Six to receive honorary degrees at 151st Commencement ceremony May 18

Washington University in St. Louis will award six honorary degrees during the university’s 151st Commencement May 18.

During the ceremony, which will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Brookings Quadrangle on the Danforth Campus, WUSTL also will bestow academic degrees on approximately 2,800 members of the Class of 2012.

Alumnus Mike Peters, the 1981 Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial cartooning and creator of the award-winning cartoon strip Mother Goose & Grimm, will deliver the Commencement address and receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from WUSTL.

The other honorary degree recipients and their degrees are:

  • David M. Becker, JD, the Joseph H. Zumbalen Professor Emeritus of the Law of Property and associate dean for external relations at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, doctor of humane letters;
  • C. Ronald Kahn, MD, an internationally recognized expert in diabetes and obesity research and chief academic officer at the Joslin Diabetes Center, the world’s largest diabetes clinical and research organization, doctor of science;
  • Richard J. Mahoney, retired chair and CEO of Monsanto, currently serves as distinguished executive in residence at WUSTL’s Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy and executive in residence at Olin Business School, doctor of science;
  • Gloria M. Steinem, a pioneering feminist, award-winning journalist and best-selling author, doctor of humane letters; and
  • Donald M. Suggs, DDS, oral surgeon, publisher and executive director of The St. Louis American, patron of the arts and distinguished community leader, doctor of humane letters.

Peters, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from WUSTL in 1965, is recognized as one of the country’s most prominent cartoon artists for his outstanding work as both a political and comic strip cartoonist.

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His editorial cartoons appear in more than 400 newspapers and publications worldwide. Mother Goose and Grimm, the comic strip he created in 1984, now appears in more than 800 newspapers worldwide, and is consistently placed in the top 10 most popular comic strip ratings.

Peters has been interested in cartooning, and particularly political cartooning, since his childhood growing up in St. Louis’ Dogtown neighborhood.

He recalls as a young boy being encouraged to draw by his mother, the late Charlotte Peters, who was host of a popular variety show on St. Louis television from the 1950s until 1970.

After earning his degree from the School of Art, he immediately began his career on the art staff of the Chicago Daily News. In 1966, he was drafted into the U.S. Army for two years before joining the Dayton Daily News, which has been the home newspaper for his editorial cartoons since 1969.

By 1972, his editorial cartoons were syndicated nationally and, in 1981, Peters received a Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

Peters, who has published more than 40 collections of his work, is the recipient of virtually every major honor in his profession. His numerous honors include WUSTL’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1981 at Founders Day.

Peters has delivered three Assembly Series lectures at WUSTL since 1981. He has also returned to campus for Homecoming and reunions of former Student Life newspaper staff members. A cartoonist for the paper while a student in the 1960s, he delivered a dinner talk as part of Student Life’s 125th anniversary celebration in 2003.

Peters was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame with a star on Delmar Boulevard in 2002.

A beloved teacher and prolific scholar, Becker has taught at the School of Law for nearly 50 years. He exemplifies the law school’s commitment to outstanding teaching and has had an extraordinary influence on his students.

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Born in Chicago, he earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1957 and a juris doctorate in 1960, order of the coif, from the University of Chicago.

He joined the Washington University law faculty in 1963, and within 10 years, he received WUSTL’s Distinguished Faculty Award at Founders Day. He also received the School of Law Alumni Association’s first Distinguished Teacher Award in 1988 and the school’s Dean’s Medal in 2005.

Becker regularly received the Teacher of the Year Award from the Student Bar Association (SBA). In 2007, the SBA renamed the award as the David M. Becker Professor of the Year. The award — SBA’s highest recognition of excellence in teaching — is given annually to a professor who demonstrates a passion for teaching and regularly contributes to the law school community.

In fall 2002, the School of Law celebrated his 40th year of continuous teaching by creating the David M. Becker Public Service Fund. This endowed fund annually supports five Becker Public Service Fellows, Summer Public Interest Stipends and general scholarships.

Coinciding with Law Alumni Weekend, Oct. 26-27, the School of Law will host, among other activities, a symposium and dinner in honor of Becker’s 50 years of teaching and service. The event will benefit the law school’s Scholarship Initiative and is designed to encourage active service to the law school.

For the past 30 years, Kahn has been looking for causes to diabetes at the Joslin Diabetes Center, which is an affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

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Kahn was Joslin’s president from 2000-07, after serving as its director of research for two decades. Under his leadership, Joslin’s research grew more than 20-fold, clinical and educational activity tripled, and new programs were launched in several areas.

