Chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC Andrea Mitchell will deliver the address at the 2018 University of Pennsylvania Commencement on Monday, May 14.
The announcement was made today by Vice President and University Secretary Leslie Laird Kruhly.
“We are honored to bestow our highest degree on award-winning journalist Andrea Mitchell, one of Penn’s own, and have her address our graduates at Penn’s 262nd Commencement,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “Andrea’s reputation for integrity and fairness covering politics and foreign policy has earned her the status as one of America's most respected journalists. As a passionate advocate and committed defender of our nation’s most important democratic ideals, her career and contributions are a striking example of the positive impact that Penn graduates have as engaged citizens.
“Andrea’s commitment to Penn has been equally extraordinary. Last year, she and her husband, Alan Greenspan, made a gift to endow the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy. They have also endowed two Penn Integrates Knowledge professorships and have supported the Music Department Performance Fund and Kelly Writers House. In addition, Andrea played a key role as co-chair of Penn’s record-breaking Making History campaign. Her deep affection for her alma mater, her veracity and her intellect make everyone in the Penn community proud.”
Mitchell has worked as a correspondent at NBC since 1978 and is host of “Andrea Mitchell Reports” weekdays on MSNBC. She earned her B.A. degree in English literature at Penn. She is a past vice chair of the Board of Trustees and currently chairs the Board of Overseers of the School of Arts and Sciences. She also is a former chair of the Annenberg School for Communication Advisory Committee and is a member emerita of the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women.
Mitchell’s 2005 memoir, Talking Back: …to Presidents, Dictators, and Assorted Scoundrels, recounts her experiences as a woman in broadcast news. She has received numerous awards, including the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism from Harvard’s Kennedy School and the Society for Professional Journalists Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the Commencement ceremony, Mitchell will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Other 2018 Penn honorary degree recipients will be Sylvia Earle, Freeman Hrabowski, Elihu Katz, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Peggy Noonan, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Hamdi Ulukaya.
“We are delighted to announce Andrea Mitchell as our Commencement speaker and greatly look forward to celebrating the extraordinary contributions of all of our honorees. Through their work, they have touched and changed our world through concern and service to others, scholarship, communication, education and creativity. They truly exemplify the greatest levels of achievement,” said Julie Beren Platt, Penn trustee and chair of the Trustee Honorary Degrees Committee. “It is our privilege to honor them as we celebrate Commencement and our wonderful Class of 2018.”
Sylvia Earle is a pioneer of marine ecosystems research, logging more than 7,000 hours underwater on more than 100 expeditions. A marine biologist, oceanographer, explorer and author, Earle founded Mission Blue, the Sylvia Earle Alliance and Deep Ocean Exploration and Research. Since 1998, she has been an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. She chairs the Advisory Council for the Harte Research Institute and led the development of the Ocean in Google Earth. Earle’s research encompasses exploration, conservation and development and use of new technologies for access and effective operations in the deep sea. Much of her work has focused on developing “hope spots,” unique and significant places across the world’s oceans needing attention and protection. Earle is former chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has authored nearly 200 scientific and popular publications and 13 books and has earned many awards and honors, including the U.N. Environment Champion of the Earth. She will be receiving an honorary doctor of sciences degree.
Since 1992, Freeman Hrabowski has served as president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which has become a leading source for African-American students who then pursue science and engineering Ph.D.s. Growing up in segregated Birmingham, Ala., with educator parents, Hrabowski became an early activist, participating at the age of 12 in the 1963 Children’s Crusade. He studied mathematics at Hampton University and earned his master’s and doctorate from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Hrabowski’s research focuses on science and math education, particularly minority participation and performance, and President Obama named him chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. His recent work, Holding Fast to Dreams, describes the role his own youthful activism played in his journey. Hrabowski received the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence and in 2012 was named one of Time’s Most Influential People. He will be receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
Sociologist and scholar Elihu Katz, Distinguished Trustee Professor Emeritus of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, is a founding father of communication research. Katz rose to prominence when he coauthored Personal Influence about the juncture of mass media and interpersonal communication, a topic that would become a prime emphasis of his research. His work includes groundbreaking studies on the secularization of leisure, and on bureaucracy and the public, and he collaborated on Media Events, a book about the importance of historic broadcasts. At Hebrew University, Katz founded the Communications Institute, and as director of the Israel Institute of Applied Social Research he helped introduce television broadcasting to Israel. Katz, an American Academy of Arts and Sciences member, won the 1989 Israel Prize and the UNESCO-Canada McLuhan Prize. He served on the Penn faculty from 1992 until 2014. He will be receiving an honorary doctor of sciences degree.
Highly celebrated conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin is music director and Walter and Leonore Annenberg Chair for The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the music director designate of the Metropolitan Opera of New York, where he’ll assume directorship in the 2020-2021 season. Recognized for his energy, style and deep curiosity, Nézet-Séguin has been artistic director and principal conductor of Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal since 2000 and is completing his tenure as Rotterdam Philharmonic’s music director. The Montreal native studied at Montreal’s Conservatory of Music and at 19, directed the Chœur Polyphonique de Montréal. At 20, he founded the Ensemble Orchestral de Montréal and at 22 became assistant conductor and choir master at the Opéra de Montréal. He made his operatic international debut with “Roméo et Juliette” in 2008. His honors include Musical America’s 2016 Artist of the Year and a Royal Philharmonic Society Award, among others. He will be receiving an honorary doctor of music degree.
Since 2000, columnist and author Peggy Noonan has written about American politics, history and culture in her weekly Wall Street Journal column “Declarations.” Noonan’s work chronicling the 2016 American presidential election earned her a Pulitzer Prize. In a career that has spanned government service and journalism, she garnered special recognition as a special assistant and speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan. She also worked with President George H. W. Bush on his inaugural address. Noonan has taught at New York University and Yale University, and was a fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics. She is the best-selling author of nine books, including What I Saw at the Revolution and most recently, The Time of Our Lives. In 2010, she received the Award for Media Excellence, bestowed by the living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. She will be receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is the 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University. A scholar of early American history and the history of women, Ulrich focuses on “the silent work of ordinary people.” Her most acclaimed book, A Midwife’s Tale, offered insight into early American women via the journal of an obscure medical practitioner in rural Maine. Among many awards, A Midwife’s Tale received a Pulitzer Prize and was the subject of a PBS documentary. An Idaho native, Ulrich earned degrees from the University of Utah and Simmons College, as well as the University of New Hampshire, where she remained on faculty until joining Harvard in 1995. Her most recent work is A House Full of Females. She is a past president of the American Historical Association and a former Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundation Fellow, among other honors. She will be receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
Hamdi Ulukaya is founder, chair and CEO of Chobani. Raised in a dairy farming family in Turkey, Ulukaya came to the United States in 1994. In 2007, he launched Chobani with the mission of making better food more accessible and for giving back to the community. Within five years, annual sales exceeded $1 billion with Chobani donating a portion of its profits to charity. In 2016, the company announced a profit-sharing program for employees, implemented six weeks of paid parental leave and launched a program to empower and mentor socially responsible food entrepreneurs. Ulukaya has signed the Giving Pledge, committing much of his wealth to the global refugee crisis. For his work on behalf of refugees, he was named an Eminent Advocate by the U.N. Refugee Agency. He has also been honored with Save the Children’s Humanitarian Award and the 2018 Salute to Greatness Award by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. He will be receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.