Honorary degree recipients announced

| Associate Editor
Nancy Stone | Chicago Tribune | MCT

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu speaks during a news conference after President-elect Barack Obama nominated Chu as energy secretary on Monday, Dec. 15, 2008, in Chicago, Ill. Chu will address the Washington University graduating class at Commencement on May 21.

Washington University announced Wednesday afternoon that it will award five honorary degrees during the school’s 149th Commencement on May 21.

In addition to Commencement speaker Steven Chu, the U.S. secretary of energy and a Nobel laureate, degrees will be awarded to research physician Brian J. Druker, Joanne Knight, Richard A. Roloff and Nelson S. “Strobe” Talbott III.

Chu has long been an advocate for alternative energy sources. As a member of the Obama administration, he helps carry out the president’s visions for investing in alternative and renewable energy, creating “green” jobs, reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and combating global warming.

Chu won a Nobel Prize in 1997 for his work in physics with Claude Cohen Tannoudji and William Phillips. The trio figured out how to use laser beams and extreme cold to stop single atoms from moving, allowing for easier examination of them.

Druker, director of the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Knight Cancer Center and the JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research, will receive an honorary doctorate in science. After attending college and medical school at the University of California, San Diego, Druker completed an internship and his residency at Washington University from 1981 to 1984. Before joining the OHSU community in 1993, he taught at the Harvard Medical School.

Nuccio Dinuzzo | Chicago Tribune | MCT

Russell Peterson, 65, and his wife, Sharon, consult with Dr. Brian Druker, chief researcher on an experimental drug called STI 571. In initial tests, the drug has put chronic myelogenous leukemia patients into complete remission. Druker, once a resident at Washington University School of Medicine, will receive an honorary doctorate in science at Commencement on May 21.

A pioneer in cancer treatment, Druker led the team that invented Imantib (Gleevec), a drug that targets a specific protein to stop the overproduction of white blood cells in individuals with chronic myeloid leukemia. After receiving FDA approval in May 2001, Gleevec has been used to treat seven different cancers.

Knight will receive a doctorate in the humanities and is being recognized as a St. Louis community leader, volunteer and philanthropist. She has dedicated the bulk of her time to support of the St. Louis chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) and the University. She has served as president of the board for the first two organizations.

Knight began her work with the Alzheimer’s Association after her mother took ill to the disease in the late 1980s. She has also served on the board of the CID for 26 years, and in recognition of her efforts, the CID created the Joanne Parrish Knight Family Center.

Knight and husband Charles F. Knight, former CEO of Emerson, have established a philanthropic legacy at Washington University. The couple helped open The Joanne Knight Breast Health Center and Breast Cancer Program at the School of Medicine and established a distinguished professorship at the School Medicine and the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Directorship in Executive Education at the Olin Business School.

Roloff, a St. Louis native and a member of the engineering class of 1951, will be named an honorary doctor of laws. A veteran of the Coast Guard, Roloff operated a residential construction company in Texas before becoming president of St. Louis-based Capital Land Co. in 1973.

After sitting on the University’s board of trustees from 1985 to 1991, Roloff served as executive vice chancellor from 1991 to 2006 and has overseen the transformation and modernization of the Danforth and Medical campuses. Among other work, he spearheaded the efforts to build McDonnell, Goldfarb, Anheuser-Busch and Whitaker halls in addition to the Charles F. Knight Executive Education Center, the Psychology Building, Laboratory Sciences Building, Earth and Planetary Sciences Building and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Art. He also oversaw the planning, fundraising and construction of the Danforth University Center and Seigle Hall as vice chancellor for capital projects from 2006 to 2008

In 2008, Roloff was appointed special assistant to Chancellor Mark Wrighton, a post he still holds at the University.

Talbott is currently the president of the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank that specializes in economics, metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, and global economy and development. He will also be named a doctor of laws.

Talbott graduated from Yale University in 1968 and then was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University at the same time as President Bill Clinton. At Oxford, Talbott translated the memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev into English. The former chairman of the Yale Daily News then became the principal correspondent on Soviet-American relations for Time magazine.

In 1993, Talbott was invited to join the Clinton administration, where he worked on the management of the consequences surrounding the break-up of the Soviet Union. In 1994, he was named deputy secretary of state, a position he held until 2001.

Commencement will take place at the Brookings Quadrangle on Friday, May 21. The ceremony will begin at 8:30 a.m.