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Meet the honorary degree recipients of the Class of 2022's commencement ceremony

Top left: Tom Catena. Top right: Akinwumi Aasedina. Bottom left: Patrick Brown. Bottom right: Sylvia Acevedo. Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Top left: Tom Catena. Top right: Akinwumi Aasedina. Bottom left: Patrick Brown. Bottom right: Sylvia Acevedo. Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Duke will bestow honorary degrees to four recipients at the Class of 2022's commencement ceremony in May, a list that includes a rocket scientist, an economist, a prominent biochemist and an influential surgeon. 

Sylvia Acevedo, Patrick Brown, Tom Catena and Akinwumi Aasedina will be honored during the ceremony. Acevedo, Brown and Catena will be awarded Doctor of Science degrees and Adesina will be awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Acevedo—who began her career as a rocket scientist at NASA—currently serves on the board of directors of Qualcomm, a software, semiconductors and wireless technology company. She previously served as the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA and as chair of former President Barack Obama’s White House initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics in early childhood leadership. 

Acevedo has won several awards for her leadership and advocacy, including the Ohtil—the highest civil rights award awarded by the Government of Mexico—and the Institute of Industrial Engineering and Systems Engineering Captain of Industry Leadership Award.

Brown is the founder of Impossible Foods, a company that makes meat and dairy products from plants. Prior to the company’s founding, Brown was a professor of biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine. 

While at Stanford, Brown helped to develop DNA microarrays, a technology that allows for the monitoring of activity of all genes in the genome. He also pioneered the first methods of visualizing and interpreting gene expression patterns to classify cancers and improve clinical course prediction.

Catena, Medical School ‘92, is the medical director and sole surgeon at the Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, serving a population of more than half a million people. In 2019, the Duke Divinity School announced the annual Catena Lecture in Medicine, Faith and Service to invite speakers “whose work displays innovative scholarship, service and institution-building at the intersection of theology, medicine and culture.”

He has received various awards for his service, including the 2017 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, an honorary doctorate from Brown University, the Catholic Doctor of the Year Award from the Mission Doctors Association in Los Angeles and the Duke University Medical Alumni Distinguished Alumni Award. He has also been named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people. 

Adesina is a development economist and agricultural development expert, as well as the eighth elected president of the African Development Bank Group, Africa’s premier financial institution. He serves as a commissioner for the Global Climate Commission and as a leader on a United Nations effort aimed at ending world hunger and malnutrition. 

The African Development Bank Group was named the Best Multilateral Financial Institution in the world under his leadership and in 2017, Adesina received the 2017 World Food Prize. 

The commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022 will be held May 8 at 9 a.m. in Wallace Wade Stadium. General Motors CEO Mary Barra will deliver the commencement address, Duke announced Tuesday afternoon.


Preetha Ramachandran | Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator

Preetha Ramachandran is a Trinity senior and diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator for The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously senior editor for Volume 117.

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