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Opera singer, economist to receive KU honorary degrees

Wed, 10/16/2013

LAWRENCE – An acclaimed opera singer and a Nobel Prize-winning economist will receive honorary degrees from the University of Kansas at its 2014 Commencement.

Joyce DiDonatoChancellor Bernadette Gray-Little recommended to the Kansas Board of Regents that mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and economist Vernon Smith be awarded honorary doctorates. The board approved that recommendation during its meeting today. The degrees will be presented May 18, 2014, in Memorial Stadium.

“Both of our honorees have contributed to our society, whether by taking us on emotional journeys through song or by advancing our understanding of economic decision making. They are role models for our students, and exemplify the mission of our university and its dedication to serving Kansans and the world,” said Gray-Little.

“The pool of nominees for honorary degrees contained many exceptional individuals. These individuals impressed the committee with their unique achievements and sustained contributions to their fields of endeavor. Both of this year’s honorees represent the high standards of the university, and each will inspire KU students to excel,” said Susan Kemper, the Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Psychology and chair of the Chancellor's Committee on Honorary Degrees.

2014 University of Kansas honorary degree recipients:Vernon Smith

  • For the degree of Doctor of Arts: Joyce DiDonato for notable contributions to opera
  • For the degree of Doctor of Science: Vernon Smith for notable contributions to experimental economics

For biographies of the honorees, click here.

Nominations were sought from members of the KU community and beyond. These nominations were reviewed by a committee which consisted of Kemper; Professor John Gronbeck-Tedesco, theatre; Professor Steve Hawley, physics and astronomy; Professor Chet Johnson, pediatrics; Annaria Nardone, student representative; retired Kansas Supreme Court Justice Fred Six, alumni representative; and Professor Lisa Stehno-Bittel, physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences.

KU awards honorary degrees based on nominees’ outstanding scholarship, research, creative activity, service to humanity or other achievements consistent with the academic endeavors of the university. Recipients do not need to be KU alumni, and philanthropic contributions to the university are not considered during the process.



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