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Honorary degree recipients 2019

Filmmakers, researchers, philanthropists among those receiving honorary degrees at University's 251st Commencement

Seven individuals will receive an honorary degree from the University at the 251st Commencement May 26. John Krasinski '01 will serve as the Baccalaureate speaker May 25.

Sheryl Brissett Chapman ’71

Sheryl Brissett Chapman ’71 is the executive director of The National Center for Children and Families, a nonprofit community organization serving vulnerable children and families in the Washington D.C. area. She received a bachelor of arts in English and Theatre Arts from Brown in 1971 and has received the University’s John Hope Award for Public Service.

Ken Burns

Ken Burns is a filmmaker whose influential historical documentaries have earned him five Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards and two Oscar nominations. Since beginning his professional career in the 1980s, Burns has been involved with over 30 films, including “The Civil War” (1990), “Baseball” (1994) and “The Vietnam War” (2017).

John Krasinski '01

John Krasinski ’01 is an award-winning actor, writer and director. After receiving a bachelor of arts in English from Brown in 2001, Krasinski’s career took off playing the role of Jim Halpert in NBC’s “The Office” (2004). After nine seasons with the show, Krasinski has since starred in feature films and television series, including “13 Hours” (2016),  “A Quiet Place” (2018) and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” (2018).

Jennifer Anne Richeson '94

Jennifer Anne Richeson ’94 is a social psychologist and professor of psychology at Yale. Her research focuses on racial identity and bias. Richeson was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2015 and has written opinion pieces on race for national publications, including The Boston Globe and The Washington Post. She received a bachelor of science in psychology from Brown in 1994.

David M. Rubenstein

David M. Rubenstein is the co-founder and co-executive chairman of the Carlyle Group, a world-renowned investment firm. Rubenstein has pledged to donate more than half of his wealth to charities and has supported a range of environmental, educational and artistic causes. He sits on the board of several organizations, including Harvard, Duke University, the University of Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution.

E. Paul Sorensen '71 MS'75 PhD'77 P'06

E. Paul Sorensen '71 MS'75 PhD'77 P'06 is a software developer and businessman who has worked for Hibbitt, Karlsson and Sorenson, Inc., which created a program used widely in structural and mechanical engineering. Sorensen has been involved in many philanthropic causes, including serving as a co-chair for the BrownTogether fundraising campaign at the University. He completed all of his education at Brown, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics and engineering in 1971 and then master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering.

Joan Wernig Sorensen '72 P'06

Joan Wernig Sorensen '72 P'06 is a Brown Corporation member and has served in a wide range of educational roles in Rhode Island. She is a co-chair for the BrownTogether campaign and has previously served as a co-chair for the Brown Annual Fund. Sorensen has been recognized with the Elwood Leonard Jr. ’51 Distinguished Service Award and was the first woman president of the Brown Club of Rhode Island. She received a bachelor of arts in psychology from Brown in 1972.


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