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2016 Commencement honorary degrees and award recipients announced

May 2, 2016
graduates taking photos of Rush Rhees Library

The University of Rochester will recognize the outstanding contributions of distinguished leaders, scholars and humanitarians by bestowing 2016 honorary degrees, Eastman Medals, Hutchison Medals, and awards for scholarship and teaching. These awards will be presented at the 166th Commencement ceremonies on May 13, 14, and 15, and at the Simon Business School ceremony on June 5.

2016 University Honorary Degrees

Maggie Wilderotter

Maggie Wilderotter will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.

She was CEO of Frontier Communications from 2004 to 2015 and executive chairman until April 2016. During her tenure with Frontier, the company grew from a regional telephone company with customer revenues of less than $1 billion to a national broadband, voice, and video provider with operations in 29 states and annualized revenues in excess of $10 billion.

Previously, Wilderotter was senior vice president of Global Business Strategy and ran the Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft. Before this, she was president and CEO of Wink Communications Inc., executive vice president of National Operations for AT&T Wireless Services Inc., CEO of AT&T’s Aviation Communications Division, and a senior vice president of McCaw Cellular Communications Inc.

Wilderotter was on the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, where she served as vice chairman (2010-12) and chairman (2012-14). In 2014, she chaired the Blue Ribbon Committee on Board Strategy for the National Association of Corporate Directors.

Wilderotter serves on the boards of Costco Wholesale Corporation, DreamWorks Animation, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Juno Therapeutics Inc., as well as a number of private and nonprofit organizations.

She is a trustee of the Conference Board, a member of the board of directors of Catalyst, a member of the board of advisors of Boardroom IQ, the WomenCorporateDirectors Global CEO Task Force, and the Committee of 200.

Wilderotter holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the College of the Holy Cross. In 2014, she was awarded an honorary doctor of engineering degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Alan Zekelman 87S (MS)

Alan Zekelman, accomplished businessman, philanthropist and a director of JMC Steel Group, will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.

JMC Steel Group is the largest independent tubular products manufacturer in North America. Zekelman is the former president of Atlas Tube, a company founded by his late father, Harry, in 1984 in Harrow, Ontario. In December 2006, Atlas Tube was merged with JMC, which now operates 10 manufacturing plants in six U.S. states and one Canadian province.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Zekelman holds a bachelor of commerce degree from the University of Toronto. He received his MS in 1987 from the Simon Business School. In 1990, he received the University of Rochester’s Richard L. Rosenthal Award for Innovation in Investment Management/Corporate Finance.

An active Simon alumnus, Zekelman has served on the school’s Executive Advisory Committee, National Council and Simon Advisory Council. Perpetuating his family’s legacy of charitable giving, he and his wife, Lori Talsky-Zekelman, established the Lori and Alan S. Zekelman Distinguished Professorship of Business Administration at the Simon School.

Actively involved in multiple boards in his community, Zekelman serves on the executive committee of the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus. He is chairman of the board of the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, an Israeli institution from which Zekelman received an honorary doctorate in 2009. He serves on the boards of Overseers of Yeshiva University’s Yeshiva College, the Menachem Education Foundation, the United Jewish Foundation, the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network, the American Friends of Yahad-In-Unum, and the Birmingham Jewish Connection.

The Eastman Medal recognizes outstanding achievement and dedicated service in honor of the University’s great benefactor and the founder of Eastman Kodak Company.

Edmund A. Hajim ’58, chair of the University of Rochester Board of Trustees for the past eight years, has had an outstanding career in finance.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Rochester, Hajim served in the Navy and earned an MBA with distinction from the Harvard Business School.  His remarkable career started at Capital Research Company, followed shortly by becoming a senior vice president at EF Hutton.  He later was a partner and board member at Lehman Brothers, chairman and CEO of Furman Selz, and, after selling the firm to ING, chairman and CEO of ING Aeltus Group.  In 2002, he started his own investment firm and in 2009 became the president of Diker Management.

