Honorary Degree Recipients
The Honorable Gabrielle Kirk McDonald
Iran-US Claims Tribunal
The Hague, Netherlands
Doctor of Laws
The Honorable Gabrielle Kirk McDonald currently serves as a judge with the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague, The Netherlands. This is her second assignment in The Hague. Her first was with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as one of the original judges elected by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1993, and she presided over the first trial. In 1997, she was elected President of the Tribunal. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said of Judge McDonald, “She is one of the pioneer civil rights litigators in our country. . .And she has since become a pioneer justice for international war crimes law…I am confident that she will continue to be a voice for justice wherever she goes.”
She attended Hunter College and Boston University and is a graduate of the Howard University School of Law, where she was first in her class. She began her legal career as a staff attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York City, and continued as a civil rights attorney with firms in Texas. A member of the Bars of New York and Texas, she served as a judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas for nine years, from 1979 to 1988.
In addition to teaching at several law schools in the United States, she is a prolific author with numerous articles to her credit, and co-editor of a book on International Criminal Law. A frequent lecturer on the work of the International Criminal Tribunals, and a Business and Human Rights Consultant, she also serves as Special Counsel to the Chairman on Human Rights for Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., and is a member of the Advisory Board of McMoRan Exploration Co.
A member of the Board of Trustees of Howard University since 1987, Judge McDonald also serves on the International Jury of the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize; the Board of Directors of the American Arbitration Association; the Genocide Prevention Task Force, a Joint Initiative of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; The American Academy of Diplomacy; and The United States Institute of Peace.
In a 1999 ceremony at the United States Supreme Court hosted by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, she received the Leadership Award from the Central Eastern European Law Initiative (CEELI), a public service project of the American Bar Association to advance the rule of law by supporting legal reform in Central and Eastern Europe and the new, independent states of the former Soviet Union.
She has received numerous awards and honors in recognition of her achievements throughout her career, including: the first Equal Justice Award, and the Ronald Brown International Law Award from the National Bar Association; the Goler Teal Butcher Award for Human Rights from the American Society of International Law; the 2001 Human Rights Award from the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights; the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession 2001 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award; the 2005 Congressman Mickey Leland Legacy Award; and, the first ever Women Groundbreakers in International Justice Award from the Open Society Institute, in 2007. Most recently she received the Dorothy I. Height Lifetime Achievement Award from the Intercultural Cancer Council in April 2008.
Judge McDonald was inducted as a lifetime member into the prestigious Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans in the Class of 2004. She has also been inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. She is the honored recipient of the Doctor of Law Honoris Causa from Georgetown University Law Center, the University of Notre Dame, the Stetson College of Law, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Amherst College, and the University of Hartford.
Her son Michael and daughter Stacy followed her in choosing law as a career and are both practicing attorneys.
C. Vivian Stringer
Women’s Basketball Coach
Doctor of Humanities
C. Vivian Stringer is one of America’s most prominent athletic coaches with one of the best records in the history of women’s basketball in her nearly four decades as a head coach. A 2001 inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, she ranks third in career victories in Division I women’s basketball history, eighth D-l coach (men or women), and the first African-American coach to reach the 800 victory plateau. Currently she is the head coach of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, the Scarlet Knights, which she has built into one of the premiere programs in the nation over 13 seasons. She is the first coach in men’s or women’s basketball to lead three different programs to the NCAA Tournament Final Four—Cheyney University in 1982, The University of Iowa in 1993, and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in 2000 and 2007. In her third season, she put Rutgers back on the national map leading a team of freshmen and sophomores to the Sweet Sixteen of the 1998 NCAA Tournament.
