The President and the Lehigh University Board of Trustees are pleased to announce the conferring of honorary degrees to four extraordinary individuals at Commencement exercises on May 23, 2011.
The Chair and CEO of E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company, Ellen Kullman, recently named one of the most powerful women in the country by Forbes and Fortune magazines, will address the graduating class of 2011 at the university’s 143rd Commencement ceremony and receive the Doctor of Engineering honorary degree.
Kullman was a 20-year veteran of DuPont when she was named CEO in January 2009. She is the 19th executive to lead the company in its 208-year history, and the first woman to lead a major public U.S. chemical firm. She previously served as DuPont’s president and executive vice president and as a member of its office of the chief executive.
The other honorary degree recipients are David Henry Hwang, the contemporary American playwright who wrote the highly acclaimed M. Butterfly; Rear Admiral Charles R. Kubic ’72, Commander of the Third Naval Construction Brigade in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Commander of the Pacific Division’s Naval Facilities Engineering Command; and Rosemary Radford Ruether, a pioneer Christian feminist theologian who studies modern feminist theology and liberation theology, particularly in Palestine and Latin America.
Hwang will receive a Doctor of Letters honorary degree. Kubic will be awarded a Doctor of Engineering honorary degree, and Ruether will receive a Doctor of Divinity honorary degree.
Ruether will also deliver the baccalaureate address in Packer Memorial Church on Sunday, May 22.
Keith Gardiner, professor of industrial and systems engineering, director of the Center for Manufacturing Systems Engineering and chair of the Faculty Honorary Degrees Committee, said the nominees “exhibited careers that are outstanding examples to motivate members of the graduating class.”
Lehigh President Alice Gast said the honorees’ “remarkable accomplishments” will inspire the graduating class and the Lehigh community.
“Lehigh University bestows honorary degrees to honor exceptionally accomplished individuals who are true leaders in their fields and who exhibit the integrity, intelligence and distinction fitting of an honorary degree. We are pleased to be recognizing this year’s recipients in this way as they epitomize our aspirations for our graduates. They motivate us to learn from their admirable example.”
Exploring race and identity
Hwang, considered a pioneering Asian-American dramatist, writes plays which powerfully explore race and identity on the American stage. His work has sparked countless conversations about the role of Asian-Americans in the modern world. His first play was the OBIE Award-winning FOB. He achieved greater acclaim through M. Butterfly, which won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Play (making him the first Asian-American to receive this honor), Drama Desk Award, and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Play. It was also his second play to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The success of that play prompted Hwang to explore innovative work in film, opera and musical theatre.
Hwang is a graduate of Stanford University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English. He also studied at the Yale School of Drama.
A lifetime of service
Kubic earned a B.S. and M.S. from Lehigh University, both in civil engineering. He also graduated from the Advanced Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
He received his commission in the Civil Engineer Corps in 1972. After serving in Civil Engineering and Public Works roles, he was selected as a White House Fellow in 1985 and served as senior policy analyst for President Reagan’s Domestic Policy Council. He was later assigned to the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, where he served as director of the Strategic Programs Office and program coordinator for the Strategic Homeporting and Trident military construction programs. In 2002, he was appointed Commander of the First Naval Construction Division/Naval Construction Forces for the U.S. military. His responsibilities included coordination of battlefield engineering efforts for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Rear Admiral Kubic’s awards include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious and Meritorious Service medals, the Navy Commendation and Achievement medals, the Armed Forces Expeditionary medal, and the National Defense, Vietnam, Armed Forces, and Humanitarian Service medals.
A pioneering theologian
This year’s baccalaureate speaker, Ruether, a visiting professor of feminist theology at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University, is the author of many books on feminism, the Bible and Christianity. Her book, Sexism and God-Talk, is considered a classic in feminist theology. She has also written and edited nearly 20 books and hundreds of articles and reviews in her career as scholar, teacher and activist.
She holds a B.A. in philosophy from Scripps College, and an M.A. in ancient history and Ph.D. in classics and patristics from Claremont Graduate School.