Kenneth Lauren Burns, esteemed, innovative, documentary filmmaker, producer, director, and writer. your unparalleled approach challenging the “attention span” of American viewers has made history come alive for millions. you won over critics who doubted viewers would sit for hours immersed in historical exploration about the human condition, life, and emotions.
Your trilogy of epic documentaries began in 1990 with the Civil War, the highest-rated series in the history of American public television. This landmark series received more than forty major awards, including two Emmys, two Grammys, Producer of the Year from the Producer’s Guild, People’s Choice, Peabody, and Dupont-Columbia, to name a few. It showcased your signature “still-in-motion” film technique and your single-minded devotion to subject.
In September 1994, the Eighteen-Hour Baseball premiered and became the most watched series in PBS history, attracting over 45 million viewers. “Baseball,” you said, “is a guide to the inner life of the country. It’s a gritty history from the 1840’s to the present in which loss figures prominently.” While exposing the exclusion of African Americans from this national pastime, you uplift the history of the Negro leagues and the great Jackie Robinson, among others. With the income from the extensive merchandising and licensing of baseball, you founded a nonprofit foundation, which supports negro league charities, history education, and hard-to-fund public television projects.
Journalist Tom Brokaw called your third documentary Jazz “a masterpiece of American television.” this series explores in detail the culture, politics, and dreams that gave birth to jazz music and traces its origins in blues and ragtime through swing, bebop, and fusion.
Truly an “idea man,” your awe-inspiring, groundbreaking productions include among others: Mark Twain, Not for Ourselves Alone: the Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony; Frank Lloyd Wright; Lewis and Clark: the Journey of the corps of Discovery; Thomas Jefferson; the Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God; the Statue of Liberty, nominated for an Oscar; and Huey Long.
In a revealing interview with Joan Walsh for the San Francisco Focus, you said: “If you lift up the rug of history and sweep out the dirt, you don’t in any way diminish the beauty of that tapestry. The implication is that the airing out of history is a kind of medicine. . . Healing can take place, and that’s what I’m interested in—the healing power of history. I think we’re in the middle of a new civil war, between people who wish to pull apart and those who realize that our strength is in finding common ground.”
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1953, you are the first child of cultural anthropologist Robert Burns and Lyla Burns, a bio-technician. your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when you were just three, and died when you were eleven. “The tragedy,” you explained, “defined my childhood and ultimately, my career. Losing my mother inspired not just my love of the past, but my sense of direction and obsessive work style.”
The first filmmaker to be inducted into the Society of American Historians, you are the recipient of numerous honors, honorary degrees, and awards including the 2002 International Documentary Association Career Achievement, and the Cine 2003 Leadership Award. Now residing in Walpole, New Hampshire, you are a member of the Board of Trustees, New Hampshire Humanities Council; the Board of Directors, MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire; Trustee, Hampshire College; and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to name a few of your professional associations.
Kenneth Lauren Burns, magnificent storyteller, pioneering filmmaker, and
innovative historian, your passionate, ingenious approach and stellar career
are hallmarks for the world of film and television and society at-large. It is
with utmost enthusiasm and respect that Howard University lauds your
astonishing achievements and leadership as an independent filmmaker
extraordinaire. we are indeed pleased to honor you on this historic occasion
of our 135th Commencement Convocation, and equally proud to confer upon you
the degree, Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa.
Johnnie L. Cochran, legendary renowned barrister, fierce litigator, eloquent orator, brilliant legal strategist, revered civil libertarian, and gracious philanthropist, you epitomize honor and integrity throughout every aspect of the fascinating odyssey of your life. Thanks to your efforts America has had to acknowledge that “justice is not colorblind” at least as it relates to people of color. Your sure-fire zeal, supreme intellect, deep abiding faith, unshakable passion, and resourceful conscientious approach to the pursuit of justice are the hallmarks of your life. this has defined your destiny and ingeniously created historic changes in the legal landscape and society. Your unique ability to challenge the American justice system while working within its parameters has produced amazing rewards.
In your first best-seller biography, Journey to Justice, with Tim Rutten, you said, . . .that's the thing about roots. They nourish you, and a man who has them always knows where he stands." Steeped in the oratorical majesty of pastor Ceasar Clark, you have lived a life cognizant of what it means to have God in your life and what a transforming redemptive experience it can be.