A three-time National Coach of the Year as voted by her peers (1982, 1988, and 1993), she has led her teams to 21 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including eight trips to the regional final. Since 1985 she has regularly received Coach of the Year honors, and in 1993 alone she received the award from Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Converse, the Los Angeles Times, and the Black Coaches Association. Also, receiving the Carol Eckman Award for exemplary service to women’s basketball, she acknowledges as one of her most personally gratifying accolades. Her list of Coach of the Year awards is extensive, but does include: Division I, the BIG EAST Conference in 1998 and 2005, and the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association for 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, and 2008 to name a few. A six-time finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year since her Rutgers tenure, she was honored by the US Sports Academy when the organization chose to name its annual women’s coaching award the C. Vivian Stringer Medallion Award of Sport for Women’s Coaching; it was first presented in 2002. Also, she has been chosen six times since 1980 for the USA Basketball coaching staff, serving most recently as an assistant coach helping to create the gold-medal 2004 winning U.S. Olympic Team.
In 2007, her solid leadership was praised worldwide, after a vicious verbal attack on CBS Radio by a male morning show host, who used racist and sexist remarks to describe her Rutgers team. Her handling of the incident as well as her young women’s stance have also been credited with helping to recruit one of her best group of players, which presently includes five McDonald’s All-Americans. Sometimes called “Queen of the Hardwood” and the “Master Builder,” her book Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph, published by Random House (2008), is described as “a story of quiet strength in the face of punishing odds.”
She is the third woman, second coach, and first African-American woman to have a building named for her on the Nike campus. The 35,000-square-foot C. Vivian Stringer Child Development Center is scheduled to open in June 2008 at the Nike world headquarters in Oregon, with 26 classrooms for 300 children. Also a respected administrator, she was one of the lead organizers in the development of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, and is a voting member of the WBCA Board of Directors, the Amateur Basketball Association of the United States, and the Nike Coaches Advisory Board. In a New York Times 2007 year-end wrap-up, she was named one of “Five Who Left Their Footprints.”
A native of Edenborn, Pennsylvania, and a member of the Alumni Hall of Fame at her alma mater, Slippery Rock University, she and her late husband, William D. Stringer, have three children---David, Janine, and Justin.
H. Patrick Swygert
President, Howard University
Doctor of Laws
H. Patrick Swygert became president of Howard University on August 1, 1995. As Howard’s 15 th president, he is the fifth African American to serve as the University’s chief executive officer.
Mr. Swygert, born in 1943, is an alumnus of Howard University, having earned his undergraduate degree and law degree (cum laude) from the University in 1965 and 1968. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of New England in 1997, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Temple University in 1999, and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Tuskegee University in 2002.
Mr. Swygert received the Medallion of the University, the highest honor of the University at Albany, State University of New York, on February 14, 2002. He was president of that institution, a public research university, from 1990 until accepting the presidency of Howard in 1995.
Prior to assuming the presidency at Albany, Mr. Swygert had been associated with Temple University in Philadelphia beginning in 1972, when he was appointed to the faculty of the School of Law. In 1987, he was named executive vice president of Temple University. From 1982 to 1987 he was vice president for university administration, and served as special counsel to the president of Temple University from 1980 to 1982.
Mr. Swygert served as a visiting professor at the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law during several summers from 1982 to 1990. He also was a visiting professor of the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana in 1975 and 1976; and visiting lecturer/visitor of Cairo, Egypt; Athens, Greece; and Rome, Italy. Additionally, Mr. Swygert has lectured abroad in a number of other countries, including the Hungarian Ministry of Higher Education and the SUNY Center for Private Enterprise Development in Budapest. Mr. Swygert has acknowledgments from institutions of higher learning, community and professional associations including selection in 2000 as a Washingtonian of the Year by WashingtonianMagazine for his leadership of the successful Howard University-Fannie Mae LeDroit Park Community Revitalization Project, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. Equal Justice Award and, in 2001, the District of Columbia Building Industry Association Achievement Award.
Currently, Mr. Swygert is a member of the board of directors of Fannie Mae, Washington, D.C., United Technologies Corporation, Hartford, CT, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., Hartford, CT and the Central Intelligence Agency External Advisory Board. He also serves as a member of the advisory council for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Mr. Swygert recently served as Chairman of the Community Business Partnership of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. In 1993, Mr. Swygert served as chair of the New York State Special Commission on Educational Structure, Policies and Practices. In June 2004, Mr. Swygert was appointed to the Eisenhower Fellowships Board in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is a member of the District of Columbia Bar, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Bar, and the State of New York Bar.