Hajim has served the University in many capacities for nearly 60 years, starting as an undergraduate student leader.  A driving force on the Board of Trustees for more than 25 years, he has had a transformative effect.  As chair of the Board’s Investment Committee, he was instrumental in strengthening the University’s endowment,  and has been especially involved in strategic planning and advancement efforts.

In 2008, Hajim’s $30 million commitment to the University was the largest single gift commitment in the institution’s history and catalyzed the $1.2 billion Meliora Challenge campaign.  In recognition of his generosity, the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences was named in his honor in 2009.

In addition, Hajim has held board and leadership positions in a wide range of corporate, educational, healthcare, and other nonprofit organizations.  In 2015, he was inducted into the Tau Beta Pi engineering honorary society and also received the Horatio Alger Award, which recognizes renowned leaders who have achieved success despite humble beginnings and adversity, and who demonstrate commitment to philanthropy and higher education.

Joseph Morelle, Assembly Majority Leader, was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1990 after serving six years in the Monroe County Legislature.  He has written more than 200 laws and served as chair of the Assembly’s standing committees on Insurance, Tourism, Small Business and Ethics.

In January 2013, Morelle was appointed Majority Leader, the second highest position in the Assembly. As Majority Leader, he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Assembly. He also serves as a member of the Rules Committee.

Morelle has established himself as a leader on critical issues, including job creation, public safety, and providing accessible and affordable healthcare.  He serves on the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council and helped secure $500 million in Upstate Revitalization Initiative funding for the region. As co-chair of the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, Morelle is leading an effort to address poverty in an unprecedented, comprehensive manner.

Morelle sponsored New York’s milestone autism health insurance law requiring carriers to cover the cost of autism screening and treatment, and has advanced legislation protecting senior citizens from criminal exploitation and abuse. He has led the effort to reform managed care and make life insurance carriers more accountable.  As chair of the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency’s Rochester Health Innovation Collaborative, he helped secure a $26.6 million federal grant to transform healthcare in the region.

An advocate for law enforcement, Morelle has backed the expansion of the state’s DNA criminal database and stricter rules regarding the tracking of sexual offenders. He also successfully fought for a law increasing penalties for those who bring loaded guns onto school grounds.

Morelle grew up in Irondequoit and earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from SUNY Geneseo.

The Charles Force Hutchison and Marjorie Smith Hutchison Medal recognizes alumni for outstanding achievement and notable service.

Richard Hodes ’82M (MD) is the medical director for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

After receiving his doctor of medicine degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1982, Hodes trained at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, completing his internship and residency in internal medicine at Baltimore City Hospital.

He first traveled to Ethiopia as a relief worker during the 1984 famine. He returned there the following year to teach internal medicine after receiving a Fulbright Fellowship, and a few years later he was the physician in charge of the health of all Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, about 1 percent of the Israeli population. He initiated a program to send Ethiopian children suffering from rheumatic and congenital heart disease to India, and patients with spine problems resulting from scoliosis and tuberculosis to Ghana and other countries for care. He is the only spine doctor in Ethiopia.

He has worked with thousands of refugees and displaced persons in Rwanda, Zaire, Tanzania, India, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Albania.

He has held posts at several academic institutions, including McGill University in Ethiopia, Ben Gurion University in Israel, the University of Toledo, and the University of Texas Health Science Center. He was awarded Mastership from the American College of Physicians.

Hodes is the subject of the book This is a Soul – the Mission of Rick Hodes, and the subject of four documentary films, including the HBO documentary “Making the Crooked Straight.” He has adopted five Ethiopian children (the maximum allowed) and provides four homes for up to 35 additional children with special medical needs.

He was the recipient of the School of Medicine and Dentistry Humanitarian Award in 2010.

Hutchison Medal recipient Laurence H. Bloch ’75, P’13S is a distinguished private investor and the former chair of TransWestern Publishing Company.  Bloch received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Rochester in 1975 and his MBA from the Wharton School in 1979.