By age twelve, you had decided that you would like to become a lawyer. You told your mother “if I can represent people, speak-out, standup, and advocate for cause, I really feel this is my calling." Upon reflection, she conceded her dream for you to become a doctor, with the proviso that you become “the best lawyer you can be." You count this as “the first case you ever won.”
The May 17, 1954 Supreme Court decision in the brown v. board of education case thrust the lawyer Thurgood Marshall forward to become your idol and role model. "What a marvelous man," you thought, "he used the law to change society for the better. . .that's what I want to do."
You began your legal career in 1963 as a Deputy City Attorney in Los Angeles, one of only three African Americans. You started by prosecuting traffic cases and won 28 on your very first day, learning quickly that the system barely weighed the everyday citizens' word against the police. You learned how the system worked from the inside out.
You prosecuted the famous Lenny Bruce obscenity case, which spurred your doubts about the legal system, especially its practice of racial profiling and cases called “148,” technically resisting arrest. African-American attorneys began referring to these cases as “flunking the attitude test” when defendants appeared bruised, battered and sometimes with broken bones following no-cause random police stops primarily of African-American males.
No longer able to abide these injustices, in 1965 you went into private practice. you chronicled this in your best-seller 2002 biography a lawyer’s life.
Your role as interrogator in the Leonard Deadwyler coroner’s inquest was showcased in an eight-day broadcast of "Mr. Cochran wants to know.” Deadwyler’s death had occurred by the police after he was stopped for speeding while rushing his pregnant wife to the hospital. even though the city declined to bring criminal charges, your questions did reveal that the police had violated their own rules of conduct, and you were successful in winning a record civil settlement. this case launched your systemic efforts over the years to eliminate the peril of “driving while Black.”
The only attorney in Los Angeles history ever to receive both the “Criminal Trial Lawyer of the Year Award” and the “Civil Trial Lawyer of the Year Award,” you place the Elmer Geronimo Pratt case at the top of your career achievements. On June 10, 1997 Pratt Walked out of prison after 27 years. Noting this as your proudest career moment, you said, “it’s why I still have faith in the system because we used the same system that convicted an innocent man to free him.”
From the beginning of your law career, you have represented celebrities the most prominent, O.J. Simpson in the “trial of the century.” Your famous quote – “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” appears in the Columbia World of Quotations. You are often referenced in sitcoms and feature films and have appeared in every major TV show, including 60 minutes, I and II; Nightline; Dateline; 20/20; 48 Hours; and Court TV; as well as every major publication.
A generous spirit, you have established: the Johnnie L. Cochran, Sr. Scholarship for UCLA African-American Males, known as Cochran Scholars; a scholarship at the University of New Mexico, School of Law, for Cochran Scholars; the Southern University School of Law Scholarship; the Cochran Villa, a 10-unit, low-income family housing complex named in honor of your parents; the Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Academy of Legal Studies and Community Service, East Orange, New Jersey; and the Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Center for Early Learning at Second Baptist Church, Los Angeles, where you have been a member for over fifty years.
You are credited with forging the revitalization of Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood, New York as chairman of the upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone since 2001. The recipient of innumerable honors your most recent awards include the April 2003, Ebony Magazine’s “100+ influential Black Americans,” Crain’s New York Business Magazine’s “100 most powerful minority business leaders,” and Sports Illustrated’s May 2003, “101 most influential minorities in sports.”
You reside in New York city and Los Angeles, California, with your lovely wife, Dr. Dale Mason Cochran, and your father, Johnnie L. Cochran, Sr. the deep, spiritual bond with your beloved mother Hattie lives on after death, as you also hold dear the many words of wisdom she imparted.
Johnnie L. Cochran, victorious foot soldier for justice and freedom,
revered attorney and humanitarian and renaissance man, your gifts from God
have blessed this nation and repaired its criminal justice system. you bring
exalted new meaning to the treasured core values of Howard University in your
vivid demonstration of excellence, leadership, service, and truth. It is with
gratitude that we honor you on this historic occasion of our 135th
Commencement Convocation, conferring upon you the degree, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Thomas Wade Jones, you are one of America’s most distinguished, and highly-respected corporate financial executives of the twenty-first century. You garner unprecedented clout in the world of high finance. You have continued your revolutionary action of the 60’s in the staid, conservative reins of the financial world. You took the movement of the 60’s to Wall Street. Your expertise, intellect, integrity, and dynamic leadership are magnificently manifested in your position as chairman and chief executive officer of Global Investment Management for Citigroup. This business sector includes Citigroup Asset Management, Alternative Investments, Private Bank, and Travelers Life & Annuity. You also serve as the chairman and chief executive officer of Citigroup Asset Management, with approximately $479 billion in client assets under management.
