Five honorary doctorates, 1,500 degrees awarded on SMU’s main quad

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison received an honorary degree from SMU during commencement ceremonies Saturday.

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison receive honorary degree from SMU President R. Gerald Turner

DALLAS (SMU) – Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison delivered the commencement address and received an honorary degree at SMU’s Spring 2013 Commencement Convocation on Saturday. 

Hutchison spoke about entrepreneurial spirit and a "can-do" attitude as important legacies from the graduates' time at SMU:  "Class of 2013, the best of your life is yet to come, and you are ready!"   

President R. Gerald Turner conferred approximately 1,500 undergraduate and graduate degrees upon students from all of SMU’s schools and professional programs.  This year’s spring ceremony fell midway through the University’s centennial celebration, which marks the university’s founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915.

The ceremony was staged in front of SMU’s first building - Dallas Hall - on the historic Main Quad.   Against a campus backdrop of oak trees and red brick buildings, students and faculty marched to the quad in their academic regalia, accompanied by processional music.  

“Commencement allows us to celebrate our SMU graduates’ achievements and look forward with them to the future. By awarding honorary degrees, we also recognize individuals who have made important contributions to academia and society,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.  “Commencement is one of our most cherished Hilltop traditions, and this year’s outdoor ceremony will be particularly memorable.”  

In addition to  Hutchison, a technology entrepreneur, a former U.S. ambassador, a distinguished scholar and a criminal justice reform activist also received honorary degrees for distinguished contributions in their fields. The honorary degree recipients were:

  • James R. BiardJames Robert (Bob) Biard received the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, for his outstanding contributions in the field of optoelectronics. Biard received the world’s first patent for the light emitting diode (LED), now ubiquitous in devices ranging from digital clocks and remote controls to television screens and traffic lights.   He holds more than 75 patents for his inventions.  Biard is an adjunct professor of electrical engineering at Texas A&M.
  • Swanee HuntSwanee Hunt received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for her efforts toward world peace and gender parity. Hunt was ambassador to Austria during the Balkan War and helped host programs aimed at stabilizing the neighboring Balkan states. She is founder and president of the Institute for Inclusive Security, which trains women peace builders around the globe. She also is a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
  • Kay Bailey HutchisonKay Bailey Hutchison received the degree of Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa, for her distinguished career in public service and support of higher education. Hutchison is the first woman to represent Texas in the United States Senate, serving from 1993 to 2012. During her years in the Senate, she expanded higher education opportunities for thousands of Texans and championed advancements in science, technology, engineering and math education. Hutchison helped bring to SMU more than $20 million in federal research funds.
  • Francis Christopher OakleyFrancis Christopher Oakley received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for his distinguished contributions to higher education as a scholar and administrator. Oakley is the Edward Dorr Griffin Professor of the History of Ideas and president emeritus of Williams College, where he led establishment of the tutorial form of instruction. He has written 13 books and served as president of the American Council of Learned Societies.
  • Bryan A. StevensonBryan A. Stevenson received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for his efforts to achieve social equity through criminal justice reform. Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair treatment in the legal system. Stevenson also is a professor of clinical law at New York University School of Law.

In addition, nine retiring faculty members were recognized during Saturday's Commencement Convocation:

  • William Beauchamp, Associate Professor of French in Dedman College
  • David Blackwell, the William B. Hamilton Chair in Earth Sciences in Dedman College
  • Robert C. Davis, Associate Professor of Mathematics in Dedman College
  • Margaret (Maggie) H. Dunham is Professor of Computer Science and Engineering in Lyle School of Engineering 
  • Charles (Charley) Helfert, Associate Professor of Theatre in Meadows School of the Arts
  • Robin W. Lovin, the Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics and former dean of Perkins School of Theology
  • Bijan Mohraz, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering in Lyle School of Engineering.
  • Laurence (Larry) Scholder, Professor of Art in Meadows School of the Arts
  • Linda Brewster Stearns, Professor of Sociology in Dedman College

The Rotunda Recessional was held Friday evening and followed the Baccalaureate Service, where United Methodist Bishop Michael McKee was the speaker. Undergraduate candidates, led by faculty and alumni marshals, marched through the front doors of Dallas Hall, through the Rotunda and around to the University's main quad. This tradition welcomes graduates into their new phase of membership of the SMU community - their life as alumni.

Click here for more information about May Commencement Weekend.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.