In 1993, he co-sponsored the acquisition of TransWestern Publishing from US West.  Initially as vice-chairman and CFO, and then as chairman of the board from 1998 until the company’s sale in 2005, Bloch helped TransWestern become the second largest independent Yellow Pages publisher in the country.  He began his career in corporate finance in New York City and was formerly a managing director at Smith Barney.

A University trustee and Executive Committee member since 1998, Bloch has led key committees and initiatives.  As chair of the Board’s Advancement Committee since 2004, he has helped transform the Advancement program.  In 2011, he became west coast vice chair for The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester.

Bloch’s generosity at Rochester includes a leadership gift for a fitness center that was dedicated and named for him and his wife, Cindy, in 2002.  Bloch was a charter member and an initial co-chair of the George Eastman Circle.  In 2009, the Blochs were instrumental in creating the George Eastman statue to recognize Eastman’s philanthropic legacy and the launch of the University’s giving society named in his honor.   In 2014, the Blochs established an endowment to support the University’s fundraising program and the chief advancement officer position. The program’s building was named the Larry and Cindy Bloch Alumni and Advancement Center in their honor.

Bloch is an active volunteer in San Diego and board member of several non-profits, including Computers 2 San Diego Kids; Pro-Kids, The First Tee of San Diego; the Jewish Federation of San Diego; and the Rolf Benirschke Legacy Golf Invitational.  He and his wife have served on the board of Kids Korp USA, which engages youth in community volunteer work.

University Teaching Awards for Excellence

Andrew J. Berger, associate professor of optics and biomedical engineering, is the 2016 recipient of the Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Colleagues at the Institute of Optics characterize Berger as a gifted professor, an innovative teacher, and an outstanding scientist. He has consistently shown his commitment to excellence in teaching over his 16 years at the University.

Students emphasize the time, energy, and effort he invests in them. He actively involves students in teaching by providing training and guidance for his TAs and workshop leaders. Students seek him out as a teacher and mentor for his willingness to listen and his success at explaining concepts clearly.

He is known for incorporating new teaching techniques, including the use of videos and other resources, to free up class time for discussion. His discipline-based education research has resulted in a NSF research grant in the field of education.

Berger has been a member of the Institute’s undergraduate committee since his arrival and has served as chair. He has been involved in the optical engineering degree’s certification process for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. He also served on the advisory board for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the University.

Berger is active in outreach activities, particularly those aimed at encouraging high school students from underrepresented groups to consider careers in science and engineering.

In 1998, Berger received his PhD in physics from MIT, where he worked on developing methods of blood analysis using laser spectroscopy. From 1998 to 2000, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Irvine.  Berger’s current laboratory continues to focus on biomedical optics, specifically spectroscopic diagnostic techniques.  His interests range from measurements of organelle sizes in single cells, to noninvasive optical measurement of bone strength, to recording infants’ brain activity using near-infrared light.

Margarita Simon Guillory, assistant professor of religion, will receive the G. Graydon Curtis ’58 and Jane W. Curtis Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching Excellence.

Guillory is highly regarded by her colleagues for her research into African American religions, commitment to teaching, and service to the department of religion and classics.

She is an original and productive scholar whose research in black spiritualism has contributed greatly to her field. Since arriving at Rochester in 2011, she has co-edited two books and published a number of articles in respected publications. She is working on a book involving issues of the individual and identity in African American religion.

Guillory is committed to teaching students not only the facts of a subject, but also relevant research methods. She frequently takes her classes on field trips in and around Rochester so that students may better grasp material aspects of American religion.

She has developed six courses in African and African-American religions. These courses are vital to her department’s concentration in religion, as well as to the College’s African-American Studies Program and the Institute for Popular Music.  This commitment to her craft earned her the 2015 Abraham Karp Teaching Excellence Award.

Guillory has given exemplary service to the department, the College, and the Rochester community. She participates on several committees for the Frederick Douglass Institute, the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, and the Institute for Popular Music. She has also given a number of presentations and interviews within the Rochester community, at annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion, and to the national press regarding contemporary issues in American religion.

Guillory received her PhD in religious studies from Rice University. Before developing an interest in the study of religion, she was an award-winning high school science teacher.