You joined Travelers Group as vice chairman and director in 1997, and served as chairman and chief executive officer of Salomon Smith Barney Asset Management until october 1998. Prior to this, you were vice chairman and director of TIAA-CREF from 1995, and president and chief operating officer from 1993-1997. Between 1989 and 1993, you served as executive vice president of finance and planning and chief financial officer of TIAA-CREF, the largest pension system in the United States with over $200 billion in assets under management.
A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you entered Cornell University in 1965; you served as freshman class president, a member of the student judicial board, and a student-government activist who was the spokesman for the historic and controversial takeover of Willard Straight Hall in 1969. These leadership activities resulted in your picture on a Newsweek cover brandishing a rifle and a raised fist that resonated around the country in the late 1960’s. You remained at Cornell, completing your bachelor of arts degree in government in 1969, and a master of science degree in regional planning in 1972. During your graduate studies, you led the efforts to write a proposal for the creation of the Africana studies and research center, and persuaded noted professor James E. Turner to become the center’s first director.
In 2002, when Fortune Magazine named you number five out of the fifty most powerful Black executives in America, you said that “turning to corporate America was the logical next step after college.” You felt that “one of the new frontiers for African Americans would be business. Clearly, if America was going to be a more open society, then one of the testing grounds would have to be where the dollar was made—where significant wealth and resources were at stake.” You have always understood “ it is about the Benjamins.”
You and your wife Adelaide Knox Jones reside in New Canaan, Connecticut, with your three children, Evonne, Michael, and Victoria; your son, Nigel, is continuing the family tradition and is employed at Goldman Sachs & Co.
Speaking several years ago at the 25th anniversary of the takeover of Willard Straight Hall at Cornell, you reflected upon the lessons for the current generation of students saying, “today’s fight. . .is to build a society that respects and celebrates diversity. But it should be a society that also affirms a greater sense of community, transcends our diversity, and unites us as one people despite our various colors and cultures and creeds.”
Thomas Wade Jones, influential, gifted corporate leader and esteemed
businessman, you are an exemplar of ultimate achievement. your life’s work and
vital incomparable contributions epitomize the cherished core values of Howard
University: excellence, leadership, service, and truth. it is with utmost
respect and pride that we honor you on this fine occasion of our 135th
Commencement Convocation, conferring upon you the degree Doctor of Humane
Letters, honoris causa.
Antonia Coello Novello, gifted physician, astute and accomplished administrator, tenacious and productive researcher, innovative and motivating lecturer, and prolific author, the magnitude of your history-making and awe-inspiring career in the fields of medicine and public health stand as living proof that the “American dream” can be realized with diligent hard work, integrity, leadership, and courageous determination. you have broken barriers and shattered the glass ceiling. Your historic place in the annals of this nation was established when you were appointed as the 14th Surgeon General of the United States, becoming the “first” female and “first” Hispanic to serve in this capacity. You chose Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to administer the sworn oath on march 9, 1990. Your role as the us public health advisor on aids, nutrition and diet, alcohol, drug and tobacco-related diseases, environmental health hazards, and the importance of immunization and disease prevention is still revered. You made an indelible mark on the conscience of our nation while also directing the activities of the 6,400 members of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps. You define yourself first and foremost as a physician whose motto is “good science and good sense.”
Your creative intellect, pioneering spirit, and awesome achievements were recognized, and you were chosen by Governor George Pataki to be the thirteenth New York State Health Commissioner.
You are a tireless and courageous advocate for health progress and disease prevention.
Prior to this, in your role as UNICEF special representative for health and nutrition, you were lauded as a global messenger targeting youth for the prevention and treatment of alcohol and substance abuse, aids, and safe sex for college students around the nation. You also led the global fight to eliminate iodine and vitamin a deficiency disorders, immunizing the world’s children.
After working in private practice in the areas of pediatrics and nephrology, you entered the public health service in 1978.
You were also detailed to the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, where you gained valuable experience as a legislative fellow, making significant contributions to the drafting and enactment of the Organ Procurement Transplantation Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-507), and were successful in drafting warning labels about the serious health risks of cigarette smoking.
