Temple Grandin, Henry Bloch and Tony La Russa among six to receive honorary degrees

Washington University in St. Louis will award six honorary degrees during the university’s 153rd Commencement May 16.

During the ceremony, which will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Brookings Quadrangle on the Danforth Campus, WUSTL will bestow academic degrees on 2,899 members of the Class of 2014.

Tony La Russa, who is being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame July 27 and is considered one of the best managers in baseball history, will deliver the Commencement address.

La Russa, who is also known for his tireless animal rescue work and instilling in his players an interest in giving back to their communities, will receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree from WUSTL.

The other honorary degree recipients and their degrees are:

  • Henry W. Bloch, co-founder of H&R Block and a civic leader and philanthropist who has worked to improve the quality of life in his hometown of Kansas City, doctor of humanities;
  • Temple Grandin, PhD, a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University whose insights into animal behavior and her innovations in livestock handling have revolutionized farm-animal welfare; doctor of humanities;
  • Vivian W. Pinn, MD, a senior scientist emerita at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fogarty International Center and a highly regarded pioneer in women’s health, doctor of science;
  • David E. Robertson, music director of the St. Louis Symphony, chief conductor and artistic director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and one of today’s most sought-after American conductors, doctor of humane letters; and
  • Diana Chapman Walsh, PhD, the 12th president of Wellesley College who initiated a number of new programs during her tenure from 1993-2007, doctor of science.

La Russa

During his 33-year career as a manager in Major League Baseball, La Russa won three World Series and 2,728 games, placing him third in all-time major league wins.

La Russa

He managed the Chicago White Sox (1979-1986), Oakland Athletics (1986-1995) and St. Louis Cardinals (1996-2011).

In addition to leading the Athletics to the 1989 World Series title and the Cardinals to the 2006 and 2011 World Series titles, he also guided his teams to six league championships and 12 division titles.

La Russa is the subject of two New York Times’ best-selling books — George Will’s 1990 “Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball” and Buzz Bissinger’s 2005 “Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager.”

His 2012 New York Times best-selling memoir, “One Last Strike,” recounts his legendary last season as manager of the Cardinals.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial management in 1969 from the University of South Florida and a juris doctorate in 1978 from Florida State University College of Law.

Currently, he works for Major League Baseball as a special assistant to Commissioner Bud Selig.

La Russa and his wife, Elaine, co-founded Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek, Calif., in 1991.

Since then, the nonprofit organization has helped thousands of companion animals through a variety of programs, including adoption (more than 25,000 animals have been placed in homes), veterinary care for pets of low-income residents and low-cost spay and neuter surgeries.


Bloch helped grow a family-owned local company that offered administrative services such as bookkeeping and income tax preparation to small Kansas City businesses into an international brand and franchising icon.


Today, H&R Block is the world’s largest tax service provider, with a vast web of more than 11,000 retail locations and 100,000 tax professionals serving more than 20 million clients a year.

Born in 1922, his college education was interrupted when he joined the Army Air Corps shortly after the United States entered World War II.

Serving in the Eighth Air Force as a navigator on B-17 bombers, he flew 31 combat missions over Germany and was awarded the Air Medal and three Oak Leaf Clusters.

He eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1944. The Army Air Corps sent Bloch for graduate training to the Harvard Business School, where he read a speech that opened his eyes to an entrepreneurial opportunity: providing support and resources to small businesses.

In 1946, he and a brother founded United Business Company, which eventually became H&R Block.

Bloch, who became chairman of the board in 1989, retired in 2000 as honorary chairman.

He and his late wife of 62 years, Marion, made lifetime commitments of support to the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, among other organizations.

In 2011, they established the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation to help improve the quality of life in Kansas City.


Grandin is considered one of the most accomplished and well-known adults with autism in the world.


She has inspired people as a champion for individuals with autism and their families.

Her accomplishments as an acclaimed international speaker, best-selling author and tireless advocate earned her a place among Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2010.

Her early life story was the subject of the acclaimed 2010 HBO biopic, “Temple Grandin,” which won seven Emmy awards, a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award.

