Four recommended for Spring Commencement honorary degrees


Four leaders in the fields of music, education, philanthropy and art are being recommended for honorary degrees at the University of Michigan’s 2023 Spring Commencement.

Wynton Marsalis, managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, will be the main speaker at the April 29 commencement at Michigan Stadium. He has been recommended for an honorary Doctor of Music degree.

Others recommended for honorary degrees are:

  • Mary Sue Coleman, U-M president emerita and former president of the Association of American Universities, Doctor of Humane Letters.
  • Phil Hagerman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, pharmacist and founder of the Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy, Doctor of Laws.
  • Dominique Morisseau, playwright and actress, Doctor of Fine Arts.

Coleman will deliver the address at the Rackham Graduate Exercises on April 28.

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The degrees were approved by the Board of Regents at its March 23 meeting. If approved, Coleman, Marsalis and Morisseau will receive their degrees at the Ann Arbor campus’ commencement, and Hagerman will receive his degree at the UM-Flint School of Management commencement ceremony on April 29.

Wynton Marsalis

Marsalis is a world-renowned trumpeter, bandleader, composer and a leading advocate of American culture. He serves as managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, director of jazz studies at The Juilliard School, and president of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation.

Wynton Marsalis

The son of jazz pianist and music educator Ellis Marsalis Jr., Marsalis formed a quintet in 1981 and began touring. Since his recording debut in 1982, he has released more than 110 jazz and classical recordings and won many awards.

Marsalis has taught and mentored many musicians who have gone on to play, teach and advocate in their own brilliant ways. Marsalis performs and composes across the spectrum of jazz and has written jazz-influenced chamber music and symphonic works for revered classical ensembles across the United States and abroad.

His body of original work includes 600 songs and movements, 11 dance scores, 13 suites, four symphonies, two chamber pieces, two string quartets, a jazz oratorio, a fanfare, and concertos for violin and tuba.

Marsalis has received such accolades as The Louis Armstrong Memorial Medal, The French Grand Prix du Disque and The Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts. He was appointed Messenger of Peace by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001 and has been awarded the congressional “Horizon Award” in 2002, the National Medal of Arts in 2005, and the National Humanities Medal in 2016.

Britain’s Royal Academy of Music has granted Marsalis Honorary Membership. In the fall of 2009, he received France’s highest distinction, the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

He has received honorary doctorates from 41 of America’s top academic institutions including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Tulane universities. Marsalis is the author of seven books, including two children’s books.

Mary Sue Coleman

Coleman is president emerita of U-M and of the Association of American Universities, which represents the country’s leading research universities. She also is former president of the University of Iowa.

Mary Sue Coleman

During her career, Coleman has been a faculty member, administrator and national leader in higher education. Time magazine named her one of the nation’s “10 best college presidents,” and the American Council on Education honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.

Coleman served as U-M’s 13th president from 2002-14, and again in an interim capacity from Jan. 15-Oct. 14, 2022.

As president, she oversaw the groundbreaking partnership with Google to digitize the university’s 7 million-volume library, launched enduring institutional partnerships with universities in China, Ghana, South Africa, Brazil and India, revitalized student living and learning experiences through a residential life initiative, and worked tirelessly to promote economic revitalization and innovation within the state of Michigan.

In recognition of these efforts, Coleman was named by President Barack Obama in 2010 to help launch the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke named her as co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Coleman also is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

As a biochemist and faculty member at the University of Kentucky, Coleman built a distinguished academic career through her teaching and research on the immune system and malignancies.

Prior to becoming a university president, Coleman was vice chancellor for research and graduate education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and provost at the University of New Mexico.

She earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Grinnell College and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of North Carolina.

The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion honored her as Humanitarian of the Year, and the Michigan Women’s Foundation presented her with its Trillium Lifetime Achievement Award.

Phil Hagerman

Hagerman is an internationally recognized entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Phil Hagerman

In 1975, he entered the pharmacy business alongside his father, and they created Diplomat Pharmacy Inc., of which Hagerman was chairman and CEO. With its headquarters in Flint, Diplomat Pharmacy became the largest independent provider of specialty pharmacy services in the United States.

In 2013, Hagerman founded SkyPoint Ventures, a real estate and venture investment firm headquartered in Flint’s historic Dryden Building.

He also serves as CEO of Forum Health Enterprises Inc., which works to build a network of integrative and functional medical practices across the nation, and is a partner in the early-stage venture fund Comeback Capital, which focuses on emerging opportunities primarily in the Midwest.

In addition to his decades of work and leadership, Hagerman has dedicated time to help better the communities in Genesee County, where he was born and raised.

In 2014, he and Jocelyn Hagerman established the Hagerman Foundation to work toward brightening and improving the lives of future generations.

In 2015, he donated $2 million to UM-Flint to create The Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The gift also funds the Hagerman Scholars program, designed to nurture and cultivate entrepreneurial leaders in Flint.

The following year, Hagerman donated $120,000 through the Hagerman Foundation to Grand Circus’s Develop(her) Bootcamp. Designed to promote diversity in tech, the intensive programming course offered free tuition exclusively for women in Flint and Detroit.

Hagerman has received several honors and awards recognizing his philanthropy. In 2016, he and his wife were awarded the State Bank Contribution to Education Award for their contribution to Fenton Area Public Schools. Hagerman received an Honorary Doctorate of Business and Industry from his alma mater, Ferris State University, in 2022.

Dominique Morisseau

Morisseau is one of America’s most produced playwrights, acclaimed for her lyrical dialogue, emotionally complex characters and authentic portrayals of people and communities struggling with economic and social change.

Dominique Morisseau

A Detroit native and U-M alumna, Morisseau earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2000. In 1999, she wrote, choreographed, directed, produced and performed in “The Blackness Blues: Time to Change the Tune, A Sister’s Story,” to showcase the talents of women of color in her program.

After graduating, Morisseau taught drama in Detroit and New York City, where she acted and competed in poetry slams.

She has written more than two dozen plays, including “The Detroit Project,” a three-play cycle — “Detroit ’67,” “Paradise Blue,” and “Skeleton Crew” — examining the city’s sociopolitical history.

Her work has premiered at such venues as the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Public Theatre and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In 2017, her play “Blood at the Root,” based loosely on the 2006 Jena Six case in Louisiana, was performed at the Arthur Miller Theatre in U-M’s Walgreen Drama Center.

Her Broadway production of “Skeleton Crew” was nominated for a Best Play Tony Award, and she was also nominated for a Tony for writing the book for the Broadway musical “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations.”

Morisseau also has co-produced the Showtime series “Shameless.” She’s currently developing projects with Netflix, and she wrote the film adaptation of the documentary “STEP” for Fox Searchlight.

She has received several awards, including the Spirit of Detroit Award, TEER Trailblazer Award, Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama and the Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship.

She is a recipient of a 2018 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” In 2022, Morisseau was awarded the key to the city by the mayor of Detroit.

(Update: This article has been updated from its original version to reflect the Board of Regents’ approval.)



  1. Dominique Brown
    on March 13, 2023 at 2:58 am

    Such a fan of Dominique Moriseau! I read her play “Pipeline” and I could really relate to the character Nya. Congratulations on your nomination and all future endeavors.

    Thank you!!!

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