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Lehigh to bestow three honorary degrees

An accomplished author and educator, a celebrated conductor and a preeminent theologian will receive honorary degrees at the 139th commencement ceremony that will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 21 at Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium.

Receiving honorary degrees are:

• Erik Weihenmayer, author, educator, and the only blind person to have climbed the “Seven Summits,” the tallest peak on every continent, who will address the more than 1,200 graduates before receiving a Doctor of Humane Letters.

• Greg Funfgeld, artistic director and conductor of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem and The Bach Festival Orchestra since 1983, who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters.

• Harvey G. Cox, holds the oldest professorship in America in the Hollis Professorship of Divinity at Harvard, who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters.

Erik Weihenmayer

Erik Weihenmayer is an author and educator and on May 25, 2001 he became the only blind man in history to reach the summit of the world’s tallest peak—Mount Everest. And then on September 5, 2002, when he stood atop Mount Kosciusko in Australia, Weihenmayer completed his quest to climb the Seven Summits, the highest mountains in each of the seven continents, within a seven-year period.

His achievements have earned him the Helen Keller Lifetime Achievement Award, the Freedom Foundation’s Free Spirit Award, an ESPY Award, recognition by Time Magazine for one of the greatest sporting achievements of 2001, and Nike’s Casey Martin Award. He has also carried the Olympic torch for both the Summer and Winter Games.

Weihenmayer, a former middle school teacher and wrestling coach, has written two books, produced a film, and is the subject of numerous articles, documentaries, and features. His first book, Touch the Top of the World, is published in 10 countries and six languages. According to Publisher’s Weekly, Weihenmayer’s memoir is “moving and adventure packed, Weihenmayer tells his extraordinary story with humor, honesty and vivid detail, and his fortitude and enthusiasm are deeply inspiring.” The book was made into a feature film that aired on A&E in June of 2006.

Weihenmayer’s second book,The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles Into Everyday Greatness, co-authored with business guru and best-selling author, Paul Stoltz, was released by Simon and Schuster in January, 2007. The book shares seven “summits” for harnessing the power of adversity and turning it into the never-ending fuel to growth and innovation.

Weihenmayer’s Emmy-nominated film, “Farther Than the Eye Can See,” captures the emotion, humor and drama of his historic ascent of Mount Everest. Through screenings, the film has raised over $600,000 for charitable organizations. Another documentary, “Blindsight,” is the story of a 2004 expedition when Weihenmayer and his Mt. Everest team attempted to guide six blind Tibetan teenagers to the 23,000 foot Lhakpa Ri on the north side of Mount Everest.

Just last June, Weihenmayer led a team of blind and sighted teens on a week-long trek through the Peruvian Andes in conjunction with Global Explorers, an educational leadership organization.

Greg Funfgeld

Greg Funfgeld has been artistic director and conductor of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem and Bach Festival Orchestra since 1983.

Under his leadership, the choir of 100 dedicated volunteer singers, performing with The Bach Festival Orchestra and world renowned soloists, has achieved a level of musical excellence that has been recognized internationally.

Funfgeld directs a full season of concerts including the annual Bethlehem Bach Festival and Bach to School—an educational program that has been presented for more than 60,000 students. In July 2003, he led the choir on a triumphant eight-concert tour of the United Kingdom that included performances at the Cambridge Summer Music Festival in Kings College Chapel, the St. Albans International Organ Festival, Usher Hall in Edinburgh, and the prestigious BBC Proms in London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Funfgeld directed The Choir’s tour of Germany in 1995, including performances at Munich’s Herkulesaal and the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Under his leadership, The Choir has released five Bach recordings on the Dorian label as well as the popular Christmas in Bethlehem Volumes 1, 2 and 3.

Funfgeld’s guest conducting engagements have included the Boulder Bach Festival in its tenth anniversary performance of “The Mass in B Minor” and he has worked with Helmut Rilling at the International Bachakademie in Stuttgart, Germany and with David Agler, now music director of the Vancouver Opera. He supervises recordings of new releases for Warner Brothers Music and Alfred Music Publishing and has served on the Choral and Opera Advisory Panel of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Funfgeld is a member of the advisory board of The American Bach Society and serves as the director of music at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem. He is a graduate of Westminster Choir College, where he studied under Dr. Joseph Flummerfelt, and in 1986, he received the Alumni Merit Award for excellence in musical performance. In 1989 he made his European debut as an organ recitalist in Schwäbisch-Gmund and in1998, he directed Bach’s Musical Offering from the harpsichord in an historic collaboration with the acclaimed Trisha Brown Dance Company.

Harvey G. Cox

Harvey Cox is the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard, where he has been teaching since 1965, both at HDS and in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

An American Baptist minister, he was the Protestant chaplain at Temple University and the director of religious activities at Oberlin College; an ecumenical fraternal worker in Berlin; and a professor at Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts.

His research and teaching interests focus on the interaction of religion, culture, and politics. Among the issues he explores are urbanization, theological developments in world Christianity, Jewish-Christian relations, and current spiritual movements in the global setting, particularly Pentecostalism.

He has been a visiting professor at Brandeis University, Seminario Bautista de Mexico, the Naropa Institute, and the University of Michigan.

A highly sought-after lecturer and frequent media commentator on religious matters, Cox is a prolific author, whose books include The Feast of Fools (which earned him a National Book Award nomination); The Seduction of the Spirit, Religion in the Secular City, The Silencing of Leonardo Boff: Liberation Theology and the Future of World Christianity, Many Mansions: A Christian's Encounters With Other Faiths, Fire From Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and The Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century.

His writings have been highly honored and are widely read in America and around the world. To date, The Secular City has to date been translated into 13 languages, most recently Russian. His most recent books are Common Prayers: Faith, Family, and a Christian’s Journey through the Jewish Year; and the 2004 release, When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral Choices Today.

Born in Malvern, Pa., Cox was educated at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received honors in history; at Yale Divinity School, and at Harvard University, where he earned his Ph.D. in history and philosophy of religion.

--Sarah Cooke

Posted on Friday, May 11, 2007

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