Honorary degrees ‘deeply meaningful’ for recipients, university

Shing-Tung Yau

Mathematician Shing-Tung Yau received an honorary degree in 2014. “It was indeed an honor,” he says. Photo: UIC Photo Services

Receiving an honorary degree from UIC “was one of the high points of my academic career,” says biologist Barbara Schaal.

“Coming back to UIC, seeing the students walk on the stage and seeing the joy of their families was a great experience,” said Schaal, a distinguished professor at Washington University who received a doctor of biological sciences from UIC in 2009.

“Receiving an honorary degree from UIC, my undergraduate institution, was deeply meaningful.”

Schaal is one of more than 130 notables who have received UIC honorary degrees since 1966 for their academic, professional or public service contributions. Others through the years have included literary figures Gwendolyn Brooks, Saul Bellow and Studs Terkel, jurist Abner Mikva, scientists Leon Lederman and Rosalyn Yalow, and historian Henry Louis Gates.

The UIC Senate is seeking nominations through Dec. 1 for the next class of honorary degree recipients, who will be recognized at commencement.

Honorary degree recipients can have an established relationship with UIC but that’s not a requirement, said William Bike, chair of the Senate External Relations and Public Service Committee. Recipients are selected by the UIC Senate, then approved by the chancellor and university president.

“An honorary degree is validation of a person’s work beyond what they’ve already achieved and links the recipient to an institution that has similar values,” Bike said.

“Our faculty, students and staff have great insight into who are the leaders in their fields and are deserving of recognition. We would like to tap into their expertise in getting people who not only we can honor but can also bring honor to UIC as well.”

Harvard mathematician Shing-Tung Yau has continued his relationship with UIC since receiving a doctor of humane letters in 2014.

‘It’s great recognition. It validates that the work that we do is very important.’

“It was indeed an honor for me to receive an honorary degree from UIC — it is really an outstanding university,” Yau said. “I have visited the university many, many times. I enjoy working with faculty in the department of mathematics. They are good scientists and show hospitalities each time I come.”

UIC dentistry faculty member Anne George was proud to be selected for an honorary degree in 2011 from Paris Descartes University. She was honored for research on how proteins can regenerate dentin, a calcified tissue of the body that is one of the four major components of teeth.

“It’s great recognition,” said George, professor of oral biology. “It validates that the work that we do is very important.”

George has created exchange partnerships with faculty from Paris Descartes University. “It has created a lifelong bond between me and the university,” she said.

For information on submitting a nomination, contact Elizabeth Dooley, clerk of the Senate, at edooley@uic.edu or 312-996-2926.


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