waterman building at commencement

Six outstanding individuals will receive honorary degrees at the University Commencement Main Ceremony on Sunday, May 19. Recognized for their vital and important contributions to the state, the university, the nation, and the world, over the course of their distinguished careers are: Darren Walker, Suzanne Preston Blier, John Bramley, Jackson JW Clemmons, Michela Gallagher, and Marcelle Leahy.

Darren Walker

Doctor of Humane Letters
Commencement Speaker


Darren WalkerDarren Walker presides over the Ford Foundation, one of the world’s most influential social justice philanthropies and one of the largest private foundations in the United States. As president, Mr. Walker oversees the foundation’s $13 billion endowment and guides the organization’s $600 million in annual grant making. As he recently described, the foundation is in the business of hope. “Our hopes for our grantees, our communities, and our world inform the work we do each and every day.” Read more

Suzanne Preston Blier

Doctor of Letters

Suzanne Preston BlierSuzanne Preston Blier ’73 is a world-renowned investigator and interpreter of precolonial African art and material culture, and a pioneer in the digital humanities. The Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, she holds appointments in both the History of Art and Architecture department and the department of African and African American studies. Since first encountering the early art of West Africa during her time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bénin, her life’s passion is looking deeply into both the materials and methods as well as the societies and historical moments that shape African art. Read more

John Bramley

Doctor of Science

John BramleyJohn Bramley spent most of his career in academics and public service growing the profile and reach of the University of Vermont and building partnerships in the state that it serves. Born in the United Kingdom, John Bramley graduated summa cum laude in microbiology from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1971 and completed his PhD at the University of Reading in 1975. Early in his career, as a research scientist at the U.K.’s National Institute for Research in Dairying, he became an internationally recognized authority on bovine mastitis, a serious mammary gland infection and the most common infectious disease in dairy cattle. Read more

Jackson JW Clemmons

Doctor of Science

Jackson JW ClemmonsJackson Clemmons is a pioneer and an innovative leader, both in his profession and his avocation. Born in Beloit, Wisconsin, he attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, earning three degrees in biochemistry: a bachelor of science, a master’s of science, and a doctorate. As the first African American student in the biochemistry department, he paved the way for young African American scientists and premedical students to follow. Read more


Michela Gallagher

Doctor of Science

Michela GallagherMichela Gallagher, University of Vermont Graduate College 1977, has dedicated her professional life to researching and advancing the fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience. The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation considers Professor Gallagher’s groundbreaking research that has led to a late stage clinical trial to be the most promising program in their portfolio of drug development, describing her work in developing new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease as “closing in on a cure.” Read more

Marcelle Leahy

Doctor of Laws

Marcelle LeahyMarcelle Leahy, the daughter of French-Canadian parents who emigrated to Vermont from Quebec, is the warm, egalitarian, behind-the-scenes support and guide to the most senior member of the United States Senate, Vermont senator Patrick Leahy. For more than 55 years Marcelle Leahy has served as the senator’s most trusted confidante and the magnanimous presence by his side, as together they have advocated for justice, economic and educational opportunity, health care access and equality, and many other pressing concerns of our time. Read more