Announcing the 2024 Honorary Degree Recipients

News subtitle

Nine honorands include leaders in the sciences, medicine, and technology.

Dartmouth onorary degree recipients
The honorary degree recipients at Dartmouth’s June 9 Commencement are, clockwise from top left, Roger Federer, the Commencement speaker; Mira Murati, Thayer ’12; Paul Nakasone; Richard Ranger ’74; Roy Vagelos; Mung Chiang; Joy Buolamwini; Liz Cheney; and, center, John Urschel. 

Nine remarkable individuals—including a legendary athlete-turned-philanthropist and leaders in artificial intelligence and higher education—will receive honorary degrees at this year’s Commencement ceremony on June 9.

“The common denominator among this year’s diverse and exceptional class of honorands is the outsized impact they each have had as innovators and agents of change in their respective careers and in the world,” says President Sian Leah Beilock. “I am proud to welcome them to Dartmouth.”

Each year prospective honorary degree recipients—scholars, artists, innovators, public servants, philanthropists, and others who have made extraordinary contributions to their respective fields and society at large—are nominated by members of the Dartmouth community. The confidential nominations are reviewed by the Council on Honorary Degrees, whose members advise the president. The honorary degree recipients are then selected by the president and the Board of Trustees.

This year, the recipients are:

  • Joy Buolamwini, a computer scientist, artist, and founder of the Algorithmic Justice League
  • Liz Cheney, former U.S. representative from Wyoming and vice chair of the House Jan. 6 committee
  • Mung Chiang, president of Purdue University
  • Commencement speaker Roger Federer, philanthropist and former tennis champion
  • Mira Murati, Thayer ’12, chief technology officer of OpenAI 
  • Paul Nakasone, retired director of the National Security Agency and commander, U.S. Cyber Command
  • Richard Ranger ’74, a retired attorney and current lecturer in the business and law faculties of Uganda Christian University 
  • John Urschel, a mathematician and former Baltimore Ravens guard
  • Roy Vagelos, philanthropist and retired chairman and CEO of Merck & Co. and retired chairman of Regeneron
About the 2024 Honorary Degree Recipients

Joy Buolamwini (Doctor of Science)

Fortune Magazine has called her the “conscience of the AI revolution.” TIME named her to its inaugural list of 100 most influential people in AI. Known as the “poet of code,” computer scientist and author Dr. Joy Buolamwini has made it her mission—in science, art, and activism—to expose biases in AI systems and prevent AI harms. 

In 2016, she founded the Algorithmic Justice League, a research and storytelling organization that uses creative science communication to help show how AI systems perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Her research on facial recognition technologies transformed the field of AI auditing and has been covered in over 40 countries.

Dr. Joy Buolamwini’s “Gender Shades” paper is one of the most cited peer-reviewed AI ethics publications to date. Her MIT thesis methodology uncovered large skin type and gender bias in AI services from companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon. In 2020, these companies stepped back from selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement. Her TED talk on algorithmic bias has been viewed over 1.7 million times.

In addition to lending her expertise to congressional hearings and government agencies seeking to enact equitable and accountable AI policy, she served on the Global Tech Panel to advise world leaders and executives on reducing AI harms. Dr. Joy Buolamwini’s writing and work have appeared in TIME, The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and other publications, and she is featured in the Emmy-nominated documentary Coded Bias, which is available in 30 languages to over 100 million viewers. Last year, she became a national best-selling author of her book, Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What Is Human in a World of Machines.

Dr. Joy Buolamwini is also a recipient of the Technological Innovation Award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, the 2024 winner of the NAACP-Archewell Foundation Digital Civil Rights Award, and received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Knox College. Dr. Joy Buolamwini completed her undergraduate degree in computer science at Georgia Institute of Technology and was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to Zambia, where she developed a technology-education program for young people. In 2014, she won a Rhodes Scholarship, which she used to earn a master’s of science in learning and technology at the University of Oxford. She went on to complete her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was a researcher in the MIT Media Lab.

Dr. Joy Buolamwini will be the keynote speaker on May 1 at Dartmouth’s Social Justice Awards 2024.

Liz Cheney (Doctor of Laws)

A staunch advocate for democracy, Liz Cheney—who gave the keynote earlier this year at the Democracy Summit, a series conceived by students—is the former U.S. representative from Wyoming who served as vice chair of the select committee investigating Jan. 6. Her bestselling book, Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning, gives her first-hand account of what it was like to be in the House of Representatives on that day.

As a member of Congress, Cheney was chair of the House Republican Conference—the third-highest position in the House Republican leadership—and served on the House Armed Services Committee, the China Task Force, the Natural Resources Committee, and the House Committee on Rules.

Before running for office, Cheney served in the U.S. Department of State as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs and in various roles with State and USAID in Poland, Hungary, Russia, and Ukraine. With her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, she is co-author of Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America.

Cheney graduated from Colorado College, received her JD from the University of Chicago Law School, and practiced law with White and Case and at the International Finance Corporation. She and her husband, Phil Perry, are the parents of five children.

In 2022, Cheney received the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s Profile in Courage Award.

Mung Chiang (Doctor of Science)

Engineer, educator, technology entrepreneur, and innovator Mung Chiang is president of Purdue University, where he is the Roscoe H. George Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Before taking office as Purdue’s president in January 2023, Chiang served as Purdue’s executive vice president for strategic initiatives and as the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering. Under his tenure as dean, the engineering school earned its first back-to-back top-4 graduate rankings in the U.S. and grew to be the largest top-10 undergraduate engineering college in the country.