In addition to his academic career, Mr. Swygert has held several government positions. In 1979, he served as special counsel to the Merit Systems Protection Board. From 1977 to 1979, he was general counsel of the U.S. Civil Service Commission. He also served as law clerk to Chief Judge William H. Hastie of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia; administrative assistant to Congressman Charles B. Rangel, D-NY, Special Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia under then District Attorney now United States Senator Arlen Specter; and as an associate with the New York City law firm of Debevoise, Plimpton, Lyons & Gates.
From 2002 to 2006, Mr. Swygert served as Chairman of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Capital Financing Program Advisory Board of the U.S. Department of Education. On August 8, 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Mr. Swygert as a member of the Brown v. Board of Education Commemoration Commission. In 2004, District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams, appointed Mr. Swygert to the D.C. Emancipation Commemoration Commission, and on November 15, 2004, Secretary of State, Colin L. Powell, appointed him to serve on the United States National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Mr. Swygert is also a member of the Commission on Presidential Debates.
On June 4, 2003, Mr. Swygert received the “Special Friend” award from the American Friends of Lubavitch at their annual dinner, and on May 21, 2003, he received the “Education Award” from the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) at the 2003 Brotherhood Sisterhood Award Dinner. In 2004, at the Congressional Black Caucus’ 34 th Annual Legislative Conference, Mr. Swygert was presented with the Congressional Black Caucus Chair’s Award in recognition of his efforts on behalf of higher education, and on July 30, 2005, he was honored with the National Urban League 2005 Legend Award for dedicated leadership and commitment to the education of young people. On October 7, 2006, the Amistad Center for Arts and Culture at the Wadsworth Antheneum Museum of Art of Hartford, Connecticut honored Mr. Swygert for his contributions to the arts and education .
Mr. Swygert is a native of Philadelphia. He has two sons, H. Patrick, Jr. and Michael B.
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson
Astrophysicist & Frederick P. Rose Director
Hayden Planetarium & Department of Astrophysics
American Museum of Natural History
Doctor of Science
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a renowned astrophysicist, and the first appointed to the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium in 1996 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. His tenure at the Planetarium began in 1994 as Staff Scientist. He was named Acting Director in 1995, and also Chair of the Department of Astrophysics, which he created at Hayden in 1997.
He was born and raised in New York City and educated in the public schools there through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics from Harvard University, a Master of Arts degree in Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin, and his Doctorate degree in Astrophysics from Columbia University.
His professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way. He obtains his data from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as from telescopes in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and the Andes Mountains of Chile.
In 2001, he was appointed by President Bush to serve on a 12-member commission that studied the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry. The final report was published in 2002 and contained recommendations (for Congress and the major agencies of the government) that would promote a thriving future of transportation, space exploration, and national security.
In 2004, he was again appointed by President Bush to serve on a nine-member commission on the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy, dubbed the "Moon, Mars, and Beyond" Commission. This group navigated a path by which the new space vision can become a successful part of the American agenda. In 2006, he was appointed by the head of NASA to serve on its prestigious Advisory Council, which helps guide Space Administration through its perennial need to fit its ambitious vision into a restricted budget.
In addition to dozens of professional publications, Dr. Tyson has written and published extensively for the public. His latest book, a 2007 New York Times bestseller, is the playful and informative Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries. He is also a monthly essayist for Natural History magazine under the title "Universe." Among his eight books is his memoir: The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist; and Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, co-written with Donald Goldsmith. Origins is the companion book to and name of the PBS-NOVA 4-part miniseries on cosmic origins , in which he served as on-camera host. The program premiered in September 2004. In the fall of 2006, he was the on-camera host of PBS-NOVA's spinoff program NOVA ScienceNow , which is an accessible look at the frontier of all the science that shapes the understanding of our place in the universe.
He is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates, and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal “in recognition of his immense contributions to the public understanding of and appreciation for the importance of space exploration.” His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have also been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid "13123 Tyson.” On the lighter side, he was voted "Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive" by People Magazine in 2000.
He lives in New York City with his wife and two daughters.