Five recommended for Spring Commencement honorary degrees


Five leaders in the fields of writing, medicine, philanthropy and journalism are being recommended for honorary degrees at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus’ 2024 Spring Commencement.

Brad Meltzer, an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction books, will be the main speaker at the May 4 ceremony at Michigan Stadium. He has been recommended for an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

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Others recommended for honorary degrees are:

  • Alexa I. Canady, groundbreaking neurosurgeon, Doctor of Science.
  • Judith and Stanley Frankel, philanthropists, Doctor of Laws.
  • Robin D. Givhan, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Doctor of Laws.

Givhan will deliver the address at the Rackham Graduate Exercises on May 3.

The Board of Regents will consider the degree recipients for approval at its March 28 meeting. The following biographical decriptions were drawn from information provided by University and Development Events.

Brad Meltzer

Meltzer is an award-winning, best-selling author in five genres — fiction, non-fiction, advice, children’s books and comic books — and a lifelong champion for the teaching of history. A first-generation college student, he graduated from U-M with a Bachelor of Arts in history in 1992.

Photo of Brad Meltzer
Brad Meltzer

He has written 13 novels for adults — historically informed legal and political thrillers set in Washington, D.C. — and all have been best sellers. He also has written 38 children’s books, including 33 in the acclaimed “Ordinary People Change the World” series, also known as the “I Am” books.

Each book in that series introduces children to a real-life hero — “I Am Abraham Lincoln,” “I Am Frida Kahlo,” “I Am I.M. Pei” — and explores the hurdles they faced, including issues of identity and culture. With more than 7 million copies in print, his “Ordinary People Change the World” books are considered the No. 1 series for teaching history to this young age group.

A television show based on Meltzer’s books, “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum,” is a four-time Emmy award-nominated program with 28 million viewers. He also used his TV show on the History Channel to help find the missing 9/11 flag that firefighters raised at Ground Zero. His comic book, “Justice League of America,” won the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award in 2008.

He is on the boards of the National Archives Foundation and the Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, where he works to ensure the stories of minority recipients of the nation’s highest and most prestigious military decoration are represented.

Meltzer is an ambassador for the Women’s Suffrage National Monument Foundation, and with his wife, Cori, co-founded City Year Miami, a branch of the national leadership and civic-action organization for high-school students, to help fund full-time mentors in Miami’s high-need schools. 

Alexa I. Canady

Canady is the nation’s first African American woman to be board-certified in neurosurgery. A two-time U-M graduate — earning a Bachelor of Science in 1971 and a Doctor of Medicine in 1975 — she has also significantly advanced neurological research and championed equitable health care.

Photo of Alexa Canady
Alexa Canady

She interned at Yale University in 1976 and served a residency at the University of Minnesota in 1981, centering her training on the subspecialty of pediatric neurosurgery. A fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia followed in 1982, and she worked briefly at Henry Ford Hospital.

In 1987, Canady joined Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit as chief of pediatric surgery charged with developing the hospital’s pediatric neurosurgery practice. Later she chaired the hospital’s Board of Trustees.

Her patients were children, usually younger than age 10, who had life-threatening illnesses, gunshot wounds, head trauma, hydrocephaly and other brain injuries and diseases. She and two other physicians hold the patent for a programmable antisiphon shunt to treat hydrocephalus.

While a practicing neurosurgeon, Canady taught at Wayne State University’s medical school, rising to full professor and vice chair of the neurosurgery department. She practiced patient-centered care and promoted equitable health-care access.

She is a member of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Society of Pediatric Neurosurgery and the American College of Neurosurgery. She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989 and is featured in Brian Lanker’s “I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.”

Other honors include the American Medical Women’s Association’s President’s Award in 1993, the U-M Alumnae Council’s Athena Award for professional excellence and service in 1995, a Detroit News Michiganian of the Year in 2001, and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons’ Humanitarian Award in 2023.

