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Howard University Announces 2023 Honorary Degree Recipients

A photo of honorary degrees holds during the 2023 Commencement Speakers for Howard University

WASHINGTON – The Howard University Board of Trustees today announced the list of recipients who will receive honorary doctorate degrees from the University in 2023. The degrees will be granted during the 155th Commencement Convocation on the main campus of Howard University’s Upper Quadrangle at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 13, 2023.

Honorary recipients include Congressman James E. Clyburn; education benefactors Martha and Bruce A. Karsh; Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Keith Christopher Rowley, health sciences trailblazer A. Eugene Washington; and corporate director Benaree Pratt Wiley.

“Our 2023 honorees are among the leaders in their respective fields, in no small part due to their commitment to our collective humanity and building a better society for us all,” said Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard University. “Truth and service have been major elements to their lives both personally and professionally, which makes this year’s honorary degree recipients exceedingly qualified to join the Class of 2023. As we celebrate our 155th Commencement Convocation, we want to spotlight our honorees for their tireless work at Howard University and across the world. They have repeatedly shown and proven their capacity to improve the world, and we honor them for their efforts.”

For more information about Howard University’s 155th Commencement ceremony, visit https://commencement.howard.edu/

James E. Clyburn will be awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Clyburn is the Assistant Democratic Leader in the United States House of Representatives, where he was also the first African American to serve multiple terms as majority whip. A 1961 graduate of South Carolina State, he began his professional career as a public school teacher. In 1971, he joined the staff of Governor John C. West, becoming the first African American advisor to a South Carolina governor. When he came to Congress in 1993, Clyburn was elected co-president of his freshman class. He was subsequently elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, vice chair and then chair of the House Democratic Caucus. Clyburn has led efforts to preserve and restore historic buildings on the campuses of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).  He sponsored legislation creating the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor, the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, the Congaree National Park, the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, and expanding the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. The recipient of 36 honorary degrees, his honors include: the Lyndon Baines Johnson Liberty and Justice for All Award; the Harry S Truman Foundation’s Good Neighbor Award; and the NAACP’s highest honor – the Spingarn Medal. His endorsement of Joe Biden for president in 2020 is credited with setting Biden on path to the presidency. Clyburn and his late wife, Emily England Clyburn, met as college student protestors in an Orangeburg, South Carolina jail in 1960. The encounter led to a 58-year marriage, and they became parents of three daughters and grandparents to four grandchildren.

Bruce A. Karsh will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities. Bruce Karsh is co-founder and co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Management, a global alternative investment company with $170 billion of assets under management. He is also chief investment officer and serves as portfolio manager for Oaktree’s flagship opportunities funds and its multi-strategy credit funds. Bruce Karsh holds an A.B. in economics from Duke University (1977), and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law (1980). Now a trustee emeritus of Duke University, Bruce Karsh served as trustee from 2003 to 2015, and as chairman of the board of DUMAC from 2005 to 2014.

Martha L. Karsh will be awarded the honorary Doctor of Humanities. Martha Karsh is a graduate of the University of Virginia and Virginia Law School. She co-founded architectural and design firm Clark & Karsh and, in 2016, published The Beatles A Hard Day’s Night: A Private Archive. Martha Karsh currently serves on the national board of KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Foundation, co-chairs the bicentennial “Honor the Future Campaign for the University of Virginia,” and is a trustee emerita of the University of Virginia Law School Foundation. She successfully led a $70 million growth campaign for KIPP in Los Angeles.

Martha and Bruce Karsh, married for 43 years, founded the Karsh Family Foundation in 1998 which supports education, democracy and community. Through the foundation, the Karshes have granted over $400 million for education, professorships and scholarships, principally for  undergraduate financial aid. At Duke University, the undergraduate financial aid department is named after the Karshes. The Karshes have established major scholarship programs at Duke, the University of Virginia Law School, the University of Pennsylvania, Howard University, Spelman, and Brown; two of them are top merit scholarship programs: the Karsh STEM Scholars Program at Howard University and the Karsh-Dillard Scholarships at Virginia Law School. In 2021, the Karshes  founded the Institute of Democracy at UVA. In 2022, Howard University also announced a $10 million gift from the Karshes to support the Graduation Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) grant. Martha and Bruce Karsh are major supporters of KIPP, Teach for America, Charter School Growth Fund, and UNCF.

