Meet the honorary degree recipients of the Class of 2023's commencement ceremony

Duke will award honorary degrees to four recipients at the Class of 2023’s commencement ceremony in May, a list that includes individuals who have contributed meaningfully to the arts, environmental science and social justice.

Branford Marsalis, Deborah Rutter, Susan Solomon and Darren Walker will be honored during the ceremony. Marsalis and Rutter will be awarded Doctor of Arts degrees, Solomon will be awarded a Doctor of Science Degree and Walker will be awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters.

Marsalis is an acclaimed saxophonist, band leader, classical soloist and composer for film, television and Broadway. He has been awarded three Grammys and the National Endowment for the Arts named him a Jazz Master. Marsalis is most well-known for the Branford Marsalis Quartet, which he founded in 1986.

His musical compositions for Broadway have garnered nominations for the Drama Desk and Tony Awards. Marsalis has lived in Durham for the last 20 years and taught at North Carolina Central University. He also has a lasting partnership with Duke Performances.

Rutter currently serves as the president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts where she oversees all genres of programming. Four years ago, she opened the REACH, which is designed to bring audiences into the artistic process. She is also a board member of Vital Voices and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2022, she was awarded the European Union’s Transatlantic Bridge Award in recognition of her advocacy for the role arts play in democracy.

Prior to joining the Kennedy Center, she served in executive leadership roles with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, the Seattle Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Rutter graduated from Stanford University and earned her master of business administration from the University of Southern California. She has a daughter who graduated from Duke in 2020.

Solomon is a leader in atmospheric science. She is the Lee and Geraldine Martin professor of environmental studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her research has provided data and understanding regarding ozone destruction. Her Antarctic research in the 1980s led to some of the first measurements that indicated chlorofluorocarbons were the cause of the ozone hole. 

In 2007, Solomon was a part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change within the United Nations that won a Nobel Peace Prize. Her additional honors include the National Medal of Science. She graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology and earned her doctorate in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley.

Walker is the president of the Ford Foundation — one of the largest private foundations in the U.S. that is invested in civil rights, education, arts and culture, human rights, poverty reduction and urban development. Prior to joining the Ford Foundation, Walker served as the vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation. In the 1990s, he worked for Abyssinian Development Corporation — the largest community development organization in Harlem — where he led a comprehensive revitalization strategy that built over 1,000 units of affordable housing. 

Currently, Walker serves on the boards of the National Gallery of Art, Carnegie Hall, the High Line, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture and the Committee to Protect Journalists. He has been included on TIME’s annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, and in 2020 The Wall Street Journal named him a Philanthropy Innovator. Walker earned both his bachelors and law degrees from The University of Texas at Austin. 

The commencement ceremony for the Class of 2023 will be held on May 14 at 9 a.m. in Wallace Wade Stadium. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Trinity ‘84 will deliver the commencement address.

Kathryn Thomas profile
Kathryn Thomas | News Editor

Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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