One of the highlights of the opening ceremony is the presentation of honorary degrees to individuals for their outstanding achievements and service to the world. This year, President Vincent Price conferred degrees on a medical missionary, a scientist turned entrepreneur, a former NASA engineer who led the Girl Scouts and a Nigerian economist who works to improve lives across Africa.
Below are the quotes Price read about the recipients at the start.
Rocket scientist and nonprofit leader Sylvia Acevedo has been a tireless advocate for women and girls in STEM fields.
Ms. Acevedo began her career as an engineer at IBM and NASA, where she worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Solar Probe and Voyager 2 space missions. She later held leadership positions at Dell, Autodesk and Apple, where she oversaw the Asia/Pacific region.
In 2016, Ms. Acevedo assumed the role of CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, where she championed initiatives to close the gender gap in STEM and train girls in skills such as cybersecurity, literacy automotive engineering, entrepreneurship, coding, robotics and leadership. More than 1.5 million girls have earned Associate Scout badges, inspiring them to explore new interests and activities.
In 2010, President Barack Obama named her Chair of the White House Initiative for Excellence in Hispanic Early Childhood Education. For her efforts to increase the involvement of Hispanic and underserved families in education, the Mexican government awarded Ms. Acevedo its highest civil rights honor, the Ohtli.
Sylvia, for your extraordinary leadership and service, I am delighted to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
A world-renowned development economist, Akinwumi Adesina is currently the 8th elected President of the African Development Bank Group, Africa’s multilateral financial institution.
As President, Dr. Adesina launched High 5s, an initiative that has impacted the lives of over 350 million Africans by improving access to energy, industrialization and food security. He is commissioner of the World Climate Commission on Adaptation, leading international efforts to help prepare countries to respond to the current and future impacts of climate change. He is also one of 23 world leaders leading a United Nations initiative to help end world hunger and malnutrition.
Before becoming president, Dr. Adesina served as Nigeria’s agriculture minister, where he led efforts to end corruption, attract billions in private investment and helped tackle food insecurity. For his efforts, Dr. Adesina was the recipient of the 2017 World Food Prize.
Akinwumi, for your international leadership and accomplishments, I am delighted to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
Patrick Brown is the founder and visionary director of Impossible Foods, which creates nutritious foods with the goal of protecting the environment and feeding a growing world population. While on sabbatical from a professorship at Stanford University, Dr. Brown came up with the idea of creating plant-based meat, and the company he founded has since produced the burger. Impossible and other innovative foods that have won fans around the world.
Before founding Impossible Foods, Dr. Brown was a professor of biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he and his colleagues developed microarrays, a new technology that can monitor the activity of all the genes in a genome. He also pioneered the use of gene expression models to better classify cancers and improve the prediction of their clinical course.
In recognition of his life-saving scholarship, Dr. Brown is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, and he was awarded the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor .
Pat, for your ingenuity and for leading the way into the future of sustainable food, I am delighted to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
Tom Catena is the medical director and sole surgeon at Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan, the only referral surgical hospital in an area the size of Austria with a population of over one million inhabitants.
When civil war broke out in Sudan in 2011 and the hospital was bombed, Dr Catena refused to leave, arguing it would mean his life was more important than the lives of his patients. Despite an active confrontation, he continues to treat hundreds of patients a day for everything from disease, cancer, malnutrition, wounds and wounds from the civil war.
Dr. Catena began his medical career in the United States Navy, serving four years as a flight surgeon. After his residency, he spent six years in hospitals in Kenya, before moving to Sudan in 2007 to co-found the hospital he runs today. For his courageous efforts, he was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.
I am extremely proud that Tom graduated from Duke University School of Medicine in 1992 and has already received the school’s Distinguished Alumni Award.