Seven to receive honorary degrees at Spring Commencement


Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, co-owners and founding partners of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, will deliver the Spring Commencement address for the Ann Arbor campus May 2 at Michigan Stadium.

Saginaw and Weinzweig will each receive honorary Doctor of Laws degrees.

The two are among seven individuals recommended for honorary degrees who will be considered by the Board of Regents at its meeting March 19. The others are:

• John Dingell, former U.S. Congressman for Michigan’s 12th Congressional District, Doctor of Laws.

• Sanford R. Robertson, pioneering venture capitalist, founding partner of Francisco Partners and U-M alumnus, Doctor of Laws.

• Robert J. Shiller, Nobel Prize winning economist, best-selling author and U-M alumnus, Doctor of Science. Shiller also is Rackham Graduate Exercises speaker.

• Robin Wright, award-winning journalist, author, foreign correspondent and U-M alumna, Doctor of Humane Letters.

• Dr. Tadataka Yamada, global health expert and former faculty member in the Medical School, Doctor of Science.

Paul Saginaw

Paul Saginaw

Social entrepreneur and U-M alumnus Saginaw is famous for his mentorship and spiritual leadership shared freely with 21 partners and more than 700 employees in nine thriving businesses as the co-founder and co-chief executive officer of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB). Sharing a dream for a great corned beef and an organization with soul, he and Ari Weinzweig partnered to open Zingerman’s Delicatessen in 1982, in an asymmetric, historic building with a $20,000 loan and two other employees.

Saginaw, who was born and grew up in Detroit and earned a Bachelor of Science degree (1976) in zoology from U-M, managed restaurants and worked as a fish monger in his own fish market with longtime friend Mike Monahan before launching the delicatessen. Since then, many business case studies have described Zingerman’s unique growth, corporate visioning, open book management, sustainability and equity efforts.

In its January 2003 cover story by Bo Burlingham, Inc. magazine showcased Zingerman’s as the “Coolest Small Company in America,” which led to Burlingham’s book “Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big,” telling Zingerman’s story. Leading the effort to grow the ZCoB, Saginaw works with every employee who has declared interest in opening a new business and becoming a ZCoB partner.

Active in local and regional business communities, Saginaw has served on the boards of United Bank & Trust, Crystal Mountain Resort and, currently, Priority Health. He believes that a business earns its right to conduct commerce in a community by being a good corporate citizen and has pursued a parallel career volunteering in the nonprofit sector.

Aware of food loss in the restaurant industry, Saginaw envisioned the feasibility of a nonprofit addressing hunger by rescuing nutritious food that otherwise would be tossed. Food Gatherers, initially staffed and heavily supported by Zingerman’s and guided by its business principles, has become a national model for hunger relief with Saginaw as founding president and board member from 1988 to 2012.

He also was a founding director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, a collaborative of nonprofits dealing directly and tangentially with homelessness, and a board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, which catalyzes networks of locally owned and controlled businesses to drive economic development. He is a director of Dawn Farm, a nationally recognized recovery program, and a past-president of Ann Arbor’s NEW Center, which provides training resources to nonprofits.

A vocal advocate for raising the minimum wage, Saginaw received the Obama administration’s Champion of Change award at the White House. Of late, drawn to the abundance of opportunity in Detroit, Saginaw dedicates himself to supporting many city-based organizations, including the Detroit Food Academy, FoodLab Detroit, Keep Detroit Growing, Merit’s Fate Program, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

Ari Weinzweig

Ari Weinzweig

Weinzweig, an inventive food historian, food and business writer, and U-M alumnus, is co-founder and co-chief executive officer of ZCoB. He is renowned as an inspirational and trusted thought leader of progressive business practices, sharing the Zingerman’s approach with forward-thinking organizations nationally and around the world.

Weinzweig, who was born in Cleveland and grew up in Chicago, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (1978) in Russian history from the university. As a recent college graduate, he was hired as a restaurant dishwasher, was promptly promoted to line cook, and discovered his culinary passion and future business partner, Paul Saginaw, the restaurant’s manager.

