Five distinguished individuals, including commencement speaker Gov. JB Pritzker and Northwestern President Emeritus Morton Schapiro, will receive honorary degrees from Northwestern University.
The 43rd Governor of Illinois and a 1993 graduate of Northwestern’s law school, Pritzker will receive his honor and deliver his address June 12 during Northwestern’s 165th commencement ceremony at Ryan Field.
Along with Pritzker and Schapiro, the following recipients will receive their honorary degrees at the ceremony: Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, retired vice chancellor and co-founder of the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), Rwanda; Sharon Bowen, commissioner of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and chair of the Board of the New York Stock Exchange; and Luis Valdez, playwright, director and founder of El Teatro Campesino.
Dr. Agnes Binagwaho
Dr. Agnes Binagwaho will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science. She is the retired vice chancellor and co-founder of the UGHE, an initiative of Partners In Health based in Rwanda, which trains global health professionals to deliver more equitable, quality health services for all.
Binagwaho is a Rwandan pediatrician who returned to Rwanda in 1996, two years after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Previously, she provided clinical care in the public sector and has served the Rwandan health sector (1996-2016) in high-level government positions, first as the executive secretary of Rwanda’s National AIDS Control Commission, then as permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health and lastly as Minister of Health for five years.
Binagwaho is a professor of pediatrics at UGHE, a senior lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and an adjunct clinical professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. She is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, the World Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the African Academy of Sciences.
Sharon Bowen JD-MBA ’82 will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws. She is the first woman and person of color to chair the New York Stock Exchange and was the first African American confirmed by the U.S. Senate and appointed by President Barack Obama to be a commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Prior to her role at the CFTC, Bowen was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and appointed by President Obama to serve as vice chair of the Securities Investor Protection Corporations, where she also served as acting chair. Prior to her work in the Obama administration, Bowen had a renowned three-decade career in corporate and transactional law as an associate at Davis, Polk & Wardwell and later as an associate and partner at Latham & Watkins.
She has served as a former executive committee member and chair of Northwestern’s Law School Board and delivered the main convocation address to the Law School Class of 2018. In 2019, Bowen joined a group of fellow African American alumni to establish the African American History and Culture Endowed Scholarship at the Law School.
Gov. JB Pritzker
Gov. JB Pritzker will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws.
He took the oath of office for his second term on Jan. 9, 2023. Since taking office, he has accomplished one of Illinois’ most ambitious policy agendas. The governor won bipartisan passage for Rebuild Illinois, the largest investment in state history to upgrade roads, bridges, rail, broadband and schools. He has proposed and passed a balanced budget every year since elected, eliminating the state’s multi-billion-dollar bill backlog, reducing the state’s pension liability and achieving eight credit upgrades from rating agencies. He has created jobs, overseen the efforts to raise the minimum wage, protected reproductive rights, worked to make higher education more affordable and advanced equal pay for women.
At the start of his second term, Gov. Pritzker has prioritized community safety, signing an assault weapons ban into law, protecting and expanding access to reproductive health care for both patients and providers, and supporting a plan to provide paid leave for every worker in the state.
Gov. Pritzker is a life member of the Northwestern Law Board. In 2015, he and his wife, MK, made a gift to significantly advance the mission and vision of the governor’s alma mater, one of the nation’s leading law schools. The school was renamed the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
Morton Schapiro will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. He served as Northwestern’s 16th president from September 2009 to September 2022.
During his tenure, Northwestern rose dramatically in stature: The student body increased in quality and diversity as undergraduate applications nearly doubled; faculty memberships in national academies increased by more than 70%; annual sponsored research nearly doubled to just under $1 billion; the University endowment more than doubled; crucial academic facilities were built; and the University strengthened its partnerships with its local communities.
Prior to arriving at Northwestern, he served as president of Williams College from 2000 to 2009, and previous to that served as a dean and vice president at the University of Southern California. Schapiro is among the nation’s leading authorities on the economics of higher education, and is the author or co-author of 10 books and hundreds of journal articles, commentaries and op-eds. In 2010, he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and, in 2017, he was elected to the National Academy of Education.
Luis Valdez will receive an Honorary Doctor of Arts. He is regarded as one of the most important and influential American playwrights living today. He founded the internationally renowned and Obie award-winning theater company El Teatro Campesino (The Farm Workers’ Theater) in 1965.
Valdez’s involvement with Cesar Chavez, the United Farm Workers and the early Chicano Movement left an indelible mark that remains embodied in all his work, from his short plays — “Las Dos Caras del Patroncito” and “Quinta Temporada” — to his examinations of Chicano urban life in “I Don’t Have To Show You No Stinkin’ Badges.”
His play “Zoot Suit,” considered a masterpiece of the American theater as well as the first Chicano play on Broadway, re-examines the Sleepy Lagoon trial of 1942 and the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943, two of the darkest moments in Los Angeles urban history. His numerous feature film and television credits include “La Bamba” and “Cisco Kid.”
Valdez has received numerous honors and awards, including LA Drama Critic Awards, the prestigious George Peabody Award for excellence in television, the National Medal of the Arts from President Obama, the Presidential Medal of the Arts from President Reagan and Mexico’s prestigious Aguila Azteca Award.