Kahn was named the center’s first chief academic officer in January 2012. In his new role, Kahn oversees faculty recruitment, appointments and promotions at the center, which trains about 150 doctors and doctoral fellows a year.

He is also co-head of Joslin’s Integrative Physiology and Metabolism section and the Mary K. Iacocca Professor of Medicine at Harvard, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1981.

Kahn is a renowned investigator of insulin signal transduction and the mechanisms of altered signaling in disease. His laboratory discovered the insulin receptor kinase, its two primary substrates and the molecular components of the insulin-signaling network.

In addition, he was the first to define alterations in the signaling network in type 2 diabetes, including the important role of insulin action in the brain, both in physiologic regulation and control of brain cholesterol metabolism.

His lab has made significant contributions to the understanding of obesity by showing that fat cells, called adipocytes, have different developmental origins and cellular functions that lead to risk of metabolic disease.

During his 13 years as CEO of Monsanto, Mahoney transformed the St. Louis-headquartered organization into a broad-based life sciences and specialty chemical company with major programs in pharmaceuticals, food and nutritional ingredients and world leadership in agricultural products and sciences.

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The company grew rapidly in those years, based largely on its major increases in research investment and the successful commercial development of its results.

Since his retirement from Monsanto in 1995, Mahoney has served as distinguished executive in residence at the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy and as executive in residence at Olin Business School.

Mahoney is an emeritus member of WUSTL’s Board of Trustees and serves on the board’s committee for Medical School Finance and Planning.

Over a period of two years, he wrote a series of editorial columns for The New York Times’ Sunday business section, titled “Viewpoint.”

For several years, he produced The CEO Series for the Weidenbaum Center, a collection of more than 30 original essays written by CEOs of major corporations.

He later published In My Opinion, a collection of his writings on public policy, corporate strategy, management, trade and other topics.

A Churchill Fellow at the National Churchill Museum, Mahoney produced in 2005 The Quotable Winston Churchill, a volume of memorable commentary from one of the world’s great leaders.

Mahoney graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and holds honorary degrees from the University of Massachusetts, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Westminster College and is an honorary fellow of Exeter College, University of Oxford.

Steinem will address Brown School graduates and their family and friends during the school’s diploma ceremony Friday, May 18.

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She co-founded Ms. Magazine in 1972, the first periodical created, owned and operated entirely by women, and remained one of its editors for 15 years.

Steinem continues to serve as a consulting editor for Ms. She also helped found in 1968 New York Magazine, where she was a political columnist and wrote feature articles.

Her books include the bestsellers Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983); Marilyn: Norma Jean (1986); Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (1992); and Moving Beyond Words (1993). Her most recent book is Doing Sixty & Seventy (2006).

Among other organizations, Steinem was the founding president of the Ms. Foundation for Women, which supports grassroots projects to empower women and girls. She also was a founder of the foundation’s “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” the first national day devoted to girls.

Her numerous writing awards include the Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Writers Award from the United Nations, and the University of Missouri School of Journalism Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

Parenting magazine selected Steinem for its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 for her work in promoting girls’ self-esteem, and Biography magazine listed her as one of the 25 most influential women in America. In 1993, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y.

A 1956 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Smith College, Steinem is writing Road to the Heart: America As if Everyone Mattered, a book about her more than 40 years on the road as a feminist organizer.

Born in East Chicago, Ind., Suggs earned a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate of dental surgery from Indiana University. He came to St. Louis in 1957 to complete post-graduate training at Homer G. Phillips Hospital and Washington University’s School of Dental Medicine.

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Following a tour with the U.S. Air Force, during which he served as chief of oral surgery at Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base, he became the first African-American associate clinical professor at Saint Louis University Dental School.

In 1962, he established what would become a successful private oral surgery practice. In 1970, he launched the Alexander-Suggs Gallery of African Art in St. Louis and New York City.

He later founded and chaired the African Continuum to support non-commercial African-American artistic endeavors, and was a founding member of what would become the Museum of African Art in New York.

In 1968, Suggs served as St. Louis chairman for the Poor People’s March on Washington — an event planned by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and which took place just a month after King’s assassination.

In 1980, Suggs and two partners purchased the then-struggling St. Louis American. Four years later, Suggs was majority shareholder and overseeing daily operations.

As publisher, he raised capital, reduced debt, added staff and — critically — recast the “paid” tabloid into a free community weekly.

Today, the American is the largest independent newspaper in Missouri and one of the largest African-American papers in the nation. It has won more than 200 local, regional and national awards in the last three years alone.