EVANSTON, Ill. --- Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Director Riccardo Muti is among five distinguished individuals to be recognized with honorary degrees at Northwestern University’s 156th commencement ceremony.
Muti will deliver the main commencement address at the ceremony, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 20, at Northwestern’s Ryan Field.
Besides Muti, the honorary degree recipients are: Sara Bloomfield, director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Richard Easterlin, one of the most influential and imaginative economists of his generation; Emmy Award-winning actress Cloris Leachman; and legendary Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, musician and producer Stevie Wonder.
Biographical sketches of the honorary degree recipients follow:
Sara Bloomfield has led the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as director since 1999. As part of her vision to build our nation’s living memorial to the Holocaust into a global institution addressing issues of our time, she has established the museum’s leadership training programs and its National Institute for Holocaust Education, Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies and Center for the Prevention of Genocide. A member of the International Auschwitz Council and the board of the International Council of Museums–USA, Bloomfield has received Poland’s Officers Cross of the Order of Merit and the inaugural Jan Karski Award of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington chapter. An educator in Australia and Ohio prior to joining the museum, Bloomfield holds a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern.
Richard Easterlin is University Professor and professor of economics at the University of Southern California, where he joined the faculty in 1982. He previously taught at the University of Pennsylvania for three decades. A pioneer in economic history, economic demography and happiness economics, Easterlin has written such seminal books as “Birth and Fortune,” “Growth Triumphant” and “Happiness, Growth, and the Life Cycle,” winner of the IZA Prize in Labor Economics. His many honors include the American Economic Association’s Distinguished Fellow Award, the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population’s Laureate Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Easterlin is a past president of the Economic History Association and the Population Association of America, which honored him with its Irene Taeuber Award.
Cloris Leachman is a celebrated television, film and stage performer who has won more Emmy Awards (nine) than any other actor. After majoring in drama at Northwestern, she studied with Elia Kazan at New York’s Actors Studio and appeared in numerous Broadway and touring productions. An Oscar winner as best supporting actress for “The Last Picture Show,” she has been in more than 40 features, including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Young Frankenstein” and “High Anxiety.” Her many television series include “Raising Hope,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Phyllis.” She appeared on TV's “Dancing With the Stars,” where she was the show’s oldest contestant ever. A vegetarian and animal rights activist, Leachman was elected to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.
Riccardo Muti is one of the pre-eminent conductors of our day. Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Director since 2010, the Naples-born maestro has been music director of Florence’s Maggio Musicale (1968-80), London’s Philharmonia Orchestra (1972-82), the Philadelphia Orchestra (1980-1992) and Milan’s La Scala (1986-2005) and has had a close relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Salzburg Festival for more than 40 years. In 2004 he founded the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra to train young musicians and, since 2011, is honorary director for life of the Rome Opera. His vast catalog of recordings ranges from the traditional repertoire to contemporary works. He is the author of “Verdi, l’italiano” and “Riccardo Muti: An Autobiography: First the Music, Then the Words.” Muti has received innumerable honors from his native Italy, the United States, France, Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Israel, Spain, Russia, Sweden and the Vatican. He has conducted in many of the world’s most troubled areas to bring attention to and advocate for civic and social issues.
Stevie Wonder, an American singer, songwriter, musician and producer, is one of the most celebrated and influential figures in popular music, having amassed 49 Top 40 singles, 32 #1 singles, worldwide sales of over 100 million units, 25 Grammy Awards, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. He is the youngest recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and was awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Wonder has demonstrated extraordinary humanitarian and philanthropic leadership including spearheading the realization of “Martin Luther King Day” as a national holiday and working to end apartheid in South Africa. He is a Commander of France’s National Order of Arts and Letters and is a designated United Nations Messenger of Peace with a special focus on persons with disabilities.
In other news, the Oscar-nominated director, Jehane Noujaim, will be the keynote speaker at the Northwestern University in Qatar graduation ceremony May 4 in Doha.