Skip to content

University Honors and Awards

Each year, the University recognizes the outstanding contributions of distinguished educators, leaders, and humanitarians by bestowing honorary degrees, Eastman Medals, Hutchison Medals, and awards for scholarship and teaching. Discover this year’s honorees below.


Honorary Degrees

Honorary Doctor of Laws
Susan B. Anthony
Presented posthumously

Born to a Quaker family in Adams, Massachusetts, Susan Brownell Anthony inherited a keen sense of social justice from her parents and community. At the age of 17, she began petitioning for the abolitionist movement. She later founded the Women’s National Loyal League with Elizabeth Cady Stanton to rally support for the 13th Amendment and an end to slavery.

Anthony helped to found the National Woman Suffrage Association, the American Equal Rights Association, and the International Council of Women, among countless efforts to secure citizenship and the fundamental right to vote for all people. But when the 14th and 15th Amendments failed to include women, Anthony’s lifelong passion for equality and human rights was compounded. In support of the women’s suffrage movement, she traveled to deliver as many as 75 to 100 speeches a year. Anthony also lead the Working Women’s Association in advocating for labor rights and reforms, equal pay for women, opening male-dominated professions to women, and the eight-hour workday.

In addition to her nationally and internationally recognized work, Anthony had a profound impact on the University of Rochester by taking up the cause of admitting women to the school. By pledging her life insurance money, Anthony met the University’s financial demands to allow the admittance of women, thereby altering the structure of the University and advancing inclusivity at the institution.

Susan B. Anthony did not live to see the day that women finally achieved the vote on August 18, 1920, the centennial anniversary we will celebrate this summer.

Honorary Doctor of Engineering
Robert Shannon ’54, ’57 (MA)

Professor Robert Shannon received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester in the 1950s. He began his career at Itek Corporation in Massachusetts, at the time a leading builder of early satellite reconnaissance systems. While there, he was involved in the design of several of the optical systems to be used in space observation systems.

After a decade at Itek, Shannon joined the faculty of the Optical Sciences Center at the University of Arizona, ultimately serving as director of the center. He taught optical design, was the advisor to many MS and PhD students, and was responsible for several different research and engineering projects.

Shannon has served as president of the Optical Society of America and of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE), the International Society for Optics and Photonics. He has been a member of many government advisory committees and was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He has been a member of the Aerospace Corporation Board of Trustees, was a participant in NASA’s Hubble Telescope Mirror Recovery Panel, a member of the Technical Advisory Group at the NRO, and a member of the US Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. He was the recipient of the Gold Medal from SPIE and received an honorary degree from the CIO in Leon, Mexico.

Shannon is especially proud of his large extended family, which includes six children and several grand-children and great-grandchildren.

Honorary Doctor of Laws
G. Robert Witmer, Jr. ’59
Presented posthumously

Known affectionately as “Mr. Rochester,” G. Robert Witmer, Jr. was a noted jurist, distinguished alumnus, and longtime servant of the University of Rochester and the Greater Rochester community.

An accomplished lawyer, Witmer served as senior counsel for the Nixon Peabody law firm, representing clients in high-profile matters of real estate and environmental law in New York and at the federal level. Throughout his life, Witmer was a deeply engaged alumnus, assuming important advisory roles for the College, alumni affairs, the Medical Center, the Eastman School of Music, and the Board of Trustees. Elected to the Board in 1979, Witmer served as chair from 2003 until 2008, a pivotal tenure that included the selection of the University’s 10th president and laying the groundwork for the 2011 launch of The Meliora Challenge campaign.

Witmer served as president of the New York State Bar Association and as a member of the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates. He received the Adolf J. Rodenbeck Award, presented by the Monroe County Bar Association to a legal professional who exemplifies professionalism and community service. In 2013, he received the Rochester Rotary Award, given for those who personify “Service Above Self.” He was an active member of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, where he regularly sang in the choir. He shared a love of music with his wife, Nancy; together they played in the New Horizons Band.

A 1959 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University with honors in history, Witmer graduated from Harvard Law School.

Eastman Medal

The Eastman Medal recognizes individuals who, through their outstanding achievement and dedicated service, embody the high ideals for which the University stands.