As a child, Grandin developed a unique bond with animals. Her insights into animal behavior, as well as insights gained from her autism, have led Grandin to become a world leader in the design of humane livestock handling facilities that are used on ranches, in feedlots, and in meatpacking plants worldwide.

Half the cattle in the United States and Canada are handled in equipment she has designed for meat plants. She also has developed animal welfare guidelines for the meat industry.

Grandin earned a bachelor’s degree at Franklin Pierce College in 1970 and a master’s degree in animal science at Arizona State University in 1975.

After earning a doctorate in animal science from the University of Illinois in 1989, she joined the Colorado State University faculty, where she remains.

Her book, “Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior,” which she co-authored, was a New York Times best-seller.


As the first full-time director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the NIH, Pinn worked to ensure the inclusion of women and minorities in NIH-funded research; to educate and impress upon the scientific community the importance of sex differences in research and health care; and to develop programs and policies to advance women in biomedical careers.


Pinn served as director from 1991 until her retirement in August 2011. She also was NIH’s associate director for research on women’s health from 1994-2011.

Pinn was the first African-American woman and only the third woman overall in the United States to chair an academic department of pathology when she was named to that post at Howard University College of Medicine in 1982. She remained in the position until 1991.

Two grant programs Pinn championed have supported numerous women’s health researchers at Washington University, including one that prompted Scott J. Hultgren, PhD, the Helen L. Stoever Professor of Molecular Microbiology, to create the university’s Center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research.

“Working with Dr. Pinn changed my life,” Hultgren wrote in a letter nominating her for the honorary degree. “She has been a beacon of light for women’s health research in the United States, and her strong leadership has paved the way for innovative research programs funded by NIH.”

A native of Lynchburg, Va., Pinn earned her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1963 and her MD in 1967 from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, where she was the only woman and only minority in her class.


Now in his ninth season with the St. Louis Symphony, Robertson has earned widespread critical acclaim and helped to elevate the profile of the 134-year-old symphony — the second-oldest in the United States — locally, nationally and internationally.


Born in Santa Monica, Calif., Robertson was educated at London’s Royal Academy of Music, where he studied French horn and composition before turning to orchestral conducting.

In 1985, he was appointed resident conductor of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and in 1992 became the first American to lead the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris.

Robertson was the first artist to simultaneously hold the posts of music director of the Orchestre National de Lyon and artistic director of that city’s Auditorium, positions he maintained from 2000-04. From 2005-2012, he was principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London.

Robertson first performed with the St. Louis Symphony at Powell Hall as a guest conductor in 1999. His second appearance came in 2002, when then-conductor Hans Vonk suddenly took ill before a concert at Carnegie Hall.

With just six days to prepare, Robertson led the symphony through a performance The New York Times called “brilliant.”

Since joining the St. Louis Symphony as music director in 2005, Robertson has returned the symphony to Carnegie Hall on more than a dozen occasions.

Earlier this year, he assumed the additional post of chief conductor and artistic director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Australia.


During Walsh’s tenure, Wellesley College undertook a number of new initiatives, including a curriculum revision and an expansion of programs in global education, internships and service learning, and interdisciplinary teaching and learning.


Under her leadership, applications to Wellesley increased 42 percent, the endowment grew from $485 million to more than $1.6 billion, and a record-setting capital campaign boosted the financial aid endowment by $90 million.

Also, new centers for media and technology, social sciences, the humanities, and religious and spiritual life were launched, and the trustees approved a comprehensive campus master plan in 1998 — the first since 1921 — and implemented major landscape restoration projects across the campus.

A 1966 graduate of Wellesley, with a bachelor’s degree in English, Walsh is a leading expert in public health policy and in the prevention of illness.

She earned a master’s degree in journalism in 1971 from Boston University and a doctorate in health policy from Boston’s University Professors Program in 1983.

Before assuming the Wellesley presidency, Walsh was the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she chaired the Department of Health and Social Behavior and founded the Program on Society and Health.

She previously was in Boston University’s School of Public Health where she co-directed a Center for Industry and Health Care and published studies on alcoholism treatment, tobacco and alcohol policy, illness prevention and health promotion, social factors influencing health and workplace health policy.

Today, Walsh serves on the National Council of Washington University’s Institute for Public Health.