Keith Christopher Rowley, PhD, will be awarded the honorary Doctor of Letters. Rowley is the Prime Minister of Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Rowley was born in 1949 in Mason Hall, Tobago, and was raised by his grandparents, who were prominent Tobago farmers. Rowley completed his secondary schooling at Bishop’s High School (BHS) in Tobago and his sterling academic performance saw him capture the prestigious Sylvan Bowles Scholarship. He then commenced his studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, from where he graduated with a BSc in  geology (first class honors) and geography (first class honors), and earned his MSc in volcanic stratigraphy from  UWI, St. Augustine. He is a volcanologist who obtained his doctorate in geology, specializing in geochemistry. He is a known nature lover and as a research scientist he held the positions of research fellow and later head of the Seismic Research Unit at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. He was also the general manager of state-owned National Quarries Company Limited. He first ran for political office in 1981, where he contested the Tobago West seat. Rowley is the Member of the House of Representatives for Diego Martin West in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, where he has represented that constituency since 1991 having been re-elected multiple times. He first served in Parliament as an opposition senator from 1987-1990. He later served at cabinet level holding, at various times, the portfolios. Following the People’s National Movement (PNM)’s defeat in the Trinidad and Tobago General Election, 2010, Rowley was appointed leader of the opposition of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and was elected Political Leader of the People’s National Movement in 2010. In 2015, Rowley led the People’s National Movement to general election victory, to become the seventh prime minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Rowley was re-elected to serve as prime minister on August 10, 2020, after winning the 2020 general election.

A. Eugene Washington, MD, MPH, MSc, will be awarded the honorary Doctor of Science. Currently, Washington is Chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke University and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System. Over the past 25 years, Washington has held academic leadership positions and senior executive posts in prominent academic health systems, including the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). During this period, he has stayed actively engaged in educating students, residents, postdoctoral fellows and faculty, practiced medicine, and maintained a productive research program. In addition, Washington has played a role in shaping national health policy and health care practice. A respected clinical investigator and health policy scholar, Washington has been a national leader in assessing medical technologies, developing clinical practice guidelines and establishing disease prevention policies, particularly for women’s health.

He has published extensively in his major areas of research, which include prenatal genetic testing, cervical cancer screening and prevention, noncancerous uterine conditions management, reproductive tract infections, quality of health care and racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes. Washington is founding chair of the board of governors of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a national research organization dedicated to the support and promotion of comparative clinical effectiveness research, which was authorized by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  He serves as a director of Johnson and Johnson and is on the Boards of Directors of the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. He has served on a number of professional and government boards and committees, including on the board of trustees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A 1976 graduate of the UCSF School of Medicine, Washington completed graduate studies at both University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard schools of public health and residency training at Stanford University. 

Benaree Pratt Wiley will be awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Benaree Pratt Wiley is a corporate director and trustee. For fifteen years, Wiley was the president and chief executive officer of The Partnership, Inc., an organization that strengthened Greater Boston’s capacity to attract, retain, and develop talented professionals of color. Wiley serves currently as director on boards of the BNY Mellon Mutual Funds and CBIZ. She has served as the chair of PepsiCo’s African American advisory board, and on the boards of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and First Albany. Her civic activities include serving on the boards of Dress for Success Boston, Spaulding Hospital, the Black Economic Alliance and formerly Howard University where she served as vice chair. In 2022, the National Association of Corporate Directors New England awarded Wiley the Director of the Year Award in Nonprofit Leadership. She is a frequent speaker on leadership, diversity and professional development and has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors and four honorary doctorates including from Boston College and New England School of Law. Among her many honors are induction into the Academy of Distinguished Bostonians; the Pinnacle Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce; and Harvard Business School Distinguished Alumni Award from the African American Student Union. Bennie also had the honor of being featured on the cover of Boston magazine as one of Boston’s most powerful women; and she was the subject of a Harvard Business School case, “Bennie Wiley and The Partnership.” In 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration appointed Wiley to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.


About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced two Schwarzman Scholars, four Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American PhD. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.