skip to main content

Eight Notables to Receive Honorary Degrees


Fordham will present honorary degrees to leaders in journalism, philanthropy, government service, conservation and the arts during its 2011 commencement exercises.

(See Fordham’s Commencement Page for times and locations of diploma ceremonies and all other Commencement-related information.)

(Please click here to see Fordham’s 166th commencement streamed live on the Web.)

Brian Williams, award-winning anchor of NBC Nightly News and 2011 commencement speaker, will receive a doctorate of humane letters, honoris causa, at the 166th commencement on Saturday, May 21, at the Rose Hill campus.

Also being awarded that degree at that ceremony are philanthropist Glorya Kaufman; Tony Award-winning actress Marian Seldes; and Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy! and active supporter of many causes. Steven E. Sanderson, president and chief executive officer of the Wildlife Conservation Society, will receive a doctorate of science, honoris causa, at the Rose Hill ceremony.

“We are delighted to have Brian Williams address the Class of 2011,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “His breadth of experience, his integrity and his record of accomplishment in journalism are second to none. I cannot think of a speaker better suited to address Fordham’s graduating class as they prepare to make their way out into a tumultuous world.”

The University will present two additional honorary degrees at the Fordham School of Law diploma ceremony on Sunday, May 22, and one at the diploma ceremony for the Graduate School of Business Administration (GBA) on Tuesday, May 24.

George E. Pataki, former governor of New York, and Earle I. Mack—arts advocate, businessman, and former U.S. ambassador—will each receive a doctorate of laws, honoris causa, at the Fordham Law diploma ceremony, where Pataki will give an address.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace (Ret.), former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will receive a doctorate of humane letters, honoris causa, at the GBA diploma ceremony, where he will give an address.

Brian Williams

Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, has earned numerous awards and commendations for his reporting on events including Hurricane Katrina and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A native of Middletown, N.J., he attended George Washington University and the Catholic University of America. After working at local stations, he joined NBC News in 1993, later becoming NBC’s chief White House correspondent and then anchor and managing editor of The News with Brian Williams on MSNBC and CNBC before becoming anchor ofNBC Nightly News in 2004. His coverage of Katrina was dubbed “a defining moment” by The New York Times, and Vanity Fair reported that during the crisis he became “a nation’s anchor.”

The most highly decorated evening news anchor of modern times, he has won 11 Edward R. Murrow Awards, a dozen Emmy awards, and the George Foster Peabody Award. In 2006, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Glorya Kaufman

Glorya Kaufman, while growing up in Detroit, acquired a passion for dance and also learned from her parents the value of helping others. Today, she manifests both of those interests through her support of educational institutions and arts organizations that bring dance programs to the underprivileged.

During her marriage to Donald Bruce Kaufman, co-founder of the home-building firm Kaufman and Broad, the couple supported 40 charitable organizations, showing a philanthropic spirit that Glorya Kaufman carried on after his death in 1983. She funded the restoration of the dance building at the University of California, Los Angeles, after the earthquake of 1994, and her giving has benefited numerous other organizations including the Los Angeles Public Library and the Music Center of Los Angeles County. Through the Glorya Kaufman Dance Foundation, she has supported various efforts to bring the psychological and emotional benefits of dance to underserved youth.

In New York, she funded a new dance studio at the Juilliard School and has pledged generous funding for educational programs at The Ailey School, including its B.F.A. program offered in conjunction with Fordham. Kaufman has made an endowment to the Music Center in perpetuity for various organizations to support the teaching and performance of dance and choreography, and to provide a means for underserved audiences to become acquainted with dance, which has universal appeal and is an effective tool to build bridges between people of different social and cultural backgrounds.

In addition to promoting performances, she has provided complimentary tickets to underprivileged audiences for greater awareness to the overall Los Angeles community, hosted world-renowned artists (i.e., dancers and choreographers), and given master classes, lectures and other educational and outreach programs on dance performances, affording children, adults and the elderly opportunities to actively participate in dance.

After the 1994 earthquake, Kaufman learned that St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica was carrying patients out of the hospital because the damage was so severe. She walked into the hospital the next day and offered a substantial gift to help restore it.

Kaufman, along with Dr. Leonard Apt, started a pre-school mobile eye unit in Los Angeles. Last year they celebrated their 10th anniversary. The unit now has two volunteer doctors and has seen more than 5,000 preschoolers, 8 percent of whom were found to have eye problems.

Marian Hall Seldes
Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Marian Hall Seldes has won Tony Awards and Obie Awards, and earned a place in the Theatre Hall of Fame, during her long and distinguished career as an actor and teacher.

