Four to receive honorary degrees at Winter Commencement


One of the nation’s most respected and innovative art museum directors, a renowned leader in the pharmaceutical industry, a legal scholar and education advocate, and an acclaimed operatic tenor are scheduled to receive honorary degrees at Winter Commencement 2015 on the Ann Arbor campus.

Martha Minow, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, University of Michigan alumna, author and human rights advocate, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and deliver the Winter Commencement address at 2 p.m. Dec. 20 at Crisler Center.

Also receiving honorary degrees are Graham Beal, Doctor of Humane Letters; Dr. Pedro Cuatrecasas, Doctor of Science; and George Shirley, Doctor of Music.

The degrees are pending approval by the Board of Regents at its meeting Thursday.

Graham Beal

Beal, recently retired director, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Institute of Arts and currently the Hannah Visiting Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University, is one of the nation’s most respected and innovative art museum directors.

Among the DIA’s many significant accomplishments during his 16-year tenure were $170 million in capital improvements and the reinstallation and reinterpretation of its collection, making the art accessible to more people and transforming the museum into a cultural nexus for southeast Michigan.

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, Beal earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English (1969) from the University of Manchester, England, and a Master of Arts in art history (1972) from London University’s Courtauld Institute of Art. After commencing his museum career at Sheffield City Art Galleries, he moved to the United States in 1973.

He directed art galleries in Missouri, Minnesota, and Norwich, England; served as chief curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from 1984-89; and directed the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, from 1989-96 and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1996-99 prior to joining the DIA.

In a dramatic break with conventional museum exhibition practices, Beal has engaged traditional and non-traditional visitors in original and lively ways, opening new avenues of conversation for the public and in museum studies. He stabilized the DIA’s long-term funding through a 2012 regional millage campaign, and built partnerships with foundations and government entities to protect the collection during Detroit’s bankruptcy in 2013.

Beal has organized more than 40 exhibitions, many of which have toured nationally, and has published many exhibition catalogs, books and articles. He has strengthened relationships with other institutions through loans and programming, resulting in such innovative exhibitions as “Through African Eyes” (2010), “Samurai: Beyond the Sword” (2013), and “Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit” (2015), among others.

A popular U-M guest lecturer, Beal has helped train a new generation of museum professionals by fostering experiential learning opportunities for students and faculty, and mentoring many interns from U-M’s Museum Studies and Arts of Citizenship programs. He has served on the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions and on the boards of the Association of Art Museum Directors, the American Alliance of Museums and the Cultural Alliance for Southeast Michigan.

Among other honors, he received the AAMD President’s Award for service to the art museum field and the DIA, and the American Institute of Architects named him an honorary fellow. He and the DIA board of directors also are the first recipients of the AAM Chair’s Leadership Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership and extraordinary accomplishments in the museum field.

Pedro Cuatrecasas

Cuatrecasas, a biochemist and pharmaceutical executive, is one of the 20th century’s pre-eminent life scientists and a renowned leader in the pharmaceutical industry and academe, including at U-M, where he co-chairs the Life Sciences Institute Scientific Advisory Board.

He developed affinity chromatography, a technique used in separating and purifying complex mixtures for biochemical and medicinal purposes, and did seminal work on hormone receptors, enhancing understanding of cell growth regulation and hormonal regulation of physiological processes.

Born in Madrid, Cuatrecasas and his family fled to France and then South America during the Spanish Civil War. He immigrated to the United States in 1947 and became a citizen in 1956. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (1958) from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and a Doctor of Medicine degree (1962) from Washington University School of Medicine.

He completed an internal medicine internship and residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital and conducted research at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where he developed affinity chromatography, for which he and Meir Wilchek received the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 1987.

As a professor of pharmacology and internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1970-75, he did pioneering studies on the insulin receptor, which provided the framework for research in cancer biology, endocrinology, and neurobiology.

Cuatrecasas served as vice president of research and development at Burroughs Wellcome Co. from 1975-86, senior vice president of research and development and director of Glaxo Inc. from 1986-89, vice president of Warner-Lambert Co., and president of the Pharmaceutical Research Division of Parke-Davis Co. from 1989-97. He currently is an adjunct professor of pharmacology and medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Cuatrecasas played a crucial role in the discovery, development and regulatory approval of more than 40 medicines to treat Alzheimer’s disease, bacterial infections, cancer, depression, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia and HIV/AIDS. He holds seven patents and has authored more than 400 publications.

While at Parke-Davis, he served as an adjunct professor at U-M and encouraged collaboration between other Parke-Davis and U-M scientists. He also created Michigan’s first Parke-Davis/Warner Lambert Professorships and supported the University Musical Society.

He helped found and served as board chair of the Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology, a model for other scientific colloquia. Among many honors, he has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Society of Clinical Investigation, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and is a Royal Society of Medicine fellow.

He received the John Jacob Abel Award in Pharmacology, Goodman and Gilman Award in Receptor Pharmacology, Washington University School of Medicine Alumni Achievement Award, the Johns Hopkins University Distinguished Alumnus Award, City of Medicine Award, and North Carolina Governor’s Medal Award in Science.

Martha Minow

Minow, is an accomplished scholar, academic leader, and advocate for equity in education for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or physical ability.

She was born in Highland Park, Illinois, and grew up in Chicago and Washington, D.C. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (1975) with honors at U-M, a Master of Education degree (1976) from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a Juris Doctor (1979) from Yale Law School.

Minow clerked for Judge David Bazelon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court before joining the Harvard Law School faculty in 1981. She has served as dean since 2009.