Kathleen Hochul
New York Lieutenant Governor

Kathleen Hochul was elected in 2014 and re-elected for a second term in 2018. She has worked in all levels of government, from Town Board to Congress—where she represented New York’s 26th Congressional District.

The lieutenant governor chairs the statewide Regional Economic Development Councils, which have reinvented economic development in local communities, and cochairs the state’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force working to combat the epidemic.

Lieutenant Governor Hochul spearheads the ad- ministration’s efforts to advance equality, championing campaigns for fair wages, paid family leave, Enough is Enough to combat sexual assault on college campuses, and eliminating the gender wage gap.

She continues to be a champion for women and families across the state, serving as cochair of the state’s Child Care Availability Task Force and chair of the New York State Women’s Suffrage Commission.

The lieutenant governor is dedicated to her role as the governor’s eyes and ears on the ground, making it a point to travel to all 62 counties every year—traveling enough miles to circle the globe more than 10 times.

Lieutenant Governor Hochul received a BA from Syracuse University and a law degree from Catholic University in Washington, DC, serving as legal counsel and legislative assistant to Congressman John LaFalce and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan before starting her career in public service.


Nancy Robbins

For more than 50 years, Nancy Robbins has embodied volunteerism, service, and support. Rob- bins served as a teacher for several years before starting a career as a department-store buyer at Gimbel’s in Pittsburgh; La Salle’s in Toledo, Ohio; and Sibley’s in Rochester. After retiring from Sibley’s in 1966, Robbins dedicated her life to serving the greater Rochester community.

In 1970, her three-year-old daughter was treated as a cancer patient at the Strong Memorial Hospital. In 1986, remembering those awful days without a support system, Robbins led a comprehensive effort to bring a Ronald McDonald House to Rochester’s Medical Center, which had a transformative effect on the hospital’s ability to serve the region, offering families with critically ill children emotional support and affordable lodging. She created a volunteer grassroots fundraising organization, and her support bolstered a $2 million campaign that enabled the hospital to significantly enhance facilities, services, and staff. After four years as president of the board, Robbins devoted another 28 years as a volunteer for the House. In 2003, Robbins and her husband, Dan, pledged $1 million, a gift that helped fund construction of a new, 22-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Robbins served many years in leadership positions with the Woman’s Educational and Industrial Union, the Women’s Coalition for Downtown Rochester, the Rochester Philharmonic League, WXXI Public Broadcasting, and numerous projects with the City of Rochester.

Robbins earned her bachelor’s degree from Westminster College in 1945.

Charles Force Hutchison and Marjorie Smith Hutchison Medal

The Hutchison Medal is the highest honor given to an alumnus, recognizing outstanding achievements and service to community, state, and nation.

Jude Sauer ’81, ’84M (MD), ’88M (Res)

Jude Sauer is a clinical assistant professor of surgery in the School of Medicine and Dentistry. After graduating from the University of Rochester and the School of Medicine and Dentistry, General Surgery residency training, and a surgical research Fellowship at URMC, he began a career in surgical innovation.

Sauer founded LSI SOLUTIONS in 1986 during his surgical internship. The company now has more than 400 employees based in Victor, New York. Sauer has been awarded 190 US and international patents (116 more are pending) for minimally invasive surgical products in the fields of general, gynecologic, bariatric, and cardiac surgery.

LSI’s inventions have been used in 64 countries and have treated nearly 800,000 surgical patients. The team is now producing a new health care worker barrier product, the HEROVIEW Shield, optimized to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the past three decades, Sauer’s travels have taken him to hospitals throughout the United States and beyond. He has participated in surgery across the globe, including in Rio de Janeiro, Salzberg, Prague, Sibiu, and Vienna, and has been an invited lecturer at numerous surgical conferences. He has been the principal investigator in many government-sponsored research grants and the primary author of over a hundred scientific presentations, posters, and publications.

Sauer and his wife, Dr. Eva P. Sauer, have four adult children, Jude, Viny, Martin, and Ava.

William H. Riker University Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching

The award recognizes a faculty member who has excelled in graduate instruction, particularly in the University’s doctoral programs.

