her retirement from UOP, Flanigen has remained professionally active. From 1995-96, as part of her International Zeolite Association Award, she served as ambassador to the world for zeolites, visiting and lecturing around the world. She currently serves as consultant for UOP Research and Development.

Among her professional honors, Flanigen received the Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal of the American Chemical Society, as well as the Lamelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award. Her other professional awards include being named Outstanding Woman Scientist by the New York Academy of Sciences in 1996; being the first woman to receive the Perkin Medal of the Society of Chemical Industry, American Section, in 1992, America's top honor in applied chemistry; and receiving the Chemical Pioneer Award of the American Institute of Chemists in 1991, in addition to being included in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004 for molecular filters for petroleum processing.

Lynn Margulis
Doctor of Science

Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983. Her publications, spanning a wide range of scientific topics, include original contributions to cell biology and microbial evolution. She is best known for her theory of symbiogenesis, which challenges a central tenet of neodarwinism. She argues that inherited variation, significant in evolution, does not come mainly from random mutations. Rather new tissues, organs and even new species evolve primarily through the long-lasting intimacy of strangers. The fusion of genomes in symbioses followed by natural selection, she suggests, leads to increasingly complex levels of individuality. Margulis is also acknowledged for her contribution to James E. Lovelock's Gaia concept. Gaia theory posits that the Earth's surface interactions among living beings sediment, air and water have created a vast self-regulating system.

In 1998, The Library of Congress announced that it would permanently archive her papers. In 1999, Margulis received from William J. Clinton the Presidential Medal of Science. Margulis was president from 2005-06 of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society from which she received the Proctor Prize for scientific achievement in 1999.

Upon joining the botany department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1988, Margulis had already been a biology professor at Boston University for 22 years. As an associate professor at Boston University, Margulis wrote her career-defining work, "The Origin of Eukaryotic Cells" (Yale University Press, 1971). The book proposed the idea that mitochondria and chloroplasts evolved symbiotically, a proposal directly countering the established point of view at the time. Margulis' symbiotic theory gained more acceptance after the 1981 publication of her book "Symbiosis in Cell Evolution" (W.H.Freeman & Co, 1981).

Margulis, who participates in hands-on teaching activities at levels from middle to graduate school, is the author of many articles and books on cell biology and microbial evolution. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago, her master's degree at the University of Wisconsin and her Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley.

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
Doctor of Letters

Nobel Laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk, Russia, on Dec. 11, 1918. A survivor of the Soviet gulag system, Solzhenitsyn became known to the world in 1962 with the publication of "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" (Signet, 1963). Solzhenitsyn was a captain in the Red Army and served on the front until he was arrested in 1945 for a private letter that he had written to a childhood friend in which he criticized Communist Party leader Joseph Stalin.

He was sentenced to an eight-year term, followed by permanent exile. Part of his sentence was served in a special scientific research facility, a "sharashka," where convicts were developing means of radio and phone communication. The novel "The First Circle" was based upon this experience. From 1950-53, Solzhenitsyn served in one of the special camps in Kazakhstan that provided the setting and material for "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." In 1952, diagnosed with cancer, Solzhenitsyn spent time in a prison hospital, where he gleaned material for his future novel "Cancer Ward."

In 1956, Solzhenitsyn went to live in a village in the middle of Russia. He taught school there and lived in a house owned by Matryona Vasilevna Zakharova, a peasant woman who rose to the status of the heroine of the story "Matryona's Home," widely acknowledged as Solzhenitsyn's best-known short story.

In 1962, Aleksandr Tvardovsky, editor of the leading Russian literary journal Novy Mir, published "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." However, by 1963, Solzhenitsyn's works were only published through the underground system widely known as "samizdat." In the late 1960s, "The First Circle" (Harper & Row, 1968) and "Cancer Ward" (Dial Press, 1968) were published in the West.

