Honorary degrees will go to 6 at Commencement

One worked on the frontiers of space research for more than four decades; another holds three Pulitzer Prizes. One has been the architect behind the revitalization of The Loop in University City, Mo.; another a strong supporter of life-saving medical research.

From the first African-American appointed to the federal bench in the 8th Circuit to a groundbreaking diabetes researcher, the six people selected to receive honorary degrees during the University’s 143rd Commencement May 21 all stand out in their respective fields.

During the ceremony, which will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Brookings Quadrangle, the University will also bestow academic degrees on more than 2,300 students.

Thomas L. Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, best-selling author and foreign-affairs columnist for The New York Times, will deliver the Commencement address and receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.

The other honorary degree recipients and their degrees are:

• Joe Edwards, the driving force behind the revitalization of The Loop in University City, doctor of laws;

• David M. Kipnis, M.D., the Distinguished University Professor of Medicine and the Distinguished University Professor of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, doctor of science;

• Theodore McMillian, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, doctor of humanities;

• the late Robert M. Walker, Ph.D., former professor of physics in Arts & Sciences and former faculty fellow of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, doctor of science; and

• Edith Waldman Wolff, a generous University supporter and St. Louis philanthropist and volunteer, doctor of science.

Joe Edwards
Joe Edwards

Over the past 30 years, Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill, The Pageant and Pin-Up Bowl, has been the driving force behind the remarkable revitalization of The Loop, a once-desolate stretch of Delmar Boulevard connecting St. Louis City and University City.

In 1972, he opened Blueberry Hill, 6504 Delmar Blvd., with his future wife, Linda, a 1976 School of Architecture graduate.

Named for a favorite Fats Domino song, the 2,000-square-foot restaurant/pub just a few blocks north of the University featured a 140-year-old bar and displays from the “Edwards Collection” of toys, lunch boxes, jukeboxes, album covers and other pop-culture memorabilia.

Realizing that Blueberry Hill’s long-term fate was tied to that of The Loop itself, Edwards co-founded The Loop Special Business District in 1980 to raise money for improved lighting, trash receptacles, parking, holiday decorations and other enhancements.

In 1988, he established the nonprofit St. Louis Walk of Fame, which today is a succession of more than 100 brass stars and informative plaques embedded in the sidewalk along Delmar, honoring great St. Louisans who have contributed to America’s cultural life. Inductees include Josephine Baker, Chuck Berry, Charles Lindbergh and Tennessee Williams.

The Loop has thrived and now is home to more than 120 boutiques, restaurants, galleries and entertainment venues.

Edwards has received numerous awards for community leadership, including the 1993 Elijah P. Lovejoy Award; the 2000 Sold On St. Louis Award; and a 2002 “Show Me Award” from Missouri Gov. Bob Holden.

Thomas Friedman
Thomas Friedman

Friedman was awarded the 1983 and 1988 Pulitzer Prizes for international reporting and the 2002 Pulitzer for commentary.

In 1981, Friedman joined the Times as a financial reporter, specializing in news related to oil and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. In 1982, he was assigned to be the paper’s Beirut bureau chief, a post he began six weeks before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

In June 1984, Friedman was transferred to Jerusalem, where he served as the Times’ Israel bureau chief until February 1988, when he was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship to write a book about his reflections on the Middle East. In June 1989, he published From Beirut to Jerusalem, which was on the Times’ best-seller list for a year and won the 1989 National Book Award for nonfiction and the 1989 Overseas Press Club Award for the Best Book on Foreign Policy.

In January 1995, he became the Times’ foreign-affairs columnist, only the fifth person in the paper’s history to hold that post.

Friedman received the 1987 New Israel Fund Award for Outstanding Reporting From Israel; the 1985 Marine Corps Historical Foundation Award; the 1984 New York Newspaper Guild Page One Award; the 1982 George Polk Award; the 1982 Livingston Award for Young Journalists; and the 1980 Overseas Press Club Award.

David Kipnis
David Kipnis

Over the span of his nearly 50-year career at the School of Medicine, Kipnis has witnessed his vision become a reality.

As its chairman for two decades, he elevated the Department of Internal Medicine to world-renowned prominence. He attracted the most sought-after minds to the University, forged new trails in securing necessary resources and bridged the division between basic and clinical sciences.

