Five to receive honorary degrees at Washington University’s 155th Commencement

Washington University in St. Louis will award five honorary degrees during its 155th Commencement May 20.

During the ceremony, which will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Brookings Quadrangle on the Danforth Campus, the university will bestow academic degrees on approximately 2,800 members of the Class of 2016.

U.S. Congressman John R. Lewis, considered one of the most courageous and influential leaders in the civil rights movement, will deliver the Commencement address.

Lewis, who in the 1960s took part in the Freedom Rides challenging bus terminal segregation and helped plan the March on Washington, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from the university.

The other honorary degree recipients and their degrees are:

  • Stephen F. Brauer, chairman and CEO of Hunter Engineering Co. and a former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, doctor of laws;
  • Paula Kerger, president and chief executive officer of PBS, the nation’s largest non-commercial media organization with 350 member stations throughout the country, doctor of humane letters;
  • Staffan Normark, MD, Swedish physician, microbiologist and infectious disease researcher and member of two of the organizations that help select Nobel laureates, doctor of humanities; and
  • Euclid Williamson, founder of Target H.O.P.E., a nationally acclaimed academic achievement and high school retention model for Chicago area schools, doctor of humanities.
John R. Lewis

Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties and building “The Beloved Community” of justice and equality that his mentor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned.

The son of Alabama sharecroppers, Lewis grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools, where he experienced racism as a young boy.

As a teen, he was inspired by radio broadcasts of King’s sermons and news of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott.

It wasn’t long before he joined the civil rights movement, and for nearly 55 years, Lewis has remained at the vanguard of human rights struggles in the United States.

In 1963, at age 23, Lewis became a nationally recognized leader in the civil rights movement when he took over as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organizing and participating in sit-ins, Freedom Rides and voter registration drives.

He became known as one of the “Big Six” leaders who organized the historic 1963 March on Washington. Lewis was the youngest keynote speaker at the march, which is credited with helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and he is the only surviving member of the “Big Six.”

Lewis also helped spearhead one of the most seminal moments of the civil rights movement when he and more than 600 peaceful protestors, marching from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., attempted to cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. Lewis and his fellow marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

First elected to Congress in November 1986, he is the senior chief deputy whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House.

Stephen Brauer

Brauer joined Hunter Engineering in 1971. The company, which is headquartered in St. Louis, designs and manufactures computer-based automotive equipment used by automobile manufacturers and dealers worldwide.

A native of St. Louis, Brauer took a leave of absence from Hunter to serve as U.S. ambassador to Belgium from 2001 to 2003.

His long association with Washington University began in 1987 when he joined the School of Engineering & Applied Science National Council, which he chaired from 2005 to 2015. He was elected to the university’s Board of Trustees in 1991 and served as its chair from 2009 to 2014. He was named a life trustee in 2008.

Brauer, who chaired the engineering school’s capital campaign from 1996 to 2004, serves as vice chair of the Engineering Campaign Executive Committee for Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University.

In 1997, he and his wife, Camilla, endowed the Stephen F. and Camilla T. Brauer Distinguished Professorship in Biomedical Engineering. In 2008, they provided the lead gift for the school’s Stephen F. & Camilla T. Brauer Hall, which opened in 2010. They also have provided significant support for student scholarships in the engineering school and in the Olin Business School.

The engineering school presented him with the Dean’s Award in 1998, and in 2009, the Brauers received the award together in recognition of their philanthropy and service to the school and to the university.

Among his many other honors, Brauer has received the St. Louis Regional Commerce and Growth Association Science and Technology Award in 1993; the Alumni Achievement Award and an honorary doctor of laws from Westminster College in 1997; and the Winston Churchill Medal for Leadership in 2013 from the National Churchill Museum on Westminster’s campus.