In 1970, Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature." Solzhenitsyn received the award in absentia and published the Nobel Lecture in 1974.

In 1974, shortly after the publication in the West of "The Gulag Archipelago" (Harper & Row), the three-volume investigation into Soviet labor camps, Solzhenitsyn was arrested, forcefully exiled to the West and deprived of his Soviet citizenship. In the West, Solzhenitsyn dedicated most of his time to the writing of his masterpiece, "The Red Wheel" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989), and also finished "The Oak and the Calf: Sketches of Literary Life" (Franklin Library, 1980).

Beginning in 1989, the creative works of Solzhenitsyn were once again published in his homeland. In 1990, his Soviet citizenship was returned; in 1994, he returned to Russia.

"The Gulag Archipelago" is widely credited with fatally undermining the Soviet experiment as a whole. Thus, David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, said in 1994 that "to some extent you have to credit the literary works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with helping to bring down the last empire on Earth." The most complete 30-volume edition of Solzhenitsyn's selected works is soon to be published in Russia.

Paul A. Volcker
Doctor of Laws

In the course of his career, economist Paul Volcker worked in the federal government for almost 30 years, culminating in two terms as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1979-87. He divided the earlier stages of his career between the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Treasury Department and the Chase Manhattan Bank. Today, Volcker is professor emeritus of international economic policy at Princeton University. He was the first Henry Kaufman Visiting Professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University.

Volcker retired as chairman of Wolfensohn & Co. upon the merger of that firm with Bankers Trust. From 2000-05, Volcker served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the International Accounting Standards Committee, overseeing a renewed effort to develop consistent, high-quality accounting standards acceptable in all countries. In 2003, he headed a private Commission on the Public Service recommending a sweeping overhaul of the organization and personnel practices of the federal government.

In April 2004, Volcker was asked by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to chair the independent inquiry into the United Nations Oil for Food Program. In 2007, Volcker was asked by the president of the World Bank to chair a panel of experts to review the operations of the Department of Institutional Integrity.

Pursuing his many continuing interests in public policy, Volcker is associated with the Japan Society, the Institute of International Economics, the American Assembly and the American Council on Germany. He is honorary chairman of the Trilateral Commission and chairman of the Trustees of the Group of 30.

Volcker was educated at Princeton, Harvard and the London School of Economics.

Robert Wedgeworth
Doctor of Humane Letters

Robert Wedgeworth is retired president and CEO of ProLiteracy Worldwide, a nonprofit international literacy organization based in Syracuse and formed by the 2002 merger of Laubach Literacy International and Literacy Volunteers of America Inc.

Wedgeworth became president of Laubach Literacy International in March 2001 and was previously vice chairman and interim president of the Laubach Board of Trustees. Laubach was the oldest and largest volunteer literacy agency in the United States, publishing basic and advanced literacy training materials and providing literacy training through its partnership agencies located throughout the United States and in 36 other countries.

Wedgeworth served as university librarian, professor of library administration and professor of library and information science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1993-99, when he retired from the university. Prior to that, Wedgeworth had been dean of the School of Library Service at Columbia University from 1985-1992 and executive director of the American Library Association (ALA) from 1972-1985.

In his almost 40 years as a librarian, library educator and association executive, he has created and edited two major reference works, ALA Yearbook, 1976-1985 and the World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services (Adamintine Press, 3rd edition in 1993). He has also conducted special studies of librarianship and the book trade in Western Europe, Latin America and South Africa. His 1999 publication "Starvation of Young Black Minds: The Effects of the Book Boycotts in South Africa," written jointly with Lisa Drew, raised serious questions about curbing the free flow of information during the struggle to combat apartheid.

For his achievements, Wedgeworth has received many honors and awards, including five honorary doctorates. In 1991, he was honored as the Most Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science. In 1996, he received the Medal of Honor from the International Council of Archives for his international activities. From the ALA, he has received three of its highest honors: the Lippincott and Melvil Dewey awards for professional leadership and the Humphry/OCLC/Forest Press Award for achievements in international librarianship.