The daughter of Alice Hall and cultural critic Gilbert Seldes, she studied at New York City’s Neighborhood Playhouse under legendary teacher Sanford Meisner and attended the School of American Ballet. She made her Broadway debut in 1947 in Medea, won a Tony Award in 1967 for her performance in A Delicate Balance, and later gave an acclaimed performance in the play Three Tall Women.

A matriarch of the New York stage, Seldes taught at the Juilliard School for 20 years before joining the faculty at Fordham College at Lincoln Center about a decade ago. She is widely known for her gracious and exuberant spirit, as well as her work ethic—she earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Recordsfor appearing in every performance of Deathtrap during its four-year Broadway run.

Alex Trebek

Alex Trebek is widely known as host of Jeopardy!, one of the most popular and long-lived game shows. Less visible, however, is his work on behalf of the less fortunate around the world. He has supported several charities and educational organizations, including The Smile Train, a charity that provides cleft palate surgery for children in the developing world. Through his work with World Vision, he helped build medical and educational facilities in a village in Zambia that he adopted, and in another village in northern Uganda. He has also helped World Vision promote its efforts to help children around the world, in part by serving as a spokesman for its Haiti relief efforts following the 2010 earthquake.

A native of Sudbury, Ontario, he earned degrees in philosophy from the University of Ottawa before going to work for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. He began his U.S. career hosting Wizard of Odds in 1973. Following a number of other shows, he moved on to Jeopardy!, which he has hosted for 27 years, winning five Daytime Emmy awards for Outstanding Game Show Host. This year, he was announced as the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Television Academy. He and his wife, Jean, have two children, one of whom attends Fordham.

Steven E. Sanderson

Steven E. Sanderson has served as president and chief executive officer of the Wildlife Conservation Society since 2001, expanding its efforts into more than 60 nations and leading the revitalization of the Bronx Zoo, among many other initiatives.

Sanderson, a former Fordham trustee, is a respected scholar in the area of Latin American politics, agricultural development and trade. After earning his doctorate in political science at Stanford, he taught for 18 years at the University of Florida, chairing the political science department and co-founding the university’s Tropical Conservation and Development Program. He was also a Fulbright scholar and a program officer with the Ford Foundation in the mid-1980s in Brazil, where he created a program on rural poverty and resource use. Before coming to the Wildlife Conservation Society, he served four years as dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences at Emory University in Atlanta.

 George E. Pataki

George E. Pataki, former three-term governor of New York, was educated at Yale and Columbia Law School before embarking on a political career marked by upset victories against powerful incumbents. As governor, he pursued an agenda of both economic development and environmental protection.

Among many achievements, he created a tax credit program for “green” buildings and implemented the first integrated strategy for creating transportation networks using renewable fuels. He established a brownfields program that brought about the redevelopment of contaminated sites across the state, and protected more than 1 million acres of open space, the most since Gov. Theodore Roosevelt. In 2007 he joined the law firm of Chadbourne and Parke, where he works in the environmental, energy and infrastructure practice area.

The grandson of immigrants, Pataki gained a strong work ethic and faith in human potential from his family while growing up on a farm in Peekskill, N.Y. His family’s motto: “Pray for a good harvest, but keep hoeing.”

Earle I. Mack

Earle I. Mack has distinguished himself in a variety of roles including arts advocate, film producer, benefactor of higher education, and successful businessman.

He is a senior partner at the Mack Company, where he began his real estate career in 1963, and also served on the board of directors of Mack-Cali Realty Corp. He has produced notable films including an Academy Award-nominated documentary, The Children of Theatre Street, in 1977, and has contributed to many arts organizations. He served as chairman and chief executive officer of the New York State Council on the Arts, and in 2000 earned the New York State Governor’s Arts Award for his leadership in this area.

He is a graduate of Drexel University, where the law school bears his name to honor his giving, and has served in public roles including U.S. ambassador to Finland from 2004 to 2005. Among his many service activities, he personally arranged five medical rescue missions in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Gen. Peter Pace (Ret.)

Marine Gen. Peter Pace (Ret.) began his military service as a platoon leader in Vietnam and ended as principal military advisor to the president of the United States before retiring from the Marine Corps in 2007. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Teaneck, N.J., he earned his commission at the U.S. Naval Academy, later serving as deputy commander of Joint Task Force Somalia and commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command. He served as vice chairman and then as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Marine to serve in either position. In June 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the president of the United States can bestow.

Gen. Pace holds an M.B.A. from George Washington University and serves on the advisory council for Fordham’s Graduate School of Business Administration. He supports charities including serving as chairman of the board for Wall Street Warfighters Foundation, an organization that provides training, support and job placement services for disabled veterans interested in careers in financial services.


Comments are closed.