Judith and Stanley Frankel

For the past 30 years, Judith and Stanley Frankel have seeded innovation and offered institutional leadership for the benefit of the U-M, its students, scholars and the greater community. Many of the Frankels’ contributions have been offered anonymously or, at their request, with minimal fanfare.

Photo of Stanley and Judith Frankel
Stanley and Judith Frankel

Stanley Frankel, who leads a privately held commercial real estate development and management company, graduated from U-M with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics in 1963 and a Master of Business Administration in 1964. Judith Frankel, a small-business owner, attended U-M from 1962-64 and graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Arts in speech pathology.

Since 1995, the couple have sponsored Global Projects, the international equivalent of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business’ signature action-based learning course. Over the decades, some 1,500 students have tackled projects for real-world companies, addressing issues such as market entry, joint ventures and strategic alliances while gaining international, entrepreneurial consulting experience.

The Frankels’ commitment to transformative student learning also prompted investment in the renovation and 7,000-square-foot expansion of U-M’s historic Detroit Observatory, making it a universally accessible teaching center for future scientists, scholars and citizens.

The couple’s funding of the Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center, named for Stanley Frankel’s parents, has supported landmark medical studies and innovative approaches for diagnosis and treatment of patients, improving standards of care and saving lives.

In 2023, their generosity created the Stanley and Judith Frankel Institute for Heart and Brain Health, a research community dedicated to discovering the root causes of heart and brain disease and developing new medical treatments.

Stanley Frankel served as vice chair of the leadership cabinet for The Michigan Difference, a $3.1 billion national capital campaign publicly launched in 2004 to support scholarships, endow professorships, and fund academic programs, facilities      and projects.

The Frankels’ contributions touch all corners of U-M, including LSA’s Michigan Institute for Teaching and Research in Economics and its STAR Program, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the Life Sciences Institute, the Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, and Michigan Hillel, a student support organization.

As chair of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra board from 2009-12, Stanley Frankel guided the orchestra through the Great Recession and subsequent musicians strike to create a blueprint for financial and cultural success.

For the past 13 years, the couple have been primary sponsors of Classical Roots, the DSO’s annual concert showcasing the contributions that African American composers and musicians have made to classical music. They also have funded for many years the orchestra’s summer residency at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Robin D. Givhan

A 1988 U-M graduate, Givhan is senior critic-at-large for The Washington Post, and winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. She is revered for her keen observation and shrewd commentary on American politics, race, business and the arts. She approaches her subjects through the lens of fashion and is the first fashion critic to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Photo of Robin Givhan
Robin Givhan

Her expansive view of the industry enables her to discuss such topics as the politicization of COVID-19 mask mandates, the disintegration of civility in the U.S. Congress, the transformation of the MAGA hat from swag to tribal identifier, and the appropriate dress for elected officials when representing the U.S. abroad.

Following the murder of George Floyd, she wrote “Fashion’s Racial Reckoning” in 2020, which documented the industry’s discriminatory practices and its efforts to open the fashion design world to people of color.

Givhan is a native Detroiter who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Princeton University and a Master of Arts in journalism at U-M before beginning her career at theDetroit Free Press as a music and nightlife reporter. 

Her work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Vogue Italia, British Vogue, Essence, Elle UK, New York, and The New Yorker. Time magazine named her to its list of “ALL-TIME 100 Fashion Icons.”

She has contributed to several books, including “Runway Madness,” “No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade and the Rights of Garment Workers,” and “Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by Women Writers.” She is the author, along with The Washington Post photo staff, of the 2010 book “Michelle: Her First Year as First Lady.”

Givhan’s first solo book, “The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History,” is a cultural history of the 1973 Franco-American fashion design competition that elevated the trajectory of American fashion designers and models.



  1. Todd Austin
    on March 27, 2024 at 12:40 pm

    I’m delighted to see Brad Meltzer as the spring commencement speaker. Brad has generously given his time a virtual guest in LSA classes for many years.

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