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Opera legend and three others to receive honorary degrees

The four will be honored at Commencement for contributions to the arts, sciences and leadership

EVANSTON - Four distinguished individuals, including commencement speaker Renée Fleming, will receive honorary degrees from Northwestern University.

Fleming, a world-renowned opera singer often referred to as “The People’s Diva,” will receive her honor and deliver the commencement address during the commencement ceremony on Friday, June 22, at 9:30 a.m. at the University’s Ryan Field.

Along with Fleming, three others will receive honorary degrees at the ceremony, including William A. Osborn, who is being honored for his exceptional leadership as chair of Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees, and for the transformational impact he has had on each of the Chicago-area nonprofit organizations for which he has served.

Other honorees include researcher Subra Suresh, a trailblazer in engineering — particularly how it intersects with biotechnology — and Sheldon Harnick, a Tony Award-winning lyricist and NU alumnus whose musical work spanned six decades.

Renée Fleming

Renee Fleming
Renée Fleming

Renée Fleming is one of the most beloved sopranos of our time. After graduating from SUNY-Potsdam and earning a master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music, Fleming studied in Europe on a Fulbright Scholarship and at the Juilliard School. She won the Metropolitan Opera auditions and the Richard Tucker Award, launching a career that regularly takes her to the world’s most prestigious opera houses and concert halls. The first classical artist to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl, she also has performed on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Her recently initiated collaboration with the Kennedy Center, the National Institutes of Health and the National Education Association focuses on the science connecting music, health and the brain. Among her many honors are the National Medal of Arts, four Grammy Awards, Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit, the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, France’s Victoire d’Honneur and Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, honorary membership in the Royal Academy of Music and six honorary degrees.

William Osborn

William Osborn
William Osborn

William A. Osborn chaired Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2017. He previously served as vice chair and is a member of the board’s Executive, Finance, and Northwestern Medicine Committees, as well as the University’s We Will Campaign Steering Committee and the Kellogg School of Management’s Global Advisory Board and Campaign Committee. He served as chairman (1995–2009) and CEO (1995–2007) of Northern Trust Corporation, the international financial services company headquartered in Chicago. Under his leadership, the company grew from a regional bank into a global financial powerhouse with nearly $5 trillion in assets. He also has been one of Chicago’s most influential civic leaders, serving on and in some cases chairing the boards of many of its premier nonprofit institutions, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Northwestern Memorial Healthcare, Lyric Opera of Chicago, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry. He also serves on the board of directors of Abbott Laboratories, Caterpillar and General Dynamics. Osborn received his BA and MBA from Northwestern.

Subra Suresh

Subra Suresh
Subra Suresh

Subra Suresh is one of the world’s top researchers in materials science and engineering and its intersection with biotechnology. President and Distinguished University Professor at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University since January, he was previously president of Carnegie Mellon University, director of the National Science Foundation, and dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Engineering, where he is the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering Emeritus. After earning his BTech at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, Suresh received an MS from Iowa State University and an ScD from MIT. He also taught at Brown University. Among his many honors are the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute, the European Materials Medal, the ASME Timoshenko Medal and the Nadai Medal. He was presented the National Materials Advancement Award, and the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society’s Hardy Gold Medal. He also has been awarded the Mathewson Gold Medal and the Robert Mehl Medal. Elected to the National Academy of Inventors and American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Suresh is part of an elite group elected to all three of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

Sheldon Harnick

Sheldon Harnick
Sheldon Harnick

Sheldon Harnick is one of the most honored lyricists in American musical theater. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Harnick earned a music degree from Northwestern University, where he wrote extensively for the annual Waa-Mu Show. He then wrote songs for Broadway revues before achieving fame as a lyricist for book musicals. Harnick’s shows with his longtime collaborator, composer Jerry Bock, include the best-musical Tony Award winners “Fiorello!” (also winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama) and “Fiddler on the Roof” (for which Bock and Harnick won the Tony for best music and lyrics) as well as “Tenderloin” and the Tony-nominated musicals “She Loves Me,” “The Apple Tree”and “The Rothschilds.” Harnick also collaborated with composer Richard Rodgers as lyricist of the Broadway musical “Rex.” Bock and Harnick won the 2009 Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre, and in 2016 Harnick received the Drama League Award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre and a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.

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