Release date: Feb. 25, 2003
Irish Nobel Laureate Gave Emory Commencement Address
Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney delivered the keynote address at Emory University's 158th commencement ceremony Monday, May 12. He also was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree. The three remaining honorary degree recipients also gave brief remarks when each is presented with his honorary degree. They were: Anthony Fauci, M.D., of the National Institutes of Health; David Levering Lewis, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of W.E.B. DuBois; and Carlton R. "Sam" Young, an internationally known composer for the United Methodist Church and professor emeritus of Emory's Candler School of Theology.
"I am delighted that the 2003 commencement ceremonies, an event honoring students, faculty, staff, parents, families and friends, also honored these four extraordinary individuals--a courageous physician and scientist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, a prolific composer, and a distinguished poet, essayist and translator who is a Noble laureate," says Emory President William M. Chace.
Class Day, a new tradition that kicked off on Thursday, May 8, featured keynote speaker Danny Glover, who was selected by the student body.
Emory's ties to Seamus Heaney go back 15 years when he presented the first Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature in 1988. The lecture series was established to honor the renowned literary scholar and biographer of Irish poet/playwright W.B. Yeats. Ellmann served as the university's first Woodruff Professor. Heaney's papers for the three-lecture series were the seed that has grown into the finest literary archive of contemporary Irish poets in the world, according to Ronald Schuchard, Goodrich C. White Professor of English, who oversees the Ellmann Lectures.
Heaney, born in 1939 in County Derry, Northern Ireland, published his first book of poetry, "Death of a Naturalist," in 1966, and in 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, joining Yeats as the only Irish poets to be so honored. Heaney's "Opened Ground," a collection of poems from 1966–96, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1999, and his most recent translation, "Beowulf" (2000), won the prestigious Whitbread Book of the Year Award.
A pioneer in the field of immunoregulation, Anthony Fauci has served since 1984 as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health. He recently was awarded the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine, the largest medical prize in the United States and second in the world only to the Nobel.
Through his research Fauci has contributed to current understanding of the regulation of human immune responses and has developed effective therapies for such diseases as Wegener's granulomatosis. He also has performed some of the most critical research globally in the fight against AIDS. Responding to the concerns of AIDS activists in the emerging epidemic of the early 1980s, he was able to reconcile activists' concerns and the necessary rigorousness of scientific investigation. Today he plays an essential role in formulating government policy to combat bioterrorism.
Currently the Martin Luther King Jr. University Professor of History at Rutgers University, David Levering Lewis is author of a two-volume biography of W.E.B. DuBois, published in 1994 and 2001, winning the Pulitzer Prize both times. An Atlanta native, he attended the same high school as Martin Luther King and has taught at numerous universities around the world.
Lewis was set on his course quite early when, at age 12, he met the 80-year-old DuBois and recalls being rendered speechless by the question, "What are you going to do with your life?" Lewis' books include a biography of Martin Luther King Jr., a history of the District of Columbia, a study of the French-British colonial rivalry in 19th-century Africa, a history of the Harlem Renaissance, and a study of the origins of modern anti-Semitism. His approach to African-American history differs from the one that begins with slavery and proceeds through poverty to relative affluence. Instead, he studies the contributions of elite, wealthy and intellectual blacks to social change and artistic achievement.
Lewis delivered the keynote address at Emory's international conference on lynching last fall that complemented the exhibition "Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America."
Called the "meadowlark" of Methodism, Carlton Young is an internationally known composer for the United Methodist Church and the global Christian community. Young's 150 published works are in major music catalogs, and he is the only person to have edited two major hymnals for the same denomination in the 20th century.
As lecturer in music, visiting professor of church music, and choral director, Sam Young has traveled the world, conducting clinics and directing choir and hymn festivals. In so doing he has contributed enormously to worldwide music--for example, he brought the music of Christian communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to the attention of churches in the United States.
More information about each person is available on-line at http://www.emory.edu/COMMENCEMENT.