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Honorary Degree Recipients

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Commencement Speakers

Caryl M. Stern, Doctor of Humane Letters (Speaker, Sunday, May 17)

Caryl M. Stern; Portrait by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Caryl M. Stern is president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, which works to save and protect the world’s most vulnerable children. Since joining the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in 2006, Stern has traveled to more than 30 countries in support of this mission. She has spearheaded the organization’s efforts to aid children affected by disasters, including the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2011 East Africa drought, and the current Ebola crisis.

The U.S. Fund also administers the long-running “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF” campaign, which has raised more than $170 million to support UNICEF's work, and the “UNICEF Tap Project,” which provides children around the world with access to safe, clean water. During Stern’s tenure, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF has nearly doubled its fundraising revenue. Stern has published her latest book, I Believe in ZERO: Learning from the World’s Children (2013) to critical acclaim.

Prior to joining the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Stern served as the chief operating officer and senior associate national director of the Anti-Defamation League, the founding director of the Anti-Defamation League’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute, and dean of students at Polytechnic University. Stern has received numerous awards and has been named one of the “25 Moms We Love” by Working Mother magazine and “Ten Women to Watch” by Jewish Women International.

Maria Cattaui, Doctor of Commercial Science(Speaker, Saturday, May 16)

Maria Cattaui

Maria Livanos Cattaui was secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) between 1996 and 2005, a position in which she championed the role of world business in the new economy.

As secretary general, Cattaui helped establish a global partnership between business and the United Nations, leading to greater business input into United Nations economic activities. The resulting strong public-/private-sector alliance boosted global business activity in the world’s least-developed countries. Cattaui’s leadership put the International Chamber of Commerce in the forefront of international policy-making on investment and trade, business applications on the Internet, and protection of intellectual property.

Prior to joining the ICC, Cattaui served with the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1977 to 1996, eventually becoming its managing director. She was instrumental in building up the world’s foremost gathering of leaders for the annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Cattaui holds board and advisory board positions at a number of institutes and organizations, including the Open Society Foundations’ Global Board, the International Crisis Group, the EastWest Institute, and the Institute of International Education.

Other Honorary Degree Recipients

Clifton Davis, Doctor of Fine Arts (Saturday, May 16)

Clifton Davis; Photography by Gary Bernstein

Clifton D. Davis is an actor, singer, composer, producer, and minister. He is best known for his roles in television sitcoms in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and for writing The Jackson 5 hit Never Can Say Goodbye. During his 47-year career, Davis played the Rev. Reuben Gregory for five years on the popular NBC series Amen and, previously, starred as a barber living with his mother on the series That’s My Mama.

Four years after his 1967 Broadway debut in Hello Dolly, Davis starred in Two Gentlemen of Verona, his fifth Broadway show, which role earned him a Best Actor Tony Award nomination. He also won the Theatre World Award for his role in the musical Do It Again.

Davis then headed to Hollywood, where he appeared in numerous television shows and films, including as an ensemble cast member of Love American Style and hosting his own variety show, The Melba Moore–Clifton Davis Show. Films to his credit include Any Given Sunday, Halloweentown High, Max Keeble’s Big Move, and The Climb. More recently, Davis returned to New York for his eighth Broadway show in the role of the Sultan in Disney’s Aladdin. He also appeared in the first national Broadway tour of Wicked.

Raised in Long Island, N.Y., Davis earned a BA in theology from Oakwood University in Alabama and a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan. As an evangelist for more than 32 years, Davis has preached at hundreds of churches throughout the country. He has also been featured as a motivational speaker at many colleges and high schools nationwide.

Tai Soo Kim, Doctor of Fine Arts (Saturday, May 16)

Tai Soo Kim

Internationally acclaimed architect Tai Soo Kim emigrated from his native Korea to the United States in 1961 to study architecture at Yale University. He had previously earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in architecture from Seoul National University. Kim earned his second Master of Architecture degree at Yale in 1962 and went to work with world-renowned architect Philip Johnson, before co-founding the Hartford Design Group in 1970.

His firm, now called Tai Soo Kim Partners, has received ever-increasing recognition, earning more than 40 local and national awards and publication in national and international journals of architecture. In 1986, Kim was elected to the American Institute of Architects’ prestigious College of Fellows. He won a particularly important commission in 1999 to design a new Embassy Compound in Tunis, Tunisia, for the U.S. Department of State. 

Closer to home, the firm has garnered numerous awards and prestigious design commissions, including the University of Hartford’s Harry Jack Gray Center, completed in 1990. His redesign of the main lobby, gift shop, and library at the Wadsworth Atheneum earned a national honor for interior design. Kim’s portfolio spans a range of work from a 1.6 million-square-foot research center overseas to educational facilities for public and private schools and colleges throughout the Northeast.  The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea has announced that it will host a six-month retrospective exhibit opening in October 2015 featuring Kim’s lifelong work.

Dedicated to the development of the next generation of architects, Kim gives a competitive traveling fellowship each year to a graduate student at both the University of Hartford’s Department of Architecture and a Korean institution.

Sonny Rollins, Doctor of Music(Saturday, May 16)

Sonny Rollins

Theodore “Sonny” Rollins is one of the greatest jazz saxophonists of all time. An inventive soloist, he is known as the greatest living jazz improviser and has influenced generations of musicians.

Rollins grew up during the emerging bebop revolution in the 1940s, and at age 15 he began playing tenor saxophone. While still in high school, Rollins and other musicians from his Sugar Hill neighborhood in Harlem formed a jazz ensemble, which included young and later renowned alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, who ultimately served on the University of Hartford faculty for 36 years. By age 19, Rollins had gained such a reputation that he was already recording with pianist Bud Powell and trombonist J.J. Johnson. Rollins frequently performed in New York clubs with trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk and recorded with bop musicians, including saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker and drummer Art Blakey. In 1955 Rollins joined Max Roach and Clifford Brown to form the first pianoless trio, consisting of only saxophone, bass, and drums.

Rollins also recorded pivotal albums—Saxophone Colossus, Tenor Madness, Way Out West, and Freedom Suite—in his rise to superstardom. Rollins took a sabbatical from performing in 1959. When he returned from his hiatus in late 1961, he recorded the groundbreaking album The Bridge with jazz guitarist Jim Hall, as Rollins began to adapt to new developments in the genre while performing his trademark calypsos and standards. He also added the British film Alfie (1966) to his credits when he composed the hit movie’s soundtrack.

In the late 1960s Rollins sought a more spiritual path and took more time off to study Zen Buddhism in Japan and yoga in India. Upon his return to the United States, he explored other musical genres that included funk and R&B and plumbed the depths of his wide repertoire to create mesmerizing, completely improvised, solo performances that thrilled audiences worldwide.