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(Boston) – Steven Chu, the 1997 Nobel laureate in Physics and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will deliver the commencement address at Boston University’s 134th graduation ceremonies at BU’s Nickerson Field at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 20. Chu, who is leading a multidisciplinary initiative to create sustainable, carbon-neutral sources of energy, will speak before more than 5,000 graduates and 20,000 guests at New England’s largest graduation ceremony.
BU President Robert A. Brown announced the commencement and baccalaureate speakers and honorary degree recipients to the members of the Class of 2007 this morning at the annual Senior Breakfast, held at the George Sherman Union.
A professor of Physics and Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Chu has overseen the Department of Energy national laboratory since 2004, focused on scientific efforts to solve the nation’s energy problem with sustainable sources of power that in their creation and use will result in no net carbon dioxide emissions.
While a professor in the Physics and Applied Physics Departments at Stanford University, his groundbreaking work in cooling and trapping atoms by using laser light led to the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997, an honor he shared with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji of France and U.S. colleague William D. Phillips.
Chu, who will receive a Doctor of Science degree from BU, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and a Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1970 from the University of Rochester and a Doctor of Philosophy in Physics in 1976 from the UC Berkeley.
Brown also announced that Bill Kovach, senior counselor to the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) and the former New York Times Washington Bureau Chief, will deliver the Commencement day baccalaureate address at 9:00 a.m. at Marsh Chapel, and will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Kovach, a journalist and writer for 50 years, also served as editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, curator of the Nieman Fellowships at Harvard University and the founding chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. PEJ is a non-partisan, non- ideological and non-political research organization that specializes in using empirical methods to evaluate and study the performance of the press.
Also receiving honorary degrees are: renowned artist Brice Marden; Judy Norsigian, executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves and a co-author of the groundbreaking book by the same name; Samuel O. Thier, M.D., former chief executive officer of Partners HealthCare System and president of Massachusetts General Hospital; and former Alliance Capital CEO, Citicorp Chief Investment Officer, and current BU Trustee Peter H. Vermilye.
Marden, who will receive a Doctor of Fine Arts, has exhibited his work at over 100 solo shows and even more at group exhibitions in major museums and galleries throughout the world. A 1961 graduate of BU’s College of Fine Arts who earned an M.F.A. from the School of Art and Architecture at Yale University, Marden is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Norsigian joined a group of women who produced a newsprint booklet entitled “Our Bodies that helped launch the Women’s Health Movement. She contributed a chapter for the first Simon & Schuster edition published in 1973, and she was among the 12 women who officially incorporated the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective and is a co-author of all editions. During the following years she became more centrally involved with the organization’s groundbreaking work educating women and others about core health and sexuality issues. The hallmark“Our Bodies, Ourselves” — the combination of well-researched medical information, accessible language, and the personal experiences of women — put women’s health and sexuality in a radically new political and social context. Now in its eighth edition, the book has sold more than four million copies and has been culturally adapted and translated into 24 languages. In 2001, Norsigian, who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters from BU, became executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS), a non-profit, public interest women’s health education, advocacy and consulting organization.
Dr. Thier, who earned a Doctor of Medicine degree from SUNY-Syracuse in 1960, began his career at Massachusetts General Hospital, then served as associate director of Medical Services at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and then vice chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University’s School of Medicine. In 1975, he became chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine and chief of Medical Service at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Dr. Thier, who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters from BU, served as president of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, from 1985 to 1991, president of Brandeis University from 1991-94, and then president of Massachusetts General Hospital and president of Partners HealthCare System, Inc. until 1996. He became chief executive officer in 1996, stepping down in 2002. He continues to teach at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Thier has had many leadership positions, including membership on the Board of Trustees of Yale-New Haven Hospital, Johns Hopkins University and Cornell University. He currently chairs the Board of Directors of The Commonwealth Fund. He was named Honorary Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Philosophical Society.
Vermilye, who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, began his career in 1940 at J. P. Morgan and Morgan Guaranty Trust. Ascending the ranks, he became vice president for Pension Investments in 1950 and held that post for 15 years. He served as vice chairman of State Street Research and Management from 1965-69, and then as chairman and president of Alliance Capital Management from 1970-77. From 1977-1984, he was the chief investment officer at Citicorp. For the next five years, he held the position of chairman of Baring America Asset Management, Inc., and, from 1986 to 1995, he was senior advisor and portfolio manager of Baring Asset Management, Ltd. In 1986, he became the strategic advisor to the Kuwait Investment Authority, stepping down in 1990. Since 1996, Mr. Vermilye has been senior advisor and portfolio manager at Fortis Investments, formerly Harbor Capital Management. As chairman of the Investment Committee of Boston University’s Board of Trustees, he helped increase the endowment of the University from $28 million in the early `70s to over $1 billion in 2006. Vermilye, who is chairman emeritus of The Huntington Theatre of Boston University, was honored by Mayor Menino for his service by declaring May 30, 1996, “Peter Vermilye Day.”
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU consists of 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.