SMU will award honorary degrees to four prestigious leaders in science, theology and the arts at the All-University Commencement Ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 20, in Moody Coliseum.
Francis S. Collins, Francis Halzen, Nancy Nasher and E.P. Sanders each will be celebrated in the days leading to the ceremony with symposia and speaking engagements, summarized below:
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., has been director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009, overseeing the work of the largest institutional supporter of biomedical research in the world. But he may be best known for leading the Human Genome Project, a 13-year international effort to map and sequence the 3 billion letters in human DNA.
As NIH director, he has helped launch major research initiatives to advance the use of precision medicine for more tailored healthcare, to increase our understanding of the neural networks of the brain to improve treatments for brain diseases, and to identify areas of cancer research that are most ripe for acceleration to improve cancer prevention and treatment. His personal research efforts led to the isolation of the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s disease and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.
As an innovative evolutionary geneticist and a devout Christian, Collins also has gained fame for his writings on the integration of logic and belief.
Collins received his Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry from Yale University, and his M.D. degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. As an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007 from President George W. Bush and the National Medal of Science in 2009.
For his dramatic successes as a gene hunter, his support for biomedical research on a vast scale, and his leadership of one of the most significant scientific undertaking in modern history – the Human Genome Project – Collins will receive the Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, from SMU.
Collins also will deliver the commencement address.
A symposium focused on Collins’ life and work is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, May 19, in Crum Auditorium, Collins Executive Education Center. Collins will join these panel members in discussing:
- Emerging advances in biomedical research, with Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Pia Vogel, professor of biological sciences, SMU
- Innovation and translational science, with Steven C. Currall, provost and vice president for academic affairs, SMU
Francis Halzen’s contributions to the study of particle astrophysics might be compared to the influence of astronomer Galileo Galilei’s 17th-century perfection of the telescope: Both enabled unprecedented closer observation of the Universe. Halzen’s vision, initiative and leadership have led to the development and construction of the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory, where he is principle investigator, and where the first ultra-high-energy neutrinos were detected in 2013.
Halzen’s work in particle physics detection has taken the study of neutrinos beyond the Milky Way galaxy and into deep space, leading to new understanding of astronomical phenomena including black holes, supernovas and galaxy formation.
Halzen is the Hilldale and Gregory Breit Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the director of the Institute for Particle Physics Research. He received the 2015 Giuseppe and Vanna Cocconi Prize from the European Physical Society, the 2015 Balzan Prize and the 2014 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award. Halzen received Master’s and Ph.D. degrees, as well as an agrégé de l’enseignement supérieur (a qualification for teaching in higher education) from the University of Louvain in Belgium.
For his pioneering efforts toward construction of the IceCube observatory and his extraordinary role in opening a new observational window on the universe, Southern Methodist University is honored to confer the degree Doctor of Science, honoris causa.
Halzen will give a public lecture at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 18, in Dallas Hall’s McCord Auditorium. A reception will precede the lecture at 5 p.m. in Dallas Hall rotunda. Organizers are offering a special welcome to students from Adamson High School’s “Living Physicist Program” and area high school teachers and students who participate in the QuarkNet program.
Nancy A. Nasher, a business leader, lawyer and philanthropist, has dedicated her professional and personal life to the betterment of Dallas. She holds degrees from Princeton University and Duke University School of Law. As president and co-owner of NorthPark Center, a premier shopping destination noted for excellence in retail and architectural design, Ms. Nasher has seamlessly integrated art into public spaces. Her vision of public engagement with the arts as embodied in NorthPark Center, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and her contributions to local arts organizations has been transformative for Dallas, and continues through her deep support and advocacy for all facets of the Dallas arts community. She serves on the executive boards of The Dallas Opera, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and the Nasher Sculpture Center, and is the founder’s chair of the Business Council for the Arts.
Additional board leadership positions include the Dallas Museum of Art, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, the Meadows School of the Arts, the National Center for Arts Research, the Dallas Mayor’s Business/Arts Initiative, the University of North Texas School of Visual Arts, the Princeton University Art Museum Board of Advisors, the Duke University Board of Trustees, and Ms. Nasher is the Chair of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University Board of Visitors.
Her numerous honors include the 2017 TACA Silver Cup Award for her dedication to arts support. In 2015, Socrates Sculpture Park in New York honored Ms. Nasher for advancing the practice of sculpture. For her dedication to public engagement with the arts, Southern Methodist University is honored to confer the degree Doctor of Arts, honoris causa.
“A Conversation with Nancy Nasher,” is scheduled for 1-2:30 p.m. Friday, May 19, in Taubman Atrium, Owen Arts Center.
E.P. Sanders, a 1962 alumnus of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, is an internationally respected New Testament scholar responsible for major contributions to studies of Jesus and the Apostle Paul and their relationships to the Judaism of their day. He is credited with prompting the re-evaluation of prejudicial views of Judaism that often characterized earlier biblical scholarship, resulting in improved Jewish-Christian relations.
Sanders is the author of 14 books and numerous monographs that have been translated into 11 languages. His monograph, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977), received a National Religious Book Award, and his Jesus and Judaism (1985) won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Texas Wesleyan University, a Bachelor of Divinity from SMU Perkins School of Theology, and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary.
Sanders held an endowed chair in religion at Duke University until he retired in 2005. He also held faculty positions at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and at the University of Oxford. He is a fellow of the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Sanders has received honorary doctorates from the University of Oxford and the University of Helsinki.
For his contributions to biblical scholarship, the understanding of Jewish and Christian origins, and Jewish-Christian relations, SMU is honored to confer the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Sanders will be honored with a symposium focused on his work from 10-11:30 a.m. Friday, May 19, in Perkins Chapel. Moderator for “Comparing Early Judaism and Early Christianity: The Scholarship of E. P. Sanders,” will be Mark Chancey, professor of religious studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Panelists will include:
- Craig C. Hill, dean and professor of New Testament, Perkins School of Theology, SMU
- David P. Moessner, Bradford Chair of Religion, Department of Religion, TCU
- Beverly Gaventa Roberts, Distinguished Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Department of Religion, Baylor University and Helen H.P. Manson Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis Emerita, Princeton Theological Seminary
- Sze-kar Wan, Professor of New Testament, Perkins School of Theology, SMU