March 15, 2004

Robinson headlines list of honorary degree recipients

By Stephanie Stinn

Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson will return to the Emory campus for the second time this academic year when she addresses graduates as the keynote speaker at Commencement on Monday, May 10.

Robinson is one of four honorary degree recipients who will be honored at the 159th Commencement ceremony. Her co-recipients include medieval historian Caroline Walker Bynum, U.S. Olympic Committee President Emeritus LeRoy Walker and Emory Trustee Emeritus James Williams.

“Emory’s honorary degree recipients bring honor to Emory even as Emory honors them.  They are accomplished contributors in their own life fields who instruct and inspire us—as every doctoral degree holder should aspire to do,” said President Jim Wagner, who will be participating in his first Emory Commencement this year.

Robinson, executive director of the New York-based Ethical Globalization Initiative, made her first visit to campus in December when she delivered the eighth annual Rosalynn Carter Distinguished Lecture in Public Policy. A lifelong advocate of universal respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, Robinson was elected Ireland’s first woman president in 1990, serving for seven years, and served as United Nations high commissioner for human rights from 1997 to 2002. She was a senator in Ireland for 20 years prior to becoming president and was educated at Trinity College (Dublin), and holds law degrees from the King’s Inns (Dublin), and Harvard and Oxford Universities.

An Atlanta native, Bynum is widely recognized as the leading medieval historian in the U.S., with six books, five edited volumes and more than three dozen articles to her credit. Her most recent book, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336, won the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize from the Phi Beta Kappa Society and the Jacques Barzun Prize from the American Philosophical Society. From 1988 until 2003, she was on the faculty at Columbia University, earning the distinction as the first woman named as a University Professor in 1990.

Also an Atlanta native, Walker was inspired by the Harlem Renaissance to overcome racial barriers and earn a Ph.D. from Columbia University in exercise physiology and biomechanics. As a coach, he has been recognized in the Olympic movement for his specialized training programs. Walker is the former chancellor of North Carolina Central University and based his educational career on a motto of “discipline, excellence, shared responsibility.” In 1993, he was unanimously elected to head the U.S. Olympic Committee and held this position during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Williams (’55C) first was elected as an alumnus trustee in 1973, then became a term trustee in 1976 and a trustee emeritus in 2003. During his time on the Board of Trustees (BOT), he chaired the five-year capital campaign that ran from 1979–1984 and raised $220 million for Emory. The Emory Medalist is the chair of the executive committee of SunTrust Banks, where he has worked since 1957. He has been involved in countless other roles and projects as a member of the Woodruff Foundation board and as chair of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Board, which is an arm of the BOT.

For more information on the honorees, please visit