Vera Tilson, associate professor of operations management, will receive the G. Graydon Curtis ’58 and Jane W. Curtis Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching Excellence.

Tilson has excelled inside and outside the classroom since joining the Simon Business School faculty in 2006.

She has taught many courses at Simon, including a popular elective, quantitative decision making with spreadsheets, as well as courses in health care operations, business process re-engineering, queuing theory and decision processes, and a doctoral-level seminar on the impact of technology on labor procurement. She is recognized as an outstanding educator, having appeared three times on the Simon teaching honor roll.  She was a co-recipient of the Superior MBA teaching award and won the 2015 INFORMS Teaching Case Competition.

As a member of the Committee on Teaching and Learning, Tilson has advised faculty colleagues on teaching effectiveness. She has also advised students on problem solving through hands-on learning and effective communication. Her innovative approach to teaching includes recording more than 70 instructional videos that her students describe as invaluable.

A widely published scholar, Tilson’s research interests are in health care operations, supply chain management, and stochastic scheduling. Her industrial experience includes serving as a software engineer and project manager in telecommunications, medical instrumentation, supply chain software, and financial industries.

Tilson earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT, an MS in applied mathematics from the Colorado School of Mines, and a PhD in operations management from Case Western Reserve University.

Duncan Moore ’74 (PhD), the Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professor of Optical Engineering, is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in Graduate Education for his ability to inspire students with his boundless enthusiasm for new approaches to teaching, technology and business.

In the 42 years since he received his PhD at the University of Rochester, Moore has excelled as a University teacher and researcher, and in roles as diverse as entrepreneur, White House associate director of technology, and chairman of the Hubble Space Telescope review panel.  A former director of the Institute of Optics, he is currently the University’s vice provost for entrepreneurship, and was instrumental in creation of the Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM) master’s program.

Moore served as director of the Institute of Optics from 1987 to 1993. During his tenure, collaborative research centers at the Institute flourished, including the Center of Optics Manufacturing that Moore co-founded. These centers attracted more than $8 million a year in outside funding and large numbers of graduate students, resulting in dramatic increases in publications and patents.

Moore has taught 15 optics courses ranging from introductory to advanced graduate classes; he has advised nearly 60 master’s and PhD students.

As a researcher, he is internationally recognized for his pioneering work in gradient-index optics. Moore is author of six books and more than 100 papers. He has been principal investigator or director of more than 60 grants and contracts totaling more than $43 million.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Optical Society of America, IEEE, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.

Richard Feldman, professor of philosophy and dean of the College, is recognized with the William H. Riker University Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.

He has had a distinguished 40-year career as a scholar, professor, and administrator, and is recognized as one of the world’s leading epistemologists. He joined the University of Rochester in 1975 as a professor of philosophy, and went on to chair the department for 13 years before becoming dean of the College in 2006.

Feldman’s work challenges assumptions about knowledge and rationality. With his University of Rochester collaborator professor Earl Conee, he developed the widely discussed theory of evidentialism, based on the notion that beliefs are worth only as much as the evidence supporting them. Feldman has helped set the agenda on the topic of “reasonable disagreement,” which questions the possibility of people with similar bodies of evidence reasonably coming to different conclusions.

Feldman is known for his outstanding doctoral seminars and for sponsoring reading and support groups for his advisees, directing independent research, and serving on examining committees. He has directed or co-directed 26 dissertations completed by philosophy students.

His books include the textbook Reason and Argument and Disagreement with Ted A. Warfield, as well as more than 70 articles in such leading journals as Philosophy Review. He serves on the editorial boards of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Social Epistemology, and other journals.

Feldman has received fellowships and grants from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Defense Education Act, and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 2011, he was recognized with “Feldmania,” an academic conference celebrating his contributions to epistemology.

Feldman was deeply involved in developing the Rochester Curriculum that allows undergraduates to build their own curriculum based on their unique strengths and interests. As dean, he oversees 16 offices and programs focused on academics, research, and student life. He also co-chairs the Presidential Commission on Race and Diversity.

Feldman earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and his PhD from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.

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