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Dartmouth awarded honorary degrees to eight remarkable individuals at its 2023 Commencement on June 11, 2023. Liz Lempres, chair of the Board of Trustees, presented two "surprise" honorary degrees to outgoing Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon and his wife, Gail Gentes. President Hanlon presented the honorary degrees that followed. Below is the text of the formal citations read aloud for each recipient as they received their honorary doctorate degrees.
GAIL M. GENTES, as a champion of experiential learning, compassionate and engaged community member, and the wise and devoted partner to Dartmouth's 18th President, your impact on Dartmouth, the Upper Valley and, indeed, the world has earned you the admiration and appreciation of your Dartmouth family forever.
Born in Wellesley, Massachusetts, to a homemaker and a fireman, you were the first in your family to attend college, earning your degree in American Studies from Wells College in Aurora, New York, in 1974. Your innate desire to help others inspired you to join the Peace Corps, where you spent several years teaching English to schoolteachers in Afghanistan before returning to the U.S. to earn your MBA from Boston University.
A fortuitous family golf excursion introduced you to Phil, and the two of you have been learning and leading as life partners ever since.
Upon arriving to Dartmouth, you immediately embraced experiential learning, expanding opportunities for students to learn by doing as Director of Action-Based Learning Programs and, later, Assistant Director of Dartmouth for Life. Your involvement with the Stamps Scholars and mentorship of students, including as an advisor to Alpha Chi Alpha and Cobra, became a hallmark of your time at the College, as did your unparalleled dedication to volunteer service in the broader community.
Whether donning your cycling jersey at The Prouty to raise money for cancer research, championing the Lone Pine recognition program to honor talented Dartmouth staff, or serving on the Boards of area non-profits, from the Montshire Museum to WISE to the HOPE Foundation, you've served as a model for how one person's actions can, indeed, make a difference.
For your keen intellect, quiet leadership, and deep-rooted interest and concern for others, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
PHILIP J. HANLON, as an outstanding teacher-scholar and visionary and pragmatic leader in higher education, you've guided Dartmouth through the most significant decade of institutional advancement in its 254-year history.
You arrived at Dartmouth as a student in 1973 from your small hometown of Gouverneur, New York, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in mathematics in 1977 before earning your Ph.D. from CalTech in 1981. Forty years later, following a series of successive appointments at the University of Michigan, you returned as Dartmouth's 18th President to lead your alma mater.
Reflecting on our first 250 years, you charted a bold new course for the next: moving Dartmouth forward through academic excellence in service to the world. One by one, new buildings arose and new initiatives were born in support of that vision, fueled by a record-setting $3.7 billion raised through the Call to Lead, the most successful and inclusive fundraising campaign in institutional history.
You eliminated barriers to entry for the world's most talented students through historic levels of funding for financial aid, while recruiting best-in-class faculty to Dartmouth through the academic clusters. At the same time, you energized our research enterprise – in part, through the establishment of the Frank J. Guarini School for Graduate and Advanced Studies along with world-class centers and institutes focused on some of the foremost challenges of our time. As a result of those efforts, Dartmouth not only regained its status as an R1 research university, but earned a seat at the table in the prestigious Association of American Universities.
What's more, your unwavering commitment to building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus and to instilling a culture of prioritization and reallocation further elevated the success of the institution. And you never lost sight of the most important work of the College – teaching – dedicating yourself fully to students in the role of caring professor every year of your tenure.
Through it all, your calm, compassionate leadership and humility prevailed.
Your presidency will long be remembered as one of the most consequential in our history, both for the scope of its ambition and for the depth of its impact. It is, therefore, our pleasure to award you the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
GILDA BARABINO, as a pioneering chemical and biomedical engineer, award-winning interdisciplinary scholar, and accomplished academic leader, your dedication to the advancement of science and to equity and equality – broadly speaking and in STEMM fields – has made you one of the most respected and influential problem-solvers of our time.
Always an inquisitive child, you grew up in a myriad of cities as part of a military family, eager to understand how things work. When your high school chemistry teacher implied that the subject wasn't meant for girls, you made it a point to prove otherwise, earning your bachelor's degree in chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana in 1978. Eight years later, you became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Rice University.
After a series of successive appointments at some of the world's most prestigious universities, you rose to the presidency of Olin College of Engineering in 2020 as the first female and African American in that role.
Your pathbreaking research on sickle cell disease has informed current technologies, opened the door to new avenues of research, and formed the basis of novel therapies.
In addition, your expertise in eliminating barriers to success and building supportive cultures for underrepresented groups has deeply influenced the work of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and even the U.S. government, as you spearhead the formation of a coalition to expand and diversify the semi-conductor workforce in support of the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act.
For your inspirational leadership as a scientist, educator, and administrator and your unrelenting drive to develop science and engineering solutions that lead to a more healthy, prosperous, and just society, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
JENNIFER DAWN CARLSON, as an outstanding scholar and distinguished professor of sociology and government and public policy, your pathbreaking research has significantly enhanced our understanding of American gun culture and the consequences of gun violence on people's social and political lives.
You arrived on the Dartmouth campus in the fall of 2000 to pursue a degree in math. But for you, a single major wasn't enough. With an innate desire to ask interesting questions about the social world, you graduated summa cum laude in 2004 with a double major in mathematics and sociology, a combination you've brilliantly applied to your life's work.
A senior thesis on the death penalty under the mentorship of professor Kathryn Lively inspired you to earn your Ph.D. in sociology at University of California, Berkeley, where you began to explore American gun politics.
You continued that intensive investigation – first as an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and then at the University of Arizona – fearlessly and exhaustively combining participant observation, in-depth interviews, and ethnography to better understand the motivations, assumptions, and complex social forces that drive gun ownership and shape gun culture in the U.S.
As the author of three books on the subject and the recipient of a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, your deliberate choice not to align yourself with either side of the gun debate has enabled you to move the public conversation about guns forward. At the same time, your rigorous and balanced approach has helped you teach students how to talk about politically controversial subjects productively, a much-needed skill in our highly politicized and polarized society.
For your contributions to our collective understanding of gun culture in our country and to elevating public discourse in hopes of facilitating a way forward, Dartmouth is proud to award you the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science.
ANDREA HAYES DIXON, as a pioneering pediatric surgeon and passionate researcher and educator, you've shattered glass ceilings in medicine and higher education while dedicating your life to the fight against pediatric cancer.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, you expressed your desire to be a "baby doctor" ever since you could talk. Determined to make that dream a reality, you came to Dartmouth, earning your undergraduate degree in religion in 1987 before going on to earn your medical degree from the Geisel School of Medicine in 1991.
After years of intensive training and with the encouragement of outstanding mentors, including Drs. Thomas Colacchio and the late Claude Organ, you became the first African American woman to become a board-certified pediatric surgeon in the United States.
In 2006, you pioneered the use of heated chemotherapy to treat children with the rare and devastating cancer known as desmoplastic round small cell tumor. You have since performed hundreds more of these procedures in pediatric patients, doubling their chances at survival from 30 to 60 percent, and traveled the world to teach others how to perform the life-saving procedure, as well.
In addition to treating patients, you work tirelessly with students and colleagues in the lab to identify the origins of rare cancers and find a way to prevent them, while educating the next generation of leaders in medicine as Dean of the Howard University College of Medicine, the first Black woman in history to serve in that role.
For your extraordinary contributions to the medical field, your exemplary leadership in higher education, and your commitment to providing hope to childhood cancer patients and their families, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
BENJAMIN WILSON, as a highly accomplished attorney in the field of environmental law, your exceptional track record as a litigator and an executive is matched only by your dedication to diversifying the legal profession and creating an equitable and inclusive community for all.
You grew up in a segregated Mississippi to parents who believed firmly in the power of education. After a transformative prep school experience, you made your way to Dartmouth, where you excelled as a student-athlete, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a history degree in 1973.
Seeking to emulate prominent civil rights attorneys like Wiley Branton, A.P. Tureaud, and Constance Baker Motley, you went on to Harvard Law School, earning your J.D. with honors in 1976. Immediately thereafter, you joined the prestigious law firm of King & Spaulding and, following a stint with the U.S. Department of Justice, became the first Black partner at Beveridge & Diamond in 1986. For the next 35 years, you practiced the law that you love at the prominent D.C. firm while nurturing the development of others, rising to the role of chairman in 2017.
You played a leading role in the Duke Energy coal ash spill remediation project and the Volkswagen AG emissions proceedings, though your legacy as a leader extends far beyond these landmark cases.
You've generously lent your time and talent in service to others, including to Dartmouth, through exemplary Board and volunteer service. The Diverse Partners Network you founded in 2008 to assist minority lawyers in overcoming challenges they would experience in the legal profession is now 6,000 strong. And your dedication to teaching at Howard University School of Law, even after your retirement, is a testament to your desire to inspire young lawyers of color to pursue excellence in their fields.
For your outstanding contributions to the practice of environmental and natural resources law, your leadership and mentorship of students and colleagues throughout your distinguished career, and your advocacy for equity and equality in your own field and beyond, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
PHILIP ANDERSON LORD and CHRISTOPHER MILLER, as Academy Award-winning animators, writers, directors and producers, you've captivated and delighted audiences worldwide through creative film and television storytelling full of wit and optimism.
You arrived as students at Dartmouth in 1993 from opposite corners of the country, but a shared interest in animation, fueled by film professor David Ehrlich, made you fast friends.
With your animated shorts earning accolades and gaining a following even before you graduated, you caught the attention of a studio executive, effectively launching you on a path toward realizing your childhood dreams. Before long, your support of one another's ideas helped you rise to Hollywood fame in a creative partnership that would become a model for collaborators everywhere.
With imagination and inventiveness, you created a series of animated box office hits, including Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The LEGO Movie, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which won the 2019 Oscar for Best Animated Feature. You extended that success to live-action film and television projects, which included fresh takes on old favorites like 21 Jump Street.
From edgy, animated cult classics like Clone High to genre-crossing television series like The Afterparty, your range is as broad as your talent is deep, making you one of the most highly sought-after duos in Hollywood.
Big screen or small, your distinctive style, attention to detail and hilarious and emotional storytelling have led to outstanding commercial success, including with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, which shattered box office expectations in its worldwide opening this month.
For your outstanding body of work in film and television entertainment, your commitment to the arts and to advancing animation as an art form, and your unparalleled dedication to each other and your craft, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Arts.