College to award 7 honorary degrees

by Charles Gardner | 6/9/02 5:00am

Commencement speaker Fred Rogers will be just one of seven individuals slated to receive honorary degrees alongside hundreds of graduating students during today's Commencement ceremonies.

In addition to Rogers, who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, internationally renowned physician Marilyn Gaston, chemist Yuan-Tseh Lee, historian Gerda Lerner, dancer and choreographer Arthur Mitchell, writer Evelyn Stefansson Nef and distinguished businessman and philanthropist E. John Rosenwald Jr. '52 will also be honored.

Degree candidates are chosen by a council consisting of six faculty members and the president of the senior class, who solicit nominations from members of the Dartmouth community, according to Roland Adams, director of news and public information for the Office of Public Affairs.

A chosen slate of nominees is then forwarded to the President of the College and the Board of Trustees, who typically select six or seven of the candidates and invite them to commencement to receive their degrees, Adams said.

Former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Marilyn Gaston was the first African-American woman to oversee a public health service bureau, and has directed her efforts towards improving health care for poor and non-white families both nationally and internationally.

While Director of the Bureau of Primary Health Care in Health Resources and Services Administration, she managed a budget of $5 billion in providing competent care for the poor and disadvantaged.

At today's ceremonies, Gaston -- who recently received an honorary degree from the University of Pennsylvania -- will be given a Doctor of Science degree to recognize her achievements.

The Taiwanese-born Yuan-Tseh Lee received the 1986 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work in chemical reaction dynamics, and today serves as president of the prestigious Academia Sinica research institute in Taiwan.

Lee, who enrolled at the National Taiwan University in 1955, came to the United States, earned his doctoral degree and merous other awards for his accomplishments and will receive a Doctor of Science degree during Commencement ceremonies.

Gerda Lerner, the author of a dozen books, has been recognized for her role as a pioneer in the field of women's history. Born to a Jewish family in Austria in 1920, Lerner lived through the ascent of the Nazis, eventually coming to the United States in 1939.

She graduated with a Ph.D. from Columbia University in New York in 1966, later founding a graduate program in women's history -- the first such program in the country -- at Sarah Lawrence College in 1972.

Since that time, Lerner has authored numerous books, including The Creation of Patriarchy (1986), The Creation of Feminist Consciousness (1986) and more recently, the best-selling Why History Matters (1997).

Today, she will be presented with a Doctor of Letters degree to recognize her contributions to the study of history.

Known around the world for his accomplishments as a teacher, dancer and choreographer, Arthur Mitchell will receive a Doctor of Arts degree at today's ceremonies.

Co-founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Mitchell joined the New York City Ballet in 1955, becoming the first African-American male dancer to win a permanent position with a major dance company.

He soon attained the rank of principal dancer with the company, performing a wide range of roles both on stage as well as in films, television and in Broadway shows.

Mitchell later founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem, a now a world-renowned institution which functions as a school of the allied arts as well as a professional dance company.

Evelyn Stefansson Nef, known as a writer, psychotherapist, philanthropist and researcher, authored several books and spent many years traveling the Arctic and Antarctic as the wife of polar explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson.

With help from Stefansson, Nef moved over 25,000 books and 40,000 reprints to Dartmouth in 1951, where she taught in the Polar Studies Program and also became librarian of Rauner Library's Stefansson collection.

The author of the best-seller "Here Is Alaska," Nef married historian John Ulric Nef in 1964 two years after Stefansson's death, and several years later returned to college to become a psychotherapist.

Nef's autobiographical account, "Finding My Way: The Autobiography of an Optimist," after initially appearing in Icelandic, was published in English for the first time last month. Nef will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters today at Commencement.

A member of Dartmouth's Class of 1952 who earned an M.B.A. from the Tuck School the following year, E. John Rosenwald Jr. has earned praise as a generous philanthropist and an active participant in the Dartmouth community for more than 50 years.