University of Vermont

Ceremonial Events - Commencement

2006 Honorary Degree Recipients

Commencement 2007 Honorary Degree Recipients

Six outstanding individuals will receive honorary degrees at the University of Vermont’s 203rd commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 20. Recognized for their achievements and service to the nation, the State of Vermont, or the university are commencement speaker The Honorable John R. Lewis, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Jackie M. Gribbons, Leonard Miller, Floyd H. Rourke, and Thomas K. Slayton.

Commencement Speaker: The Honorable John R. Lewis has been a Georgia congressman since 1986 and a longtime passionate advocate for civil rights. Lewis has been called the “conscience of the U.S. Congress” by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. He has been a strong voice for civil rights throughout his life and helped to lead many of the seminal protests of the movement in the 1960s. At the age of 23, Lewis was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in 1963. His work as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during that era helped to inspire student activism nationwide, including a 1964 visit to UVM where he participated in the “Pride and Prejudice” Vermont Conference.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is an internationally renowned scholar of African and African-American history and culture. Since 1991, Gates has served on the faculty at Harvard University, where he is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research. A prolific author and writer/producer of television documentaries on African-American history, Gates has received a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” been honored with the National Humanities Medal, and was named to Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Americans” list in 1997.
Jackie M. Gribbons photo Jackie M. Gribbons, a UVM administrative leader across four decades, co-founded the university’s highly regarded graduate program in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration and held many other leadership roles on campus. She was the last person to hold the title of “Dean of Women” at the university and as UVM’s first coordinator of Title IX helped to guide the university into a new era of equal opportunity in collegiate athletics.
Lenny Miller photo Leonard Miller, a Burlington native and class of 1951 alumnus of the University of Vermont, is a retired Florida real estate developer and former mayor of Indian Creek Village, Fla. Miller and his wife, Carolyn, who passed away in 2006, have been major supporters of UVM’s Center for Holocaust Studies; their recent $5 million gift to the university will fund two endowed professorships in Holocaust Studies and renovation work in Billings Hall to establish a permanent home for the center.
Floyd H. Rourke photo Floyd H. Rourke is the retired chair, president, and CEO of Sandy Hill Corporation, a pulp and paper machinery company in Hudson Falls, N.Y. A longtime resident of the Glens Falls, N.Y. area, Rourke has played key leadership roles with many organizations and initiatives that have helped to build a strong network of healthcare and social services in the region. As chair of the Lake Champlain Cancer Research Organization, Rourke has been a strong advocate and longtime supporter of the Vermont Cancer Center, a joint effort of UVM and Fletcher Allen Health Care.

Thomas K. Slayton photo Thomas K. Slayton retired this year from Vermont Life Magazine after 21 years as editor-in-chief of the publication. His leadership at Vermont Life was part of a distinguished career that spanned more than 40 years as a Vermont newspaper reporter, arts writer and editor. A regular commentator for Vermont Public Radio, Slayton is also the author of Sabra Field: The Art of Place and Finding Vermont: An Informal Guide to Vermont’s Places and People. Slayton is a UVM alumnus, class of 1963.
Elie Wiesel was just a teenager when he and his family were interned in Auschwitz, where his mother and younger sister would die. He and his father later were sent to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before the concentration camp was liberated. Wiesel and his two older sisters survived, and the young man whom fate had saved began a life dedicated to peace and the defense of human rights. The teacher, storyteller, and author won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. He and his wife, Marion, established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity that same year. An American citizen since 1963, Wiesel is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University. He is the author of more than 50 books and plays and recipient of numerous awards for them and for his defense of human rights worldwide.

Elie Wiesel received his honorary degree on Wednesday, April 25 during his speaking engagement at the University of Vermont.

Wiesel Transcript: The contents herein are the unedited verbatim transcript from Professor Elie Wiesel’s visit to the University of Vermont on Wednesday, April 25th, 2007. This transcript is intended for educational use only and may not be reproduced in any way.

Last modified May 14 2007 06:13 PM

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