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Farrington, three others to receive honorary degrees

Four visionaries will receive honorary degrees at the 138th commencement ceremony that will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, May 22 at Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium.

Receiving honorary degrees are:

• Gregory C. Farrington, Lehigh’s president since 1998, who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters.

• Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who will address the more than 1,200 graduates before receiving a Doctor of Humane Letters.

• Joseph R. Perella ’64, a Lehigh University trustee and the former chairman of the Institutional Securities and Investment Banking Group at Morgan Stanley who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters.

• The Right Reverend John Shelby Spong, former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, N.J. who will receive a Doctor of Divinity. Spong will deliver the Baccalaureate address on May 21. (Click here to read more about Spong giving the Baccalaureate address.)


Gregory C. Farrington

Gregory C. Farrington was selected the 12th president of Lehigh University in May 1998. Prior to his Lehigh appointment, he had been Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Throughout his academic career, he has proved to be an innovative leader with a vision for transforming higher education in the new millennium.

At Lehigh, Farrington has championed breaking down disciplinary walls and experimenting with new information technologies to improve student learning. In addition, under his leadership, a $75-million "academic venture capital fund" was created to encourage faculty collaboration in developing programs that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries and respond to the needs of society while adhering to higher education’s time-honored goal of developing well-rounded citizens.

He has been an effective advocate of partnering with the city of Bethlehem, the state and federal government, industry and other partners to make the city and region a better place to live, work and learn while strengthening the university and spurring regional economic development. Farrington was named by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to the state’s transition team for the Department of Community and Economic Development in January of 2003.

His commitment to the local community is also evident through his active participation on the board of trustees of St. Luke’s Hospital & Health Network and the National Museum of Industrial History, both in Bethlehem; the Lehigh Valley Partnership and Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation boards. In addition, he serves on the Business-Higher Education Forum and the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities board of directors.

Farrington holds or shares more than two dozen patents and has written or edited several books and book chapters in his field as well as more than 100 technical publications. He serves on a number of national boards and committees dealing with education and technology.

Born in Bronxville, N.Y., he earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in chemistry, specializing in electrochemistry, in 1972. He earned his A.M. degree in chemistry from Harvard University in 1970, after receiving his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Clarkson University in 1968.

Farrington began his career as a chemist in 1972, when he joined the General Electric Company as a staff scientist in its Corporate Research and Development Center in Schenectady, N.Y. He joined the Department of Materials Science and Engineering of the University of Pennsylvania in 1979. Farrington will step down from the presidency on June 30, 2006.

Ken Burns

Burns has directed and produced some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. He is world renowned for his style in documentary filmmaking, in which he makes use of period photographs and blends them with film, music, authentic sound effects, remarks by historians and other scholars, and narration. Some of his most popular documentaries include Jazz, Baseball, The Civil War and Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery.

Burns’ work has brought into the spotlight of American popular culture the lives and struggles of all Americans. Burns’ most recent film, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, tells the story of the first African-American boxer to win the most coveted title in all of sports—the heavyweight championship—and his struggle, in and out of the ring, to live his life as a free man. His 1999 film, Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, tells the dramatic story of the two women who spearheaded the women’s rights movement in America.

Jazz, a 10-part, 19-hour film, explores in detail the birth of jazz music from its origins in blues and ragtime through swing, bebop, and fusion. John Carmen of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “Jazz informs, astonishes, and entertains. It invites joy, tears, toe-tapping, pride and shame and maybe an occasional goose bump.”

Of all of his films, Burns is probably best known for his work on the hallmark PBS documentary The Civil War. Fifteen years after its premiere, the film is still the highest rated series in the history of PBS. It captured more than 40 major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards and two Grammy Awards.

Burns will likely address the lessons learned from history in his commencement address. That’s because much of his work has focused on American history and important Americans such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Charles Lindbergh, in addition to Anthony and Stanton, Jack Johnson, and jazz greats Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, among many others.

A multiple Emmy Award winner, Burns has been making films for more than 30 years. Since the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Burns has gone on to produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made and has been recognized with the most important awards and honors in his field. His many accomplishments have made him a quite popular commencement speaker in recent years.

Joseph R. Perella ’64

Joseph R. Perella graduated from Lehigh University in 1964 with a degree in business administration. As a student, he was a member of the accounting society, class cabinet, and Phi Kappa Theta. He served as a crew chief on F-105 fighter-bombers in the United States Air Force and the New Jersey Air National Guard from 1964-1970, and earned his M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1972. Perella joined The First Boston Corporation in 1972, founded their M&A department, and then co-founded Wasserstein Perella and Co., Inc. in 1988.

Perella then signed on as a managing director and member of the management committee at Morgan Stanley in 1993. He was worldwide head of Morgan Stanley’s Investment Banking Division, then chairman of the Institutional Securities and Investment Banking Group. Perella is currently in the process of forming a new financial services firm. In early 2006, Investment Dealer’s Digest named Perella “Banker of the Year.”

A member of Lehigh’s Board of Trustees between 1989 and 1998, Perella rejoined the board in 2002. He is an honorary co-chair of Shine Forever: The Campaign for Lehigh. Perella serves on the executive, finance, and development committees of the board. He has also been an avid follower of Lehigh wrestling since his student days. In 2004, Perella was awarded the “L-in-Life” award by the Lehigh New York Alumni Club for his outstanding service to the university.

Perella and Amy, his wife of more than 30 years, are strong believers in the importance of alumni support to Lehigh. They endowed the Perella Department of Finance in 2003. The first Perella chairholder is David Myers, professor of practice and director of Lehigh’s first Financial Services Laboratory in the College of Business and Economics. In addition, the Perellas have an endowed scholarship fund for Lehigh students from the Newark, N.J. area, where Perella grew up. They also supported the construction of Rauch Business Center, in which the largest auditorium is now named in their honor. The Perellas are members of the Asa Packer Society and Tower Society.

Bishop John Shelby Spong

John Shelby Spong, the pre-eminent voice for liberal Christianity, was the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark for 24 years before his retirement in 2000. His admirers acclaim his legacy as a teaching bishop who makes contemporary theology accessible to the ordinary lay person. He is considered a champion of an inclusive faith by many inside and outside the Christian church. His challenges to the church have also made Spong a controversial figure.

Since his retirement, Spong has taught at Harvard University, where he delivered the William Belden Noble lectures; at the University of the Pacific, and at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. He has been a scholar in residence at Christ Church, Oxford, and is a fellow of St. Deiniol’s Library in Wales. In demand as a speaker around the world, Spong recently lectured to standing room-only crowds in the U.K., Europe, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Spong is the author of several bestselling books which have sold more than 1,000,000 copies combined, including Living in Sin, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, Here I Stand, and A New Christianity for a New World.

Spong has received numerous honors, including being named Quatercentenary Scholar by Emmanuel College, Cambridge University in 1992 and Humanist of the Year in 1999. The Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia and St. Paul’s College have conferred on him Doctor of Divinity degrees. Muhlenberg College and Holmes Institute of Consciousness Studies awarded him Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. He was inducted to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers and Collegium Scholars at Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA, in 2004.

His extensive media experience includes appearances on “60 Minutes,” “Good Morning America,” “Fox News Live,” “Politically Incorrect,” “Larry King Live,” “The O’Reilly Factor,” William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line,” and “Oprah,” and “Phil Donahue.”

Bishop Spong lives with his wife, Christine Mary Spong, in Morris Plains, N.J.

--Bill Doherty

Posted on Friday, May 05, 2006

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