Kipnis is internationally known for his groundbreaking research that has aided the fundamental understanding of diabetes and metabolism.

As head of the Department of Medicine and chief of medicine at Barnes Hospital for nearly two decades, Kipnis propelled the department through unprecedented growth. During his tenure, the number of full-time faculty increased from 46 to 160; the operating budget rose from $4.5 million to $110 million; and the department’s research enterprise grew to comprise 25 percent of the University’s total research budget.

He is chair of the Scholar Advisory Committee of the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust, serves on several corporate boards and is a highly sought-after adviser within and outside the University.

His prestigious honors include the George M. Kober Medal from the Association of American Physicians, the Ernest Oppenheimer Award from the Endocrine Society, and the Lilly Award and Banting Medal from the American Diabetes Association.

He was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 1974 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1981. He was selected as a Master of the American College of Physicians in 1993.

Theodore McMillian
Theodore McMillian

When President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit on Sept. 23, 1978, McMillian became the first African-American appointed to the federal bench in the seven states of that circuit.

Since his appointment, McMillian has written more than 1,200 opinions, some of which paved the way for landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

McMillian began his professional career by founding the law firm Lynch and McMillian in 1949. From 1953-56, he served as assistant circuit attorney for the city of St. Louis.

In March 1956, Gov. Phil M. Donnelly appointed McMillian to the circuit court for the city of St. Louis, 22nd Judicial Circuit. With that appointment, McMillian became the first African-American appointed to the Missouri Circuit Court.

He and his colleague Noah Weinstein were the first Juvenile Court judges to allow blind people and single people to adopt children.

In 1972, Gov. Warren E. Hearnes appointed McMillian to the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of Missouri (Eastern Division), where he served until 1978. McMillian was the first African-American appointed to that court.

He is an honorary diplomate of the American Board of Trial Advocates and has been inducted into the National Bar Association Hall of Fame. Most recently, McMillian received the 2003 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.

Robert Walker
Robert Walker

The last time Walker visited the University, he was very much looking forward to Commencement and was planning on attending.

Walker died Feb. 12 in Brussels, Belgium, after an extended struggle with stomach cancer. He was 75.

His wife, Ghislaine Crozaz, Ph.D., professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, will accept the honorary doctorate in his honor.

Walker was the inaugural director of the McDonnell Center. He played a key role in planning the return of samples by the Apollo missions and in pathbreaking laboratory studies of “moon rocks.”

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1973.

In the past two decades, he was a world leader of microanalytical studies of tiny grains preserved for eons in meteorites, culminating in their identification as stardust.

Always in pursuit of more-powerful ways to analyze small amounts of material, Walker devoted the last years of his life to the implementation of nanoscale secondary-ion mass spectrometry — NanoSIMS — promoting the development, acquisition and application of the most advanced instrument of its kind.

This effort was rewarded with the discovery — which he had forecast years earlier — of presolar silicate grains in interplanetary dust particles.

Edith Wolff
Edith Wolff

Wolff’s mission is to carry on the good works she and her late husband, Alan A. Wolff, began together more than 60 years ago.

A native St. Louisan, Wolff has been helping people in the community since she was 16, when she volunteered at Jewish Hospital. She continues to give her time and energy to organizations and institutions that help the most vulnerable citizens in the community, especially the mentally and physically handicapped.

Through the years, Wolff and her husband became deeply interested in several areas of medical research at School of Medicine, especially in the areas of renal disease, diabetic and pulmonary diseases, hematology and oncology and cardiovascular diseases.

During the Campaign for Washington University, Wolff strengthened her commitment to the medical school and the work of its faculty by endowing two professorships.

In 1999, she established the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professorship in Medicine to support progress in the understanding of cancer, a chair held by Timothy J. Ley, M.D., a specialist in cancer research.

In 2003, she endowed the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professorship in Medicine, which is held by William A. Peck, M.D., former executive vice chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine.

The areas of research she has chosen to support have grown to include Alzheimer’s disease, heart transplants, bacterial sepsis, dermatology, cell biology and physiology, and critical-care medicine.

To recognize her dedicated service and support to the University, the Board of Trustees presented her its most prestigious honor, the Robert S. Brookings Award, in 1996.