Paula Kerger

Kerger joined PBS as its sixth president and chief executive in March 2006 and is the longest serving president in PBS history. Since her arrival, Kerger has made particularly strong commitments to the arts, news and public affairs, high-quality educational content for children and the classroom, diversity, and the use of new digital platforms to bring public media into the lives of all Americans.

Under her leadership, PBS has been growing its audiences across genres and platforms. In the course of a year, 82 percent of all television households in America watch PBS, and over 70 percent of all children watch PBS. And online, in 2015, Americans viewed more than five billion videos across all PBS digital platforms.

Among recent PBS successes are the pop-culture phenomenon “Downton Abbey”; Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts”; the original American drama series “Mercy Street”; acclaimed children’s programs such as “Peg+Cat” and “Curious George”; and award-winning apps and online sites.

PBS has also developed PBS LearningMedia, which provides educators with digital resources for the classroom.

During Kerger’s tenure, PBS has launched critically praised online video sites for general audiences ( and children ( and created new digital partnerships with numerous companies, including iTunes, YouTube, AppleTV, Microsoft’s Xbox, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Comcast’s On Demand service.

PBS has also created PBS Digital Studios, which produces high-quality original, award-winning content exclusively for digital platforms.

Kerger is regularly included in the Hollywood Reporter’s “Women in Entertainment Power 100,” an annual survey of the nation’s top women executives in media.

Staffan Normark

Normark is an international leader in understanding how bacterial pathogens bind to cells. He was the first to discover how the stomach ulcer-causing bacteria H. pylori was able to bind to gastric epithelial cells in the stomach.

His finding shed light on a problem that affects millions around the world and has helped lead to new therapies to address the painful illness.

Normark did that work with H. pylori while serving as head of the Department of Molecular Microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine from 1989 to 1993.

After leaving Washington University in 1993, he returned to his native Sweden as a professor in the Department of Microbiology, Tumor Biology and Cell Biology at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

During the past 30 years, Normark, who is now senior professor at Karolinska, has been engaged in promoting science and evaluating research as a member of two of the organizations that help identify and select Nobel Prize winners.

In 1987, he was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the organization that selects the Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry and in Economic Sciences. He was appointed permanent secretary of that group in 2010, a position he held until June 2015.

As permanent secretary, he had the responsibility of placing the phone calls to inform scientists they had won the Nobel Prize as well as publicly announcing the winners.

As a member of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet since 1995, and its chairman in 2010, he helps select the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Euclid Williamson

Williamson’s Target H.O.P.E. is a nonprofit college preparatory academy with a mission to enhance educational opportunities for minority students attending public high schools in the Chicago metropolitan area.

His innovative and highly successful academic achievement model is helping reduce poor graduation rates in Chicago’s high schools and, in turn, increasing minority college admission and graduation rates.

Since founding Target H.O.P.E. in 1994, he has helped more than 4,500 students attend 28 colleges and universities, including Washington University.

He has also been instrumental in helping Target H.O.P.E. students earn more than $110 million in merit-based college scholarships over the past two decades.

On top of their regular high school classes, Target H.O.P.E. participants attend a rigorous Saturday Academy, where they are taught core curriculum courses by college professors. The students also receive extensive help in the college application process and scholarship search.

Twice a year, Williamson takes Target H.O.P.E. students on a nationwide Journey to Excellence College Tour, during which they meet college students, financial aid advisers and admissions representatives. Washington University is always a stop on the tour. He also established a study abroad program in Ghana, West Africa, for his students.

Target H.O.P.E.’s success is evident in such statistics as 100 percent of its students graduate high school, 98 percent graduate from college within five years and 42 percent go on to graduate and professional schools.

Through Washington University’s partnership with Target H.O.P.E. for more than 20 years, dozens of Target H.O.P.E. alumni have earned undergraduate, graduate or professional degrees from the university.

Among his numerous honors, Williamson has received the W. E. B. Du Bois Lifetime Achievement Award from Fisk University and recognition by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley for Target H.O.P.E.’s successful graduation rate.



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