Together, as friends and food pioneers, they opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in 1982. Over three decades later it is a destination for more than half a million people annually and an exemplar of innovative business practices. Eschewing offers to replicate the deli elsewhere, Weinzweig and Saginaw created a model for incubating new businesses that provides ownership opportunities for entrepreneurial employees.

Today they share ownership with 21 partners across nine businesses that employ more than 700 people and generate more than $55 million in annual sales — Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Zingerman’s Mail Order, ZingTrain, Zingerman’s Creamery, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Zingerman’s Coffee Company, Zingerman’s Candy Company, Zingerman’s Service Network, and Zingerman’s Cornman Farms, an event venue as well as a working farm.

Weinzweig has shared the Zingerman’s story in numerous magazine articles and through his influential books, including “Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service” (2004), “Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon” (2009), “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business” (2010), “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 2: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader” (2012), and “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 3: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Managing Ourselves” (2013). 

Weinzweig teaches ZingTrain leadership courses at universities, businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout the world. He has served as president of the American Cheese Society and has also played a key role in global efforts to revive and preserve traditional food production methods.

Under his leadership, since the mid-’90s, the ZCoB has practiced open book management, a system that invites all employees to become involved in making decisions to help run the business. The James Beard Foundation recognized Weinzweig with a Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America award in 2006.

Among other honors, Weinzweig and Saginaw received the first Humanitarian Award from the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County in 1995 and Bon Appétit magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 for their contributions to the industry. The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade inducted them into its Specialty Food Hall of Fame in 2015.

John Dingell

John Dingell

Dingell, the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives when he retired in January, exemplifies the best of American political leadership.

In an illustrious career spanning almost 60 years, Michigan’s former 12th Congressional District representative and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient is renowned throughout Michigan and the nation for being a caring, honest and straight-speaking legislator who fought for civil rights, clean air, Medicare, American workers’ rights and consumer product safety.

Born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he grew up in Detroit and Washington, D.C., where his father served in the House of Representatives for 22 years and where the younger Dingell was a House page.

Dingell, a World War II Army veteran, earned a Bachelor of Science degree (1949) from Georgetown University and a J.D. degree (1952) from Georgetown Law School. He worked as a forest ranger, prosecuting attorney and private practice lawyer before winning a special election in 1955 to succeed his father, who died in office.

At the beginning of each Congressional session, Dingell would introduce the national health insurance bill his father had sponsored. A lifelong advocate of health care issues, he co-authored the Affordable Care Act, Patient’s Bill of Rights, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act, and Prescription Drug User Fee Act.

An avid conservationist and outdoorsman and senior member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, he co-wrote the Endangered Species Act, the 1990 Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and legislation to create North America’s first international wildlife refuge, protecting thousands of acres of natural habitat in Michigan and Canada.

In the 1980s and early ’90s, he chaired the Energy and Commerce Committee during the most productive period of its history. Many of his important accomplishments were in the areas of oversight and investigations.

He uncovered malfeasance in the Environmental Protection Agency in the early ’80s; pursued waste, fraud, and abuse in the Pentagon; and uncovered fraud by generic drug manufacturers and medical device companies. He also led the House investigation of no-bid defense contracts in Iraq and worked tirelessly to limit importation of Canadian waste into Michigan. He was a strong and relentless advocate for the automobile industry in Detroit and the United States.

Dingell has been a loyal supporter of U-M and mentor to faculty and students, dozens of whom have worked as interns in his office. In addition to supporting higher education nationally, he engaged with students frequently over the years, generously sharing his knowledge of the political process, elections, the separation of power, ethics in government and the private sector, lobbying, political parties and international commitments.

Sanford R. Robertson

Sanford Robertson

Silicon Valley legend and U-M alumnus Robertson, founder of the pioneering investment firm Robertson Stephens, and a founding partner of Francisco Partners, is renowned for his foresight and leadership. At Robertson Stephens he helped create the financial infrastructure that has powered the nation’s rapidly growing technology sector.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Robertson earned two degrees from U-M, a Bachelor of Business Administration (1953) and a Master of Business Administration (1954) with distinction.

