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Brown confers nine honorary degrees at Commencement to artists, academics, University ‘champions’

Claudia Goldin, William Kentridge, Tom Geismar among recipients

The honorary degrees will be presented by President Christina Paxson P'19 P'MD'20. The Corporation, Brown's highest governing body, awards them.
The honorary degrees will be presented by President Christina Paxson P'19 P'MD'20. The Corporation, Brown's highest governing body, awards them.

The University will award nine honorary doctorates at Commencement to a Nobel Prize winner, renowned artists and University donors among others, according to a University press release.

President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 will confer the degrees, which are awarded by the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, to Tom Geismar ’53, Claudia Goldin, Perry Kasper Granoff P’93, Joy Harjo, William Kentridge, Pedro Noguera ’81 MA’84, Sarah Ruhl ’97 MA’01, Jerome Vascellaro ’74 P’07 and Mary Vascellaro ’74 P’07.

Geismar, who has degrees from Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design, has designed over 100 corporate logos — including those of PBS, Chase Bank and Mobil Oil, according to his design firm’s website. His firm previously redesigned Brown's seal.

A New Jersey native, Geismar won a Presidential Design Award in 1985 for leading American efforts to create a “national system of standardized transportation symbols.”

Geismar also contributed to a 1960s design revamp for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, helping establish the iconic “T” symbol.

Goldin, a Harvard professor, won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for her research on women in the workforce. Her work has tracked the gender wage gap — and the ways in which women’s role in the workforce has evolved over the last 50 years, according to the New York Times.

Currently, Goldin co-directs the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Gender in the Economy group. She previously led the American Economic Association and the Economic History Association and was the first tenured woman in Harvard’s economics department.
Granoff has served on the boards of the American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet, the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center and the Roundabout Theatre in New York, according to the press release.

The Granoffs are longtime donors to Brown. Perry’s husband, Marty, received an honorary doctorate in 2006. Their names adorn the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts.

Harjo, the U.S. poet laureate from 2019 to 2022, has written 10 books of poetry, three children’s books, two memoirs and seven music albums, according to the press release. Much of her work centers around themes of social justice.

The first Native American to serve as the poet laureate, Harjo is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation. She is also a chancellor of the Academy of American poets and currently serves as the artist-in-residence at the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kentridge is an acclaimed South African artist currently in residence at the Brown Arts Institute. In films, works for the stage, drawings, sculptures and other mediums, Kentridge often engages with the political and social realities of post-apartheid South Africa.

Kentridge’s work has appeared at the Louvre in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate in London, according to the press release.

Noguera, distinguished professor of education and dean at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, has written extensively on the impact of “social and economic conditions” on schools, according to his website. He has also authored multiple books about educational equity and serves on the board of the Economic Policy Institute.

At Brown, Noguera “played rugby, held student leadership roles and was an activist,” according to the press release.

Ruhl, a winner of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellowship, has authored 19 plays. Her plays “The Clean House” and “In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play” were both Pulitzer Prize finalists. She has also authored multiple books, including a memoir about living with facial palsy.

Currently, she lives in Brooklyn and is working on a musical with Elvis Costello. She additionally works as a professor in the practice of playwriting at Yale.

Jerome Vascellaro, the former vice chancellor of the Corporation, served on presidential search committees for both Paxson and former Brown president Ruth J. Simmons, according to the press release. Vascellaro was on the Corporation for 20 years, nine of which he spent as vice chancellor. He previously worked at the consultancy McKinsey and Company and the investment firm TPG Capital.

Mary Vascellaro previously chaired the Teach for America Bay Area advisory board. She additionally is a founding member of the University’s Women’s Leadership Council, according to the press release. She previously worked in “retail merchandising and management.”

In 2021, Jerome and Mary Vascellaro gave $1 million to support the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.They have also funded the Vascellaro Family Social Impact Fellowship at the Swearer Center.


Will Kubzansky

Will Kubzansky is the 133rd editor-in-chief and president of the Brown Daily Herald. Previously, he served as a University News editor overseeing the admission & financial aid and staff & student labor beats. In his free time, he plays the guitar and soccer — both poorly.


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