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Four distinguished alumni will receive honorary degrees

Katrina Adams, David Barstow, Kathryn Hahn and David Reitze will be honored during Northwestern’s 166th Commencement
honorary degree recipients
This year, Northwestern University will present honorary degrees to former professional tennis player Katrina Adams, journalist and professor David Barstow, actress Kathryn Hahn and physicist David Reitze.

Northwestern University will present honorary degrees to four highly accomplished alumni during its 166th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 9, at the United Center in Chicago.

This year’s recipients are former professional tennis player Katrina Adams, journalist and professor David Barstow, actress Kathryn Hahn and physicist David Reitze.

Hahn was announced as Commencement speaker via a surprise video reveal at the senior class formal on Saturday night.

“We are delighted that Kathryn Hahn, one of Hollywood’s most compelling and sought-after artists, will deliver this year’s commencement address,” President Michael Schill said. “Kathryn’s performances in some of our most beloved movies and TV shows are as memorable as they are remarkable. Together, this year’s honorary degree recipients — Katrina Adams, David Barstow, Kathryn Hahn and David Reitze — demonstrate the consistent ability of Northwestern alumni to make a positive impact on our society across disciplines.”

This year’s four honorary degree recipients

Katrina Adams

Katrina Adams will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Katrina Adams
Katrina Adams

Former Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) player Adams is the first African American to lead the United States Tennis Association (USTA). She is the first two-term chairman and president (2015-2018) and the first former player to hold that honor.

Under her leadership, the USTA achieved several major milestones, including the opening of the USTA National Campus and the transformation of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. To increase diversity in the sport of tennis, Adams led an unprecedented outreach effort into underserved communities.

At Northwestern, Adams led the varsity tennis team to a Big Ten championship in 1986 and won the 1987 NCAA doubles championship with partner Diane Donnelly. Following her success at the collegiate level, Adams competed for 12 years on the WTA Tour.

Upon retiring from professional tennis, Adams joined the USTA as a national coach. She became USTA chairman, CEO and president in 2015. 

She has earned many accolades, including being named twice to Adweek’s “Most Powerful Women in Sports” list and Ebony magazine’s “Power 100” list. Adams has been inducted into the Boys & Girls Club of America Hall of Fame, Black Tennis Hall of Fame and Northwestern University Hall of Fame.

She is also the author of the inspiring memoir, “Own the Arena: Getting Ahead, Making a Difference, and Succeeding as the Only One.”

David Barstow

David Barstow ’86 will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

David Barstow
David Barstow

Barstow is the first reporter in American history to win four Pulitzer Prizes, which he earned over the course of 20 years at The New York Times. He also is the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

In 2019, Barstow and two colleagues were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for an 18-month investigation of President Donald Trump’s finances that debunked his claims of self-made wealth and revealed a business empire riddled with tax dodges.

In 2013, Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab won for “Walmart Abroad,” a series that exposed Walmart’s aggressive use of bribery to fuel its rapid expansion in Mexico; in 2009, he won for “Message Machine,’’ his series about the Pentagon’s hidden campaign to influence news coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and in 2004 Barstow and Lowell Bergman were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for articles about employers who committed egregious workplace safety violations that killed or injured hundreds of American workers.

Barstow is a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and an inductee of Medill’s Hall of Achievement.

Kathryn Hahn

Kathryn Hahn ’95 will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts.

Kathryn Hahn
Kathryn Hahn

Currently, Hahn can be seen in Hulu’s limited series “Tiny Beautiful Things,” based on the best-selling essay collection of the same name by Cheryl Strayed, as “Dear Sugar,” an anonymous advice columnist who is revered even when her own life is falling apart. For her performance, Hahn was nominated for a 2024 Screen Actors Guild Award in the category of “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series” and was nominated for a 2023 Primetime Emmy Award.

She will also be seen in the upcoming Marvel/Disney+ limited series “Agatha: Darkhold Diaries,” a spinoff that revives her character Agatha Harkness from “WandaVision.”

Recently, Hahn was seen in Netflix’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” as a part of the star-studded cast featuring Daniel Craig, Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Dave Bautista and Madelyn Cline. The film received a 2023 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy as well as 2023 Critics Choice Awards for Best Acting Ensemble and Best Comedy.

In addition to her degree from Northwestern’s School of Communication, Hahn also has a Masters in Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama.

David Reitze

David Reitze ’83 will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Science.

David Reitze
David Reitze

A leader in the development of ultrasensitive gravitational-wave detectors and astronomy, Reitze has served since 2011 as executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, where a team of scientists opened a new window on the universe with the first observation of gravitational waves.

In 2016, 100 years after Albert Einstein predicted the existence of ripples in the fabric of space-time, the LIGO team reported the first confirmed detection of gravitational waves produced by two black holes colliding and merging to form a new, larger black hole.

An ongoing project funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation to develop and operate large-scale ultraprecise interferometric detectors, the LIGO team continues work on a new field of astrophysics using gravitational-wave detections.

Reitze obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics from Northwestern’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1983 and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1990.

Reitze is an elected fellow of the American Physical Society (2006), Optica (2015) and the American Association of the Advancement of Science (2019). He was awarded the National Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Discovery in 2017 for his leadership role in LIGO.