Among the first to recognize the high-tech industry’s potential, he launched Robertson, Colman & Siebel in 1969, one of several investment firms he led. Robertson Stephens, the largest, took more than 500 technology and biotechnology companies public, including America Online, Applied Materials, Ascend, Dell Computer, E*Trade, Pixar Animation, and Sun Microsystems.

Bank of America Corp. acquired Robertson Stephens in 1997. Two years later he co-founded Francisco Partners, a $10 billion private equity firm, which has made more than 100 investments in technology.

He is a director of several public companies, including being the lead independent director of the $5 billion, the world’s largest cloud software company and fastest growing large company on the New York Stock Exchange. He also is a director of Dolby Laboratories Inc., JustAnswer, Pain Therapeutics Inc., and RPX Corp. He serves on the boards of the Kamehameha Schools Endowment Investment Advisory Committee and the University of California, San Francisco Global Health Initiative. Additionally, Robertson chairs the W.M. Keck Observatory Advancement Advisory Council.

He is deeply committed to U-M and is a longtime member of the President’s Advisory Group. He has served on U-M’s Investment Advisory Committee since it was founded in 1990. During that time the university’s endowment has grown from less than $1 billion to $9.7 billion in 2014.

He served on the campaign for Michigan National Leadership Committee in the 1980s and co-chaired the Michigan Difference campaign, which raised a record-breaking $3.2 billion. He and his wife, Jeanne, currently serve on the steering committee of the $4 billion Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign.

Robertson was class president as a graduate student and has continued to contribute to the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, as a member of its visiting committee, technology advisory board, and dean’s advisory board. He endowed the Sanford R. Robertson Assistant Professor in Business Administration position and the football offensive coordinator post in the Athletic Department.

The Robertsons also created the Jeanne and Sanford Robertson Scholarship Fund for musical theater students at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Robertson has received many accolades, including U-M’s David B. Hermelin Award for Fundraising Volunteer Leadership.

Robert J. Shiller

Robert Shiller

Shiller has reframed long-held tenets of financial market volatility and the dynamics of asset prices with his pioneering theories and research. Among the first to demonstrate that market behavior frequently is not logical, he helped found behavioral economics, the melding of psychology, sociology, and political science with economics.

In 2013, Shiller, along with Eugene Fama and Lars Peter Hansen, shared the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for their empirical analysis of asset prices.

Born in Detroit, he grew up in Southfield, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (1967) in economics from U-M, and a Master of Science (1968) and a Ph.D. (1972), both in economics, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and the University of Minnesota before joining the Yale University faculty in 1982, where he is the Sterling Professor of Economics, a Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics staff member, and professor of finance at the Yale School of Management.

He has been a research associate at the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research since 1980. Shiller writes about behavioral economics, macroeconomics, financial markets, financial innovation, real estate, and statistical methods, as well as public attitudes, opinions, and moral judgments regarding markets. He is the author of six books, including The New York Times bestseller “Irrational Exuberance” (2000). An updated third edition was published early this year.

Shiller demonstrated his prescience in the mid-2000s, when he warned that market bubbles could lead to declines in the financial markets, collapse in the U.S. housing market, and financial panic. In “Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism” (2009), he and co-author George Akerloff, also a Nobel Prize-winning economist, assert the need for active government leadership in economic policymaking. In Shiller’s newest book, “Finance and the Good Society” (2012), he posits that finance is one of the most powerful tools available to promote the common good.

He created the widely used Cyclically Adjusted Price-Earnings Ratio to predict stock market returns over several years and, with Karl Case, the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, one of the best-known indicators of the strength of the housing market and the overall economy.

He also contributes regularly to The New York Times “Economic View” column and to Project Syndicate, which distributes his commentary worldwide. Shiller, president-elect of the American Economic Association, maintains close ties to Michigan, frequently returning to lecture and participate in conferences. He has received many accolades, including the Deutsche Bank Prize in Financial Economics, and has been listed among Foreign Policy magazine’s top 100 global thinkers twice and Bloomberg Markets’ Most Influential 50 in global finance.

