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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 17, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 35
Honorary Degrees to Recognize Distinguished Careers

A pioneering Supreme Court justice, two distinguished academics and a groundbreaking entertainer will be awarded honorary degrees of doctor of humane letters from The Johns Hopkins University at commencement ceremonies on May 20.

The degrees will be conferred upon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, J.G.A. Pocock and Hamilton O. Smith during the universitywide commencement ceremony, which begins at 9:15 a.m. on Homewood Field. William H. "Bill" Cosby Jr. will receive his degree later that day at the diploma award ceremony for graduating seniors in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering; Cosby also will speak at that ceremony, which will take place at 1:45 p.m. on Homewood Field. (For details on all commencement ceremonies, see story, "Ceremonies put cap on 128th year," this issue.)

The awards will bring to 418 the number of honorary degrees conferred by Johns Hopkins since the first were given in 1880 to Henry Rowland, the first Johns Hopkins professor of physics, and in 1881 to President Rutherford B. Hayes.

The citations to be read to the 2004 honorary degree recipients, in alphabetical order, are as follows:


William H. Cosby Jr., entertainer
Citation to be read by Daniel H. Weiss, James B. Knapp Dean of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

William H. Cosby Jr.

With reality TV dominating prime time, we long for the days when your brand of entertainment ruled the tube.

You first appeared on the Tonight Show in 1963, after years spent perfecting your act in front of your first fan, your mother. Soon you were entertaining the rest of us, too, with shows like I Spy and the Saturday cartoon Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. There were comedy albums, films, TV specials and best-sellers. Yours is a particularly keen and compassionate humor, full of riffs on family life and tall tales of grade school pals like Old Weird Harold.

Your gift lies not only in making us laugh, but also in making us feel like we are in on the fun. That was the case with The Cosby Show, for which you are best known by the class of 2004. Our graduates grew up with Cliff Hux-table's kids. As our student newspaper put it, they were hooked on the show because they wanted to be a part of the Huxtable family.

You are, however, far more than an extraordinary entertainer. You are a social force, a groundbreaker. Both on stage and off, you emphasize achievement and the value of positive role models. You stress that which unites us rather than that which drives us apart. You are untiring in your advocacy for education at all levels, preschool through postgraduate. You are a generous supporter of predominantly black colleges and of many social service and civil rights organizations.

William H. Cosby Jr., entertainer, family man and ardent champion of a better society, The Johns Hopkins University is proud to confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice, Supreme Court of the United States
Citation to be read by Jessica Einhorn, dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

As a young mother, wife and recent graduate of Columbia Law School, where you tied for first in your class, you came face to face with the 1950s reality of the status of women in America: No law firm would hire you.

That personal experience underscored for you the importance of transforming the widespread attitudes and laws that allowed insidious discrimination against women and minorities. You recognized that deep-seated beliefs about gender roles would not disappear overnight, and that patience and tenacity would be required. In fact, your efforts to overcome gender bias spanned many years. You argued a half-dozen landmark cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, establishing the unconstitutionality of sex-based discrimination. Your commitment, skill and hard work opened the doors of equal opportunity.

You have also been an outstanding educator and, even before you were appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993, a distinguished jurist. You are only the second woman to serve on the high court, and your tenure there has been widely noted for its independence and integrity.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in recognition of your extraordinary contributions to American law, and to the Constitution and the rights it protects, The Johns Hopkins University is proud to confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.


J.G.A. Pocock, Harry C. Black Chair of History Emeritus, Johns Hopkins
Citation to be read by Daniel H. Weiss, the James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

J.G.A. Pocock

You are one of the most important historians of the past several decades. Your many influential works have opened new pathways that other historians have eagerly followed; you also have inspired the work of countless philosophers and political scientists.

Upon your retirement a decade ago, it was said of you, "He is probably one of the most famous members of our faculty." Even more important, it was said, "Professor Pocock has vastly contributed to the sophistication and depth of historical studies, and he has trained an entire generation of scholars."

Your interests span great chronological and geographical distances, from classical Greece and Rome to early modern Europe, as well as to your native New Zealand and the United States. Thematically, your inquiries are every bit as diverse, covering custom, law and constitution; political and theological thought; republicanism and corruption; and even the history of history itself.

And you have transformed our understanding of every subject you have touched. It has been said, for instance, that you gave us "a new way to understand the thoughts that were alive in the minds of the men who founded the American republic more than 200 years ago."

John Greville Agard Pocock, friend, colleague and Harry C. Black Chair of History Emeritus, in recognition of your vast and influential scholarship and teaching, The Johns Hopkins University is proud to confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.


Hamilton O. Smith, professor emeritus of molecular biology and genetics, Johns Hopkins
Citation to be read by Edward D. Miller Jr., the Frances Watt Baker, M.D., and Lenox Baker Jr., M.D., Dean of the Medical Faculty

Hamilton O. Smith

During a remarkable life in pursuit of knowledge, you have ignited a revolution in genetic engineering and played a key role in assembling the biological blueprint for human life.

Your curiosity and keen intellect were apparent at an early age. Growing up in a Midwestern university community, you and your older brother spent your paper-route earnings to stock a basement lab filled with test tubes, beakers and radios.

You earned a medical degree at Johns Hopkins, then went elsewhere, but your fascination with DNA and the link between genes and disease brought you back in 1967. In your laboratory, you made the stunning discovery of restriction enzymes — molecular "scissors" that could cut and manipulate DNA. That unlocked the doors of modern molecular biology, releasing a flood of research into new ways to prevent and treat illness. For this, you, along with Johns Hopkins colleague Daniel Nathans and Swiss scientist Werner Arber, received the 1978 Nobel Prize in medicine.

Your curiosity pushed you to explore further scientific frontiers, including the use of computers to help decode the genetic foundation of living organisms. You played a leading role in sequencing the human genome, a landmark project completed, appropriately enough, in the year 2000.

Notably, you have scaled these career heights and endeared yourself to colleagues with a quiet, self-effacing personality.

Hamilton O. Smith, alumnus and colleague, for your distinguished lifelong contributions to science and biomedical research, The Johns Hopkins University is proud to confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.


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