Michael Scott

Michael L. Scott is the Arthur Gould Yates Professor of Engineering and a past and incoming chair of the Department of Computer Science. Scott’s research interests and expertise span most of the “systems stack,” from high-level hardware design through operating systems, runtime systems, compilers, and programming languages, with a particular emphasis on parallel computing. He teaches courses in computer organization, programming language design and implementation, parallel and distributed computing, and the social implications of computing. In recognition of his work on synchronization algorithms and concurrent data structures, he shared the 2006 Edsger W. Dijkstra Prize of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). He was named a fellow of the ACM in 2006 and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 2010.

Scott is widely known as the author of Programming Language Pragmatics, the leading text on programming language design and implementation, and of Shared Memory Synchronization, a widely cited book-length monograph. He is the author or coauthor of more than 170 referred publications and five US patents. Scott has advised 18 former and six current PhD students and served on the thesis committees of 51 others. In 2001 he received the Robert and Pamela Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Teaching. He received the Hajim School’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

Scott earned BA, MS, and PhD degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and has been a faculty member at the University of Rochester ever since. During the 2014–15 academic year he was a visiting scientist at Google.

Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

The teaching prize is awarded to a faculty member who has a proven record of classroom excellence and who shows a willingness to mentor other educators.

Patrick Hopkins ’99N (MS), ’10N (DNP)

Patrick Hopkins is codirector of the Accelerated Program for Non-Nurses, an intensive program that prepares students who already have a bachelor’s degree for a career in nursing. He teaches pathophysiology in the accelerated bachelor’s program and content on the care of children and families in the pediatric nurse and family nurse practitioner programs. Hopkins has been recognized with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Mary Dombeck Diversity Enhancement Faculty Award, and the Outstanding Scholarly Practitioner Award in the School of Nursing. A native of England, he has worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Strong Memorial Hospital since relocating to Rochester in 1994, rising from staff nurse to nurse leader to neonatal nurse practitioner. He serves as specialty director of the Neonatal NP Program. He is a member of the URMC Ethics Committee, Committee for Family Centered Care, and the NICU Safety Committee.

Hopkins earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Hull and his registered general nurse degree at St. James University Hospital in Great Britain. He earned his master’s degree from the pediatric nurse practitioner program, his post-master’s certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner, and his Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from the School of Nursing.

G. Graydon Curtis ’58 and Jane W. Curtis Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching Excellence

The award is for a nontenured faculty member and is designed to encourage both interest and excellence in instruction at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Llerena Searle

Llerena Guiu Searle is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Rochester. She has taught previously at Williams College, the University of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island School of Design. Her research focuses on the ways in which capitalist practices shape urban space in globalizing India, and she teaches courses on cities, material culture, expertise, language, personhood, and domesticity.

Her first book, Landscapes of Accumulation: Real Estate and the Neoliberal Imagination in Contemporary India (2016, University of Chicago Press), explains the rapid growth of Indian cities by examining the practices of the international financiers and real estate developers who fund real estate projects. Her current book project, Home, Inc.: Producing Domesticity in Contemporary India, examines the economic visions, labor practices, and class strategies that are changing the physical contours of domestic space in India today. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the American Institute of Indian Studies, and the Fulbright Scholar Program. She has published articles in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Economy and Society, and the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

Searle received her BA in art history from Williams College in 1999 and her PhD in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010.


Brianna Theobald

Brianna Theobald is an assistant professor of history and affiliate faculty in the Susan B. Anthony Institute. Previously, she was a Chancellor’s Fellow in American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. At the University of Rochester, she teaches courses in US women’s history, the history of Native America, the history of reproduction, US and the world, and sports history.

Theobald’s research has been supported by the American Historical Association, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Smith College, and the Western History Association, among other entities. Her first book, Reproduction on the Reservation: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Colonialism in the Long Twentieth Century, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2019. She has published several articles and book chapters in the fields of Native American women’s history and the history of reproduction, including a forthcoming article in the Journal of Women’s History. Her 2016 article “Nurse, Mother, Midwife: Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail and the Struggle for Crow Women’s Reproductive Autonomy,” received the Arrell M. Gibson Award for Best Article in Native American History from the Western History Association. Theobald also publishes in popular media, most recently in Time magazine.

She holds a PhD in history from Arizona State University as well as a master’s degree in history and a BA in history and English from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Return to the top of the page