Robin Wright

Robin Wright

Wright is renowned for her in-depth knowledge of the Middle East acquired over four decades of reporting. Born in Ann Arbor, Wright was The Michigan Daily’s first female sports editor, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (1970) and a Master of Arts degree (1971) before commencing a reportorial odyssey that has taken her to more than 140 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

She has covered a dozen wars and several revolutions, often at great personal risk. Wright has written thousands of articles for leading periodicals, including The New Yorker, The Washington Post, TIME, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Sunday Times of London, The Atlantic, and many others. She also is a frequent television commentator on programs such as “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation,” “PBS NewsHour,” “Charlie Rose,” and “The Colbert Report,” among others.

Wright has written eight books, including “Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam” (1985); “In the Name of God: the Khomeini Decade” (1989); “The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran” (2000); and “Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East” (2008). Her most recent, “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World” (2011), won the Overseas Press Club award for best book on international affairs and was selected by The New York Times and The Washington Post as one of the top nonfiction books of 2011.

Wright has been a fellow at the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, U.S. Institute of Peace, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Yale University, Duke University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Southern California.

Among other honors, she received the United Nations Correspondents Gold Medal for international reporting, National Magazine Award, National Press Club Award, and Overseas Press Club Award for exceptional courage and initiative in covering African wars. The American Academy of Diplomacy selected her journalist of the year. She also received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant and, in 2012, the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training presented her the Cyrus R. Vance Award for Advancing Knowledge of Diplomacy.

A loyal alumna and winner of the 1978 Alumnae Council Athena Award, Wright frequently returns to campus to lecture. Committed to improving educational opportunities for women, especially those from Africa and the Islamic world, she created the Robin Wright Research Fellowship at U-M’s Center for the Education of Women.

She also helped establish the L. Hart Wright Collegiate Professorship and a teaching award at the Law School in memory of her father, who taught there from 1946-83, and the Phyllis B. Wright Scholarship in Theatre at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, in memory of her mother, an actress, patron of the arts, and longtime supporter of U-M’s theater program.

Dr. Tadataka Yamada

Dr. Tadataka Yamada

Yamada, executive vice president and chief medical and scientific officer at Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and past-president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Program, is internationally renowned for his numerous contributions as a physician, scientist, and leader in drug discovery and development.

Born in Tokyo, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Stanford University (1967) and M.D. (1971) from the New York University School of Medicine. He completed a gastroenterology residency at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine and taught and conducted research there before joining U-M’s Medical School faculty in 1983.

He played a transformative role in the Division of Gastroenterology, resulting in the U-M Health System being one of nation’s highest performing hospitals in gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery. Yamada has published more than 150 original manuscripts and edited “The Textbook of Gastroenterology,” now in its fifth edition.

He cloned the histamine H2 receptor — a molecule that stimulates gastric acid and intestinal secretions — at Michigan, where he served as the John G. Searle Professor of Internal Medicine, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, and physician-in-chief at the Medical Center from 1990-96.

Yamada, who received a Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award in 1992, visits the university several times a year. He presented an invited lecture at the 2014 Life Sciences Institute Symposium.

Named chairman of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline in 1999, he expanded the British firm’s multibillion-dollar product pipeline and facilitated discovery and development of medicines for malaria and tuberculosis for dissemination in low-income countries. His life-saving efforts were recognized with his appointment as Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

In 2006, he joined the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he addressed major health challenges in the developing world, including tuberculosis, HIV, malaria and other infectious diseases, malnutrition, and maternal and child health. In 2011, Yamada returned to Japan to oversee research and development at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, the largest pharmaceutical firm in Asia.

Yamada, past-president of the Association of American Physicians and the American Gastroenterological Association, is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in the United Kingdom and a member of the National Academy of Medicine in Mexico. In addition to serving on the Council of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, he is a member of the Clinton Health Access Initiative board. He previously served on the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Among many accolades, he has received the American Physiological Society SmithKline & French Prize in Gastrointestinal Research, the Julius Friedenwald Medal from the American Gastroenterological Association, and the first August M. Watanabe Prize in Translational Research from Indiana University and Eli Lilly & Co.