Currently, he is a life member of the American Library Association, a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a member of the Board of Trustees of Wabash College, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Newberry Library.

In Syracuse, Wedgeworth serves on the board of directors of the NY Center for the Book; is a trustee of Syracuse University Library Associates; serves on the advisory board of SU's School of Information Studies; and is a member of SYRACUSE 20/20's Education Task Force.

He received a bachelor's degree from Wabash College and a master's degree in library and information science from the University of Illinois.

artin J. Whitman '49
Doctor of Laws

Martin Whitman is founder and chairman of Third Avenue Management, the investment adviser to the Third Avenue Funds. He has a long, distinguished history as a control investor and is a recognized expert in the field of bankruptcy. He has successfully identified value in distressed securities for more than 50 years.

Whitman began his career as a security analyst at Shearson, Hammil, in 1950. For 20 years, he held positions as director of research and corporate finance at several firms. In 1974, he founded M.J. Whitman & Co. Inc. In 1984, he became president and CEO of Equity Strategies Fund Inc., an open-end investment company. In 1990, he founded and became chairman of Third Avenue Value Fund Inc., the predecessor to Third Avenue Management LLC.

Whitman is the author of "The Aggressive Conservative Investor" (Random House, 1979) and "Value Investing: A Balanced Approach" (John Wiley & Sons, 1999) as well as a number of articles on security analysis and investment banking. For the past 28 years, he has been a Distinguished Management Fellow at the Yale School of Management. He has also taught at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

In 2005, SU's School of Management was dedicated as the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. Whitman maintains close ties with his alma mater and frequently guest lectures on campus. He was recognized by the Whitman School of Management as Alumnus of the Year in 2000. In 2004, he received the George Arents Pioneer Medal, SU's highest alumni honor. Whitman and his wife, Lois, have consistently taken the lead in funding scholarships to make an education at SU possible for many students.

In addition to his 1949 bachelor's degree from the School of Management, Whitman received a master's degree in economics from the New School for Social Research in 1958.

Bob Woodruff
Doctor of Letters

ABC News journalist Bob Woodruff, the 2008 Commencement speaker, joined ABC News in 1996 and has covered major stories throughout the country and around the world for the network. He was named co-anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight" in December 2005.

On Jan. 29, 2006, while reporting on U.S. and Iraqi security forces from the front lines as an embedded journalist with the First Marine Division, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Woodruff was seriously injured by a roadside bomb that struck his vehicle near Taji, Iraq. Today, Woodruff has returned to work at ABC News after recovering from the life-threatening head injury and continues outpatient rehabilitation in the New York area.

In February 2007, Woodruff and his wife, Lee, released "In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love, Courage, and Healing" (Random House), their personal memoir about Woodruff's recovery after his injury in Iraq and the medical and family support that helped him heal.

As one of ABC News' top correspondents, Woodruff has covered major stories both in the United States and overseas. His reports from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina helped focus the nation's attention on the devastation there. He was ABC's lead correspondent on the Asian tsunami of December 2005, reporting from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. Woodruff covered the nuclear showdown in Iran and, in June 2005, obtained unprecedented access to the famously secretive North Korea.

Before moving to New York in 2002, Woodruff worked out of ABC News' London Bureau. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he was among the first Western reporters in Pakistan and was one of ABC's lead foreign correspondents during the war in Afghanistan, reporting from Kabul and Kandahar on the fall of the Taliban. His overseas reporting of the fallout from Sept. 11 was part of ABC News' coverage recognized with the Alfred I. duPont Award and the George Foster Peabody Award, the two highest honors in broadcast journalism. He was also a part of the ABC News team recognized with an Alfred I. duPont award for live coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

Also a former attorney, Woodruff holds a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School as well as a bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

For full details on Commencement 2008, visit

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