Born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, you earned the bachelor of science degree and an M.D. degree, both from the University of Puerto Rico. Your pediatric internship and residency were completed at the University of Michigan. You earned a Masters degree in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in 1982, and were awarded a Doctor of Public Health there in 2000. A member of Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honors society, and published extensively, you were also selected to attend the program for senior managers in government at the Harvard University Kennedy school of government. A fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, you are a board-certified pediatrician.
Recognized worldwide as a woman preeminent in the medical profession, sensitive to the needs and aspirations of other women and staunchly committed to advancing women and minorities varied careers, you are the recipient of numerous awards and honors, the American Academy of Pediatrics Excellence in Public Service Award; and more than 25 honorary degrees.
Antonia Coello Novello, your magnificent, enthusiastic commitment to
science and public and community service, and your awesome, pioneering
achievements are unique in our universe. You epitomize Howard University’s
cherished core values of excellence, leadership, service, and truth. in
recognition of your famed and historic career of servant leadership, we are
elated and humbled to honor you on this glorious occasion of our 135th
Commencement, conferring upon you the degree, Doctor of Science, honoris
William Phillips Deveaux, beloved man of God, humanitarian, preeminent public servant, and pioneering visionary, your global missions and outreach as the 113th Bishop stand as a model roadmap of ingenious, resourceful ministry in action, creating and sustaining communities. Presiding over the 16th Episcopal district of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church which includes Guyana/Suriname, Windward Islands, Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and London/Holland, you are lauded for you extraordinary stewardship. Your courageous career has impacted the lives of untold thousands around the globe. An innovator, your current work implementing a strategic plan for AME Churches in the Caribbean is “designed to encourage members and churches to view themselves and to operate as a force for mission outreach rather than as the recipients of mission services.”
In your last post as the illustrious prelate of the 18th Episcopal District, comprised of the countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Swaziland in South Africa, you created a groundbreaking legacy, literally and figuratively. Your extraordinary and expert leadership resulted in: the building and refurbishing of schools and churches, including an English language school in Laromana, Haiti; the M. Joan Cousin Women’s Empowerment Center in Lobaste, Botswana to train women in marketable skills, with special attention to persons living with hiv/aids; construction of fifty permanent homes for mozambican flood victims; delivery of tons of relief and medical supplies to refugee centers in the area surrounding Maputo, Mozambique; international conferences convened on health and wholeness in Haiti, as well as an HIV/AIDS conference; and the purchase of a new health clinic in Port-of-Prince, Haiti.
You are revered for your steadfast achievements as the director of the fund for theological education, and chairman of the Commission on Global Witness and Ministries for the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Your have held pastorates at: bethel AME Church in Lynn, Massachusetts; St. John AME Church in Nashville, Tennessee; Wayman AME Church in Dayton, Ohio; and Metropolitan AME Church in the nation’s capital, where you served from 1986 until your election as Bishop in 1996.
In your essay, “Prophetic Ministry: the Black Church & Theological Education,” you “insist that the task of theological education is to prepare Christian ministers who will be prophetic in thought, work, and action. But before seminaries and divinity schools can accomplish this task for African Americans, considerable misinformation about the Black religious experience and its participants must be corrected, and theological faculties must more skillfully assist their students in translating the disciplines of theology into the concrete practice ministry.”
Born in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, the youngest of three children to Chaplain John and Della Deveaux, you spent your elementary and high school years living on army posts in Maryland, Kansas, Colorado, and Baumholder, Germany. You entered Howard University, where your active leadership skills led to election as junior and senior class president, and basileus of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. You answered the call to the ordained ministry while a student at alma mater. Following in your father’s footsteps, you served in the United States army as a chaplain from 1968-1973 with assignments at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Baumholder, Germany and the Viet Nam conflict, where you brought much comfort and solace to the troops in combat.
You and your wife, Dr. Pam Deveaux, are the proud parents of Dawn, Dana, William, Jr., Paul, Robin, and David, and have twelve grandchildren; together you have also parented a host of sons and daughters in ministry.
Bishop William Phillips Deveaux, revered son of Howard, child of the Almighty, and servant of humankind, your campaign slogan for Bishop—“standing up, speaking out, and taking risks”—expresses your steadfast beliefs which have propelled you to the pinnacle of your profession. you are an exemplar of international servant-leadership. Alma mater is thankful for this opportunity to honor you, for when we honor you we honor ourselves. on this day marking the 135th commencement we are pleased to honor you as the convocation orator, and do hereby confer upon you the degree, Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa.