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The Statesman


Michael J. Fox among five receiving honorary degrees

Actor Michael J Fox, above, is one of five distinguished people receiving honorary degrees from Stony Brook University. TEODOR BJERRANG/FLCKR VIA CC BY-NC 2.0

Along with the Class of 2017, five distinguished individuals will receive honorary degrees at Stony Brook University’s 57th commencement ceremony at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on May 19.

Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox, actor and philanthropist, will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in recognition of his internationally acclaimed acting career that has spanned over three decades, and his commitment and advocacy for Parkinson’s disease research, according to Stony Brook Media Relations.

Fox established the Michael J. Fox Foundation nonprofit for Parkinson’s research in 2000, two years after he publicly disclosed that he had Parkinson’s disease. Since then, the Michael J. Fox Foundation has allocated over $700 million in funding and is the largest funding source for Parkinson’s drug development in the world.

Stony Brook University has also been committed to research in Parkinson’s disease through the Thomas Hartman Center for Parkinson’s Research, located in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. The center was named in honor of Monsignor Thomas Hartman, an Emmy Award-winning radio and television personality, who died in February 2016. In 2004, soon after Hartman’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s, the foundation was established by Hartman to help raise funds for research.

Prince Emmanuel de Merode

Prince Emmanuel de Merode, conservationist and anthropologist, will be receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for his service as the chief warden and director of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is in a war-torn area of Africa, between Uganda and Rwanda. This area is known for the critically endangered mountain gorilla.

de Merode has been committed to conservation, sustainability and protection of endangered species through times of extreme conflict, bringing in significant funding through tourism, social media, local enterprise and promoting local development. de Merode has worked alongside a team of Congolese rangers since 2008 to attempt to de-militarize the national park, reestablishing the rule of law which was once controlled by rebel militias.

de Merode is the son-in-law of Richard Leakey, a paleoanthropologist and cofounder of the Turkana Basin Institute in Nairobi, Kenya. Stony Brook University is an academic base affiliated with the Turkana Basin Institute. The institute provides facilities and fundraising for graduate and postdoctoral students from America and Africa.

Jonathan Oringer  

Jonathan Oringer, founder and CEO of Shutterstock, photographer and undergraduate alumnus of Stony Brook University, will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Science degree for his dedication to the tech industry. While at Stony Brook in 1993, Oringer sold software products over the internet. In 1996, Oringer graduated Stony Brook with a degree in computer science and mathematics. He invented one of the internet’s first pop-up blockers.

In 2003, Oringer founded Shutterstock, a company that provides micro-stock photography for affordable, licensable images. It was the first global subscription image marketplace. Since 2012, Shutterstock shares have been publicly traded in the New York Stock Exchange. In 2013, after going public, Oringer was reportedly declared New York’s first tech billionaire.

“It is my great pleasure to accept this Honorary Doctorate from Stony Brook, a university I hold in high regard, not only for the education I received some years ago but also for being a driving force behind my entrepreneurial journey,” Oringer said. “It is a privilege to know that the faculty, staff and student committees at Stony Brook University and SUNY have selected me for this honor and I look forward to accepting it in person in May.”

Dr. Arthur Kramer

Dr. Arthur Kramer, a researcher in psychology and neuroscience and Stony Brook University alumnus, will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Science degree for his research in cognitive neuroscience and psychology, brain plasticity, the aging mind and human factors. Kramer received his BS in psychology from Stony Brook University. Most recently, he has accepted the position of senior vice provost for research and graduate education and professor of psychology and engineering at Northeastern University.

Kramer is a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, with 25 years of professional service, including positions of director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and Swanlund chair and professor of psychology and neuroscience. He is also a  fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society.

“As a first generation college student I was not really aware of the opportunities that could become available from a rigorous university education,” Kramer said. “Stony Brook provided me (and many others) with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue my interests in science and to become both a professor and an inquisitive student of many topics throughout my life.”

Frank Shu

Frank Shu, an astrophysicist, astronomer and author, will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Science degree for his pioneering theoretical work in astrophysics, which includes the origin of meteorites, the structure of spiral galaxies and the birth and evolution of stars. One of Shu’s most highly cited works is his 1977 paper about the collapse of a dense giant molecular cloud core which forms a star.

Shu is a professor of astronomy at the University of California, San Diego and former chair of the astronomy department at UC Berkeley. He was the former president of the American Astronomy Association from 1994 to 1996. Shu is also a University Professor, a title in the UC system reserved for internationally distinct scholars recognized as teachers of exceptional ability.

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