Four recommended for honorary degrees at Spring Commencement


(Update: The Board of Regents approved these honorary degree at its March 29 meeting.)

President Mark Schlissel is recommending to the Board of Regents that the University of Michigan award four honorary degrees at its commencement exercises on April 28 at Michigan Stadium.

This year’s recommended recipients are:

• Jeanne Craig Sinkford, professor and dean emerita of the Howard University College of Dentistry and senior scholar-in-residence at the American Dental Education Association, Doctor of Science.

• Penny W. Stamps, president of the Stamps Foundation, creator of the Penny Stamps Distinguished Lecture Series, recipient of the 2013 National Philanthropy Lifetime Achievement Award and U-M alumna, Doctor of Fine Arts.

• David R. Walt, Harvard Medical School Professor of Pathology, founder of Illumina Inc. and Quanterix Corp, recipient for the ACS Katheryn C. Hatch Award for Entrepreneurial Success and U-M alumnus, Doctor of Science. Walt also is delivering the commencement address for the Rackham Graduate Ceremony, at 10 a.m. April 27 in Hill Auditorium.

• Charles Woodson, former U-M football player, Heisman Trophy winner, NFL Super Bowl champion, founder of The Woodson Foundation and ESPN commentator, Doctor of Laws.

Each will have their honorary degrees conferred at the 2018 Spring Commencement ceremony. Woodson also will give the keynote address.

Jeanne Craig Sinkford

Jeanne Craig Sinkford

Nationally and internationally renowned as a dental educator, administrator, researcher and clinician, Sinkford was the first woman dean of an American dental school and led Howard University’s College of Dentistry from 1975 to 1991. She is a respected educator, academic leader and social justice advocate.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Sinkford grew up not knowing any women dentists but knew she wanted a dental career.

She is a 1953 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Howard University with a degree in psychology and chemistry. She then graduated first in her class at Howard’s College of Dentistry, and joined the Howard faculty in the Division of Prosthodontics upon her 1958 graduation. Two years later, she moved to Chicago and attended Northwestern to study for a doctorate in physiology while undergoing post-graduate training in prosthodontics.

Sinkford returned to Howard in 1964, when she became chair of the Division of Prosthodontics. She became associate dean in 1967 and a full professor in 1968. During a 1974-75 sabbatical, she served at Children’s Hospital National Medical Center in which she completed a pediatric dental residency.

Sinkford then returned to Howard as dean of the dental school. As dean, she championed expansion of research and community service components in dental education at Howard and nationally.

Among other leadership roles, she chaired the Council of Deans of the American Association of Dental Schools and the Anatomical Review Board of the District of Columbia.

Penny W. Stamps

Penny Stamps

Stamps is no stranger to U-M. The Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design and Stamps Auditorium located in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, bear her name. An alumna of Michigan, Stamps is a former teacher and business owner, who has always been passionate about education.

Stamps’ support for the arts is fueled by her belief in the critical role artists and designers play in solving complex problems, and the importance of sharing their work and perspectives with the public.

More than two decades ago, she and her husband, E. Roe Stamps, created the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation. The organization awards merit-based scholarships to more than 40 partner colleges and universities in the United States.

The Stamps Scholarship covers all expenses for four years of undergraduate study in any discipline and also includes a monetary enrichment fund that scholars can use for their academic and professional development.

Today there are more than 880 current and 700 alumni Stamps Scholars representing 44 institutions throughout the United States, and U-M has 60 current Stamps Scholars and 141 distinguished Stamps alumni.

Stamps grew up in Chicago and lives in Miami. She worked at Herman Miller and Kaplan & Fox Inc. before heading her own residential design firm in the Boston area for 18 years.

David R. Walt

David Walt

Chemist, engineer, innovator and entrepreneur, Walt is a renowned researcher.

He pioneered the use of microwell arrays for single-molecule detection and analysis, which has revolutionized the process of genetic and proteomic sequencing, enabling the cost of DNA sequencing and genotyping to plummet nearly a million-fold in the last decade.

This technology is now the gold standard for sequencing in a wide variety of applications including screening embryos for genetic defects before in vitro fertilization, studying disease in preserved or frozen tissues, improving crop disease resistance, and identifying individual’s metabolic profiles to ensure proper drug dosage.

Walt is a founder of Illumina, a company based on his invention of a miniature lab platform that allows researchers to conduct genetic screening and other repetitive experiments quickly and cheaply. He also founded and serves on the board of Quanterix, a privately held company focused on analysis of single molecules, for ultra-sensitive protein analysis, with medical diagnosis applications in development.

Walt has published more than 300 papers and holds more than 70 patents.

In addition to his innovative work, Walt is passionate about furthering STEM education in local high schools and fostering a love of science and engineering in young people.

Walt is a member of U-M’s Life Sciences Institute Scientific Advisory Board and Leadership Council and has served on the Department of Chemistry Advisory Board and the LSA Dean’s Advisory Council.

He and his wife, Michele May, are members of the Victors for Michigan National Campaign Leadership Board and the New England Campaign Leadership Council. Together, they created the May-Walt Summer Chemistry Scholars Fund to support student research.

He is now a member of the faculty at the Harvard University Medical School in the Department of Pathology. He also is the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard’s Wyss Institute and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Walt received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from U-M and a Ph.D. in chemical biology from Stony Brook University. After leaving Stony Brook, he did postdoctoral work at MIT.

Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson

Heisman Trophy winner. Defensive Player of the Year winner. Super Bowl winner. Woodson is one of America’s most celebrated gridiron stars. Woodson’s football career from high school, to college and to the NFL has been beyond impressive.

A Fremont, Ohio, native, Woodson helped lead the Wolverines to the 1997 national championship and won the prestigious Heisman Trophy as the country’s most outstanding college football player. To this day, Woodson remains the only primarily defensive player to win the award.

Other honors he won while at U-M included the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Year and the Jim Thorpe Award, recognizing him as the top defensive back in the nation.

He played 18 seasons in the NFL, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998, Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, and winning the Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in 2010. Woodson was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and eight-time all-pro.

In the community, he established the Charles Woodson Foundation, which offers scholarships to students raised in single-parent homes. His foundation also has donated millions of dollars to the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital for pediatric research.

Since 2008, his foundation has provided multiple scholarships to promising students. He created the Charles C. Woodson Scholarship in the School of Kinesiology and the Georgia A. Woodson Scholarship Fund in the Office of Financial Aid in honor of his mother.


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