Early in her career she defined the concept of “difference” as something constructed in and through social relations, which has dramatic implications for education scholarship and practice. She identified assumptions about difference, illuminating how “difference” too often becomes “deficit” in educational settings.

Minow is the author of many scholarly articles in journals of law, history and philosophy. Her most recent book, “In Brown’s Wake: Legacies of America’s Education Landmark” (2010), clarifies how the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision has influenced education policy worldwide.

She also wrote “Making All the Difference: Inclusion, Exclusion, and American Law” (1990), “Not Only for Myself: Identity, Politics, and Law” (1997), “Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide and Mass Violence” (1998), and “Partners, Not Rivals: Privatization and the Public Good” (2002), and co-edited seven other books, two law casebooks and a reader.

A gifted teacher, she has taught courses in civil procedure, constitutional law, family law, international criminal justice, jurisprudence, and law and education, among others, and was recognized with Harvard’s Sachs-Freund Teaching Award in 2005. She has delivered more than 70 lectures and keynote addresses and has taken on many roles beyond the academy.

Minow collaborated with the U.S. Department of Education and the Center for Applied Special Technology on legislative initiatives and a voluntary national standard to improve access to curricular materials for individuals with disabilities. She also served on the Independent International Commission on Kosovo and worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to promote peaceful development in post-conflict societies. She is vice chair of the Legal Services Corp., which provides civil legal assistance to low-income Americans, and serves on the MacArthur Foundation board.

Minow is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Bar Foundation, and American Philosophical Society. Among other accolades, she has received the Holocaust Center Award, Gold Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Public Discourse from The College Historical Society of Trinity College, Dublin, and seven honorary degrees.

Shirley is the Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Music at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance and a 2014 National Medal of Arts recipient. He is an acclaimed operatic tenor, educator and champion of diversity in the performing arts.

Shirley was born in Indianapolis and grew up in Detroit. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Music Education degree (1955) from Wayne University (now Wayne State University), he became Detroit’s first African-American high school music teacher. He also was the first African American to sing in the U.S. Army Chorus.

George Shirley

Shirley made his professional debut in Woodstock, New York, in 1959 as Eisentein in Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus.” A year later he won the American Opera Auditions and was offered the Rodolfo role in Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohème.” He won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions competition and became the first African-American tenor to sing a leading role at the Metropolitan Opera, where he captivated audiences for 11 seasons.

He has performed more than 80 operatic roles in leading opera houses, including the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam, New York City Opera, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Royal Opera in London, Scottish Opera and Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Additionally, he has sung with the world’s great orchestras, including the Boston, Chicago, Detroit and London symphonies, and New York Philharmonic, and has appeared at the Aspen, Edinburgh, Glyndebourne, Santa Fe and Spoleto festivals.

A recording artist for major labels, he received a Grammy Award in 1968 for his role as Ferrando in the RCA recording of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Così fan tutte.” He produced the “Classical Music and the Afro-American” series for WQXR-FM radio in New York, and hosted “Unheard, Unsung,” a four-program series on WETA-FM radio in Washington, D.C.

Admired for his dedication to pedagogy as well as his vocal talent, Shirley taught six years at the University of Maryland before joining the Michigan faculty in 1987, where he directed the Vocal Arts Division.

Since retiring in 2007, Shirley has maintained a studio in the music school and remains deeply committed to young people. The George Shirley Voice Scholarship was established in his honor in 2008, and the nonprofit Videmus offers a $5,000 prize to the winner of the annual George Shirley African American Art Song and Operatic Aria Competition.

He has been recognized with the Dr. Charles H. Wright Legacy Award for Excellence in Fine Arts, U-M School of Music Alumni Citation of Merit (now called School of Music, Theatre & Dance Hall of Fame Award), National Association for the Study and Performance of African American Music Trail Blazer Award, and the Career Achievement Award in the Field of Music from Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts.



  1. Tiffany Jackson
    on October 13, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    Dear Dr. George Shirley,

    As a young, eager aspiring singer from Connecticut, moving to Ann Arbor was a daunting task, but when I was accepted into your studio, after our first lesson, I knew I would be in good hands. My life has become what it has today because of your impact on my life. Not only were you an extraordinary teacher, you were mentor, friend, and father figure. I adore you with profound affection and I am so proud that you are at last receiving the accolades you rightfully deserve.


    Tiffany Renee Jackson (Class, 1993)

  2. John Zaretti
    on October 30, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Dear George,

    Your artistic achievements and social impact throughout your illustrious career and inspirational life are awesome, certainly most worthy of receiving this latest wonderful award. Your evident love of vocal music and passion for teaching young singers as well as other emerging outstanding artists are something to behold. We are truly privileged to know you. Each time we see and hear a new group of dedicated young singers from your vocal competition willing to explore and challenge themselves in the art of singing classical music, and inspiring us with their talent, we just know that there’s hope in this world and that la vita e’ bella! God bless you!


    John Zaretti
    Verdi Opera Theatre of Michigan

  3. Timothy Holley
    on October 30, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Heartiest congratulations to Professor George Shirley!! I am proud to know of “how far back you and I go” both personally and musically!! You and my mother performed together as kids, and you graciously served on my doctoral dissertation committee!! I still cherish that 7:30 (AM!!) final oral examination, which may have set a school record for the earliest exam ever because of everyone’s BUSY schedules!!

    It is an honor to have learned so much from you directly and “in second voice” from so many of your vocal students with whom I have worked over the years. Continued blessings and honor to you, my longtime friend!!


    Timothy W. Holley (MM 1984, SpecM 1985, AMusD, 1996, Cello Performance)

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