Lehigh University
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Honorary degree recipients named

On May 18, 2009, Lehigh University will confer honorary doctorates on three individuals in recognition of lifetime achievement.

Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned economist, prolific author, educator and advisor to world governments and international organizations on economic and social issues, will speak to graduating students and others at Lehigh’s 141st commencement ceremony and will join two other noted scholars in receiving honorary degrees from the university. At that ceremony, Sachs will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Other honorary degree recipients are Shing-Tung Yau, a Chinese-American mathematician who works in differential geometry and is involved in the theory of Calabi-Yau manifolds, and Wendy Doniger, an American scholar of the history of religion who is an author, translator and editor of nearly 30 books.

Doniger will also deliver the address at the 2009 baccalaureate ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 17, in Packer Memorial Church. She will speak on "The Garden and the Lotus Pond: Christian and Buddhist Parables of Education."

Yau will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree and Doniger will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

David Anastasio, professor of earth and environmental sciences and chair of the Faculty Honorary Degree Committee, said he was impressed with the accomplishments of this year’s recipients. The honorees were selected from a list of candidates suggested by current Lehigh undergraduate and graduate students, Lehigh faculty and alumni.

“Each has led a life of integrity, intelligence, and distinction. Their participation in the commencement ceremony will provide role models for the men and women who are about to receive Lehigh University degrees,” said Anastasio, who added that each of the 2009 honorary degree recipients had the unanimous support of the faculty honorary degree committee and have been approved by President Gast and the Board of Trustees.

“An energetic educator”



Shing-Tung Yau

Yau, a professor and chair of mathematics at Harvard University, was nominated by Chao Xu, a graduate student at Lehigh, who cited his prestigious international reputation, as well as his strong connection with the geometry and topology group at Lehigh.

“His revolutionary use of the methods of partial differential equations in the area of differential geometry has played a fundamental role in modern geometry,” said Xu. “Dr. Yau is an energetic educator. He has advised more than 50 PhD students, with many of them receiving professorships around the world, including Dr. Huai-Dong Cao, A. Everett Pitcher Professor of Mathematics at Lehigh University. “

Xu also noted that Yau’s book, co-authored with Richard M. Schoen, Lectures on Differential Geometry, is a popular text for students in the field of differential geometry and geometric analysis.

“Dr. Yau has devoted much of his time to the development of mathematics in China,” said Xu. “He is the founder of two prestigious mathematical institutes: Morningside Center of Mathematics in Beijing and Center of Mathematical Science in Zhejiang University.”

Yau studied mathematics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and undertook graduate studies at the University of California-Berkeley, where he earned his Ph.D. in mathematics. In 1974, he was appointed a professor at Stanford University. Within two years, he proved Calabi's conjecture on a class of manifolds, now named Calabi-Yau manifolds, which has become the geometric forerunner to the development of string theory.

He is the recipient of a number of awards and honors, include the Fields Medal in 1982 "for his contributions to partial differential equations, to the Calabi conjecture in algebraic geometry, to the positive mass conjecture of general relativity theory, and to real and complex Monge-Ampère equations," a MacArthur Fellowship in 1984, the Crafoord Prize in 1994, and the (U.S.) National Medal of Science in 1997.

“A most engaging speaker”



Wendy Doniger

Doniger was nominated by Lloyd Steffen, professor of religion studies and University Chaplain, who lauded her as “a person of high achievement and a most engaging speaker. “

Noting that she currently holds one the most prestigious professorships in the field of religion studies, the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professorship in the History of Religions at the University of Chicago, Steffen says that she is internationally acclaimed as one of the great scholars of in the history of religions, the author of dozens of influential books.

“She is also an active intellectual citizen in the public arena, commenting in a variety of forums on sex and gender issues as well as on religion, mythology and its interpretation,” Steffen says. “Her Sanskrit translations are relied upon by every English speaking student of Indian religions, and she has applied modern interdisciplinary interpretation (around gender issues, sexuality and identity) to Hindu texts and Indian religious thought.

“She is, in addition, a wonderfully energetic and engaging speaker” he added.

Doniger’s latest book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, was recently reviewed by the New York Times Review of Books and heralded as a major work that is "staggeringly comprehensive" in its treatment of Hindu history, as well as the popular Hinduism that continues to evolve.

Doniger holds two doctorates, from Harvard University and the University of Oxford, in Sanskrit and Indian Studies. A past president of the American Academy of Religion, Doniger has been an internationally recognized comparative religion scholar with her major focus being history of religions, specializing in Hinduism and mythology and its interpretation. She has received many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and other scholarly societies.

“The most important economist in the world”



Jeffrey Sachs

The man described by The New York Times as “the most important economist in the world,” Jeffrey Sachs is known for his ability to combine expertise in economics with a passion for developing real-world solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges.

Sachs is the director of the Earth Institute, Quetelet professor of sustainable development, and professor of health policy and management at Columbia University. He is also special advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Widely considered to be the leading international economist of his generation, Sachs helped draw up the Millennium Development Goals, a series of practical guidelines designed to eliminate extreme world poverty by 2015.

Posted on Sunday, May 10, 2009

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