  1. Sarah Weiss
    on March 16, 2015 at 7:22 am

    As an alum of U of M I am disappointed that there is not a better balance of gender and race reflected in this slate of recommended honorees.

    • Jeanne Seals
      on March 17, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      Sarah, I was a little surprised when I read your comment about balance between gender and race. As far as I know, the list of honorees has an Asian, an African American and a woman. Two of the men are a “package” (Zimmerman’s). Yes, it is a little light on the number of women but sometimes that’s how things work out when you’re trying to recognize achievement. Another year there might be more women than men. I am all for balance being a minority in several categories but let’s make that one of the factors, not the only, or main one, in selecting the honorees.

      I also am an alum, seven decades young. We’ve come a long way!

    • Melinda Berry
      on April 30, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      And last year, we had a very accomplished speaker in Mary Barra. All people did was complain.They felt she was “corporate scum”. She gave a wonderful commencement address, never tooting her own horn as Obama does. I think they went for someone with no controversy (other that tuition-paying parents and students don’t like it them). CoE had a nobody from BP oil last year, who gave a generic speech that anybody could have given. I thought those kids deserved something more profound. No doubt BP paid for that speaking engagement. But the speaker was African American AND a woman. So if that is your criteria for a good speaker and/or honoree, I guess she passed the test. Unfortunately, Condoleeza Rice, who actually IS accomplished and a great speaker, gets thumbs down from such a University.

  2. Jenni Sporer
    on March 16, 2015 at 9:44 am

    I knew Paul and Ari are awesome mensches, but it is astounding how much these gentlemen have accomplished and the good that they do for improving food, customer service, and caring for low-income and impoverished folks.

  3. Rebecca Tagett
    on March 17, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I was kind of hoping for someone like Nicolas Kristof or E.O. Wilson … perhaps a nobel scientist .. but Zingermans? Oh well. I spent all my savings on my son’s UM tuition. (He definitely benefitted, I can’t complain.) But I can’t afford Zingermans Roadhouse, regardless of all of their “efforts for the poor”. I have celiac and they charge $1 extra for a slice of GF bread? Man, this is so typical! My son just texted me and told me that he refuses to pay for the “honors cord” – I’ll just just have to go along with that one. I hope these Zingerman guys are funny.

  4. April Brown
    on March 20, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    As a parent, I’d like to say your choice of lead speakers is extremely disappointing. You would think the university would seek and could easily attract speakers of higher stature, broader recognition and reputation, with at minimum a national if not global focus. While it’s a good deli…it’s just a local deli. Seriously?

    • John Bruce
      on March 30, 2015 at 9:04 am

      The U selected several diverse speakers this year from local to national. Since you mention a deli, I’m going to assume you mean Zingerman’s. The owners of Zingerman’s have an outstanding business plan and have made a name for themselves in Michigan. I think it will be very inspiring for the students to hear from local entrepreneurs.

  5. Fred Hicks III
    on April 28, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Excellent choices, all. Clearly recognizes the wide and talented diversity of the University of Michigan.

  6. C Cook
    on April 29, 2015 at 9:04 am

    I have to agree with the earlier comments, I was shocked to see that the commencement speaker is a deli owner in Ann Arbor. While we have taken our daughter to Zingermans for lunch when visiting, she cannot afford to go there as a student. One of the honorary degree recipients would have been better. For a school that has hosted the President twice in the last four years you would think the commencement would be more impressive.

  7. J Robertson
    on April 30, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    I agree with the comments about this year’s speakers being a weak (perhaps safe?) choice. UM has the ability to attract a much higher profile speaker….this seems like someone decided to “phone it in this year” and save some money…perhaps to help afford that new football coach?

  8. john Llames
    on June 2, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Nice post. he was a best influential speaker to become a good coach

  9. ganesh durgam
    on August 10, 2015 at 1:34 am

    Excellent choices, all. Clearly recognizes the wide and talented diversity of the University of Michigan.sales force training is the best training platform which provides the best job opportunities in india and abroad. visit our site for sales force training salesforce crm training in hyderabad

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