Social and educational entrepreneur Geoffrey Canada to speak at commencement
Honorary degrees recognizing achievements in journalism, human rights and science
Geoffrey Canada, Jill Abramson, Malcolm Sherman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Eric Lander
March 31, 2014Geoffrey Canada, president and chief executive officer of Harlem Children's Zone, will be the 2014 commencement speaker at Brandeis University. Spearheading an organization called "one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time," by The New York Times Magazine, Mr. Canada will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his pioneering work in helping children and families in Harlem and his passionate advocacy for education reform.
Named one of "America's Best Leaders" by U.S. News & World Report, Mr. Canada spearheaded the Harlem Children's Zone Project, which targets a 100-block area in Central Harlem to provide more than 10,000 children with a comprehensive range of services that form "an interlocking web" of educational, social and medical services that follows children from birth through college. His work has become a national model.
"Brandeis University is passionately dedicated to the idea that every deserving individual - no matter their race, religion, socioeconomic background or national origin - should have access to a world-class education," said Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence. "It is fitting to honor the work of Geoffrey Canada, whose life's work has focused on making this a reality for thousands of children from Harlem's most challenging neighborhoods."
This year's other honorary degree recipients:
Jill Abramson, executive editor of TheNew York Times, is the highest-ranking editor in The New York Times' newsroom and oversees the paper's news reporting in all of its forms. Prior to being named executive editor in 2011, Ms. Abramson served as managing editor of The New York Times in a particularly turbulent period where she oversaw news coverage of two wars, four national elections and major hurricanes and oil spills. She was instrumental in the newsroom's effort to expand to new and varied digital and mobile platforms. Prior to joining The New York Times, where she also was Washington bureau chief, Ms. Abramson worked at The Wall Street Journal. She is the author or co-author of three books including the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas." She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Somali-born scholar and women's rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali escaped an arranged marriage, receiving asylum in the Netherlands where she worked in factories and as a maid before earning her undergraduate and MA degrees in political science at Leiden University. Having received citizenship, she served as an elected member of the Dutch parliament from 2003-2006, where she focused on furthering the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society and on defending the rights of Muslim women. She campaigned to raise awareness of violence against women, including honor killings and female genital mutilation. In 2004 she gained international attention following the murder of director Theo van Gough, who worked with Ms. Hirsi Ali on her short film "Submission," about the oppression of women under Islam. The assassin left a death threat for her pinned to van Gogh's chest. In 2006 she resigned from Parliament when the then Dutch minister for Immigration revoked her Dutch citizenship, a decision that was overturned by the courts and ultimately led to the fall of the government. Ms. Hirsi Ali is currently a Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Harvard Kennedy School and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Eric Lander is the founding director and president at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, professor of biology at MIT, and professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School. One of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, he and his colleagues have created many of the key tools of human genomics and have applied these tools to pioneer new ways to understand the basis of diseases including cancer, diabetes and inflammatory disease. Lander is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He has received the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Gairdner International Award, the Max Delbruck Medal, and the AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology. He is a member of the Board of Trustees at Boston University. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed him to co-chair the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Dr. Lander earned his BA in mathematics from Princeton University and his PhD in mathematics from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.
Business leader and philanthropist Malcolm L. Sherman has served on the Brandeis University Board of Trustees for 33 years, six of those as chair. He played a significant role in guiding Brandeis through the 2008 economic downturn that challenged higher-education endowments. He oversaw the search that resulted in the selection of President Frederick Lawrence and the transition to a new administration. Generous supporters of the arts at Brandeis, he and his wife have created the Robin, Barbara and Malcolm L. Sherman Endowment for the Performing Arts and the Barbara Sherman '54 and Malcolm L. Sherman Chair of Theater Arts. Sherman's broad array of connections also has benefited the university, most recently when his idea for a Brandeis-Museum of Science educational partnership in connection with the current Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the museum became a reality, providing educational opportunities for Brandeis students.