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April 9, 2001

Honorary degree recipients
double as '01 speakers

By Deb Hammacher


In a break with tradition, Emory’s 156th Commencement on May 14 will feature not just one main speaker, but each of the four honorary degree recipients will address the graduates.

Palestinian Catholic priest Elias Chacour, former Emory Board of Trustees chair Bradley Currey, South African justice Richard Goldstone and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault will each receive an honorary degree and deliver a brief speech. Actor Samuel Jackson also was slated to receive a degree, but the accelerated schedule of his current film project (due to the impending actors’ union strike) prevented his participation.

The new arrangement will allow graduates to hear from all the honorary degree recipients, not just a keynote speaker as in past years.

“It is fitting that the University conclude the celebration of our academic Year of Reconciliation by honoring four individuals whose distinguished careers have advanced and deepened our understanding of the principles of reconciliation,” President Bill Chace said. “Emory is indeed honored to have four such distinguished and accomplished individuals speak to our graduates and guests.”

Nominations for degree recipients are received from students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees, then selected by the University’s 17-member honorary degrees committee for approval by the University Senate, president and trustees.

Elias Chacour will receive a doctor of divinity degree. He is a Palestinian priest, ordained in the Melkite Catholic Church, an Eastern Byzantine church in communion with the Roman Catholic church.

For more than 30 years, Chacour has been an international ambassador for Middle East peace through non-violence. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times, he received the World Methodist Peace Award in 1994. He was born in Arab Palestine in 1939 to a Palestinian Christian family, but he became a deportee and refugee when he was 8 years old before being granted Israeli citizenship in 1948. He has earned degrees from Saint Sulpice and the Sorbonne University, Hebrew University, and the University of Geneva.

Chacour is president of Mar Elias Educational Institutions, the only private campus in Galilee, Israel, where pre-school through post-graduate students of many faiths and ethnicities live and learn together. He is the author of the books Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land.

Brad Currey will receive a honorary doctor of humane letters. He chaired the Board of Trustees from 1994 until his retirement in November.

A trustee since 1980, Currey served on the board’s investment committee for 14 years (more than half as chair) immediately following Emory’s receipt of the $105 million Woodruff gift.

Remarkably, neither Currey nor any member of his family had any ties to Emory prior to his agreeing to accept nomination as a trustee. As board chair, Currey successfully worked with the Association of Emory Alumni to identify more able and committed alumni as prospective trustees and to prepare them for leadership positions on the board.

A 1951 graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Currey is an Army veteran of the Korean War, after which he began his 23-year career with Trust Company of Georgia. In 1976 he joined Rock-Tenn Company, a manufacturer and converter of recycled paperboard and packaging, retiring as board chair in January 2000.

Richard Goldstone will receive a doctor of laws degree. Since 1994 he has been a justice of the constitutional court of South Africa. Prior to that he served as judge of the Transvaal Supreme Court (1980–89) and then judge of the appellate division of the Supreme Court (1989–94). During his time as appellate judge, Goldstone chaired the Commission of Inquiry regarding Public Violence and Intimidation (1991–94), which came to be known as the Goldstone Commission, and for two years served as the chief prosecutor of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Since August 1999 he has chaired the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo.

Goldstone’s faith in law and passion for justice is evident in his advocacy for a permanent international war crimes tribunal, according to his nomination letter. Goldstone also participated in the Reconciliation Symposium earlier this year.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault will receive a doctor of humane letters degree. An international correspondent for CNN and National Public Radio in Johannesburg, South Africa, Huner-Gault has won acclaim for reporting on social justice issues.

She was one of two black students to integrate the University of Georgia in 1961. Following her graduation she wrote for the New Yorker and then The New York Times, where she served as the first Harlem bureau chief. She was a correspondent for the MacNeil/Lehrer news program from 1978 to 1997. She won an Emmy Award for her Grenada coverage and was named Journalist of the Year in 1986 by the National Association of Black Journalists. She also received a Peabody Award that year from her alma mater for her documentary on apartheid.

Nominated by faculty from both the arts and journalism at Emory, Hunter-Gault is the mother of a recent Emory graduate, Chuma, who has gone on to perform on Broadway.


Back to Emory Report April 9, 2001