Chiang began his academic career at Princeton University, where he was named the Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical Engineering and was the first chairman of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council and director of the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education. His work to launch entrepreneurial programs at Princeton led him to be named a 2014 New Jersey CEO of the Year, and his research earned him the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation—the highest honor presented to an American researcher under the age of 40. 

From 2019 to 2020, he served as science and technology adviser to the U.S. secretary of state and initiated the U.S. government’s tech diplomacy programs. Since returning from Washington, in 2020, he co-founded the Krach Institute of Tech Diplomacy at Purdue and serves as the technology and innovation adviser to the state of Indiana.

Chiang holds 25 U.S. patents, most of which have been licensed and deployed by the communications and networking industry. 

Roger Federer (Doctor of Humane Letters)

One of the greatest tennis players of all time, Roger Federer dominated the sport between 1998 and his retirement in 2022, ranking No. 1 in the world for men’s singles for a record 237 weeks in a row (310 weeks total) and winning 103 Association of Tennis Professionals Tour singles titles and 20 Grand Slam singles championships, including eight Wimbledon titles. 

He is one of only eight men to win all four major tournaments (the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open), and the only player in history to have won two Grand Slam tournaments—Wimbledon and the U.S. Open—five consecutive times. 

Among other achievements, he won a gold medal in doubles at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, earned the title of Swiss Athlete of the Year six times, and won a record 40 ATP Tour Awards.

The Roger Federer Foundation, which he founded in 2003, has invested more than $96 million in education initiatives serving more than 2.7 million children living in poverty in Switzerland and countries in southern Africa. Federer holds dual citizenship in Switzerland and South Africa.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Federer made substantial contributions to support vulnerable families in Switzerland and South Africa. In January 2020, he joined his friend and fellow tennis star Rafael Nadal to raise money for people affected by the Australian bushfires.

Mira Murati, Thayer ’12 (Doctor of Science)

As chief technology officer of OpenAI, where she has spearheaded pioneering projects—including ChatGPT, Dall-E, and Codex—Mira Murati works at the forefront of shaping the evolving landscape of artificial intelligence and machine learning and their responsible and ethical application. In her role, she oversees research, product development, and deployment.

Murati previously led OpenAI’s hardware strategy, managed the reinforcement learning and safety research teams, and led product and deployment. Before joining OpenAI, she managed the product and engineering teams at Leap Motion and worked at Tesla Motors, where she led the design, development, and launch of vehicle products, including the Model X, and innovative programs in aerospace. 

Today, Murati and her teams in research and product development and deployment are pushing the frontiers of what neural networks can do and are working to make AI systems safer and more aligned with human intentions and values. Her contributions to mechanical engineering, technology research, and executive leadership have made her a respected figure in her field and a mentor for tech enthusiasts worldwide. 

Born in Albania, Murati attended Colby College as a Davis UWC Scholar and simultaneously earned her AB from Colby and a BE from Dartmouth as a dual-degree student at Thayer School of Engineering.

Paul M. Nakasone (Doctor of Laws)

Paul M. Nakasone served for nearly four decades in the United States Army in the United States, South Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan—a career that mirrors the American national security landscape, from the end of the Cold War to his most recent role as commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency/chief of Central Security Service, which he held from 2018 until his retirement in February as a four-star general.

In this final assignment, Nakasone led the largest element of the U.S. intelligence community and the U.S. Department of Defense’s cyber forces during three national elections, two presidential administrations, a global pandemic, and increased threats to the U.S. homeland and the world.

Throughout his career, Nakasone brought innovative and transformative leadership to solve complex challenges. He pioneered a persistent approach to employing cyber forces to defend against cyber nation-state hackers. Recognizing the advantage of partnerships, he developed broader sharing with international, interagency, and private-sector entities that provided insights on the nation’s adversaries. 

He also drove greater transparency in operations, working to build the trust and confidence of the American people in the Agency and the Command.

A native of White Bear Lake, Minn., Nakasone grew up in an Army family whose legacy of service dates back to World War II. He is a graduate of Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., where he received his commission through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Southern California, Army War College, and National Defense University.

Richard Ranger ’74 (Doctor of Humane Letters)

Since 2021, Richard Ranger, who spent 43 years as a negotiator, environmental compliance manager, and government relations specialist in the oil and gas industry in the western United States, Alaska, and Washington, D.C., has lectured in the business and law at Uganda Christian University—a second career that reflects his lifelong commitment to service, his faith, and his sense of adventure. 

Ranger majored in English at Dartmouth and went on to earn his JD from Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver. Throughout his first career, he was active in civic and church activities, volunteering in youth sports, chairing local boards for Habitat for Humanity and the United Way, and for 10 years hosting a public radio jazz program in Alaska. He also served as a short-term missionary in Uganda and the Dominican Republic, and he and his wife, Catherine, often hosted UCU law students in their home in Washington when they competed in an annual moot court competition. At UCU, Ranger served as site coordinator for the installation of a solar thermal water heating system for the campus dining hall, installed by Dartmouth and UCU engineering students.

Committed to his alma mater, he has been the Class of 1974 newsletter editor for 40 years. During his tenure as class president, he helped guide construction of the first class-sponsored bunkhouse at Mt. Moosilauke. He has also served as a representative to the Alumni Council, as head of the Class Officers’ Association, and on the Class of 1974 Mortality Disparity Working Group. 

John Urschel (Doctor of Letters)

Former NFL guard-turned-mathematician John Urschel is an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows, and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football.

As an undergraduate at Penn State, where he also completed his master’s degree in mathematics, Urschel earned numerous recognitions for his exceptional performance both on the football field and in the classroom, including All-American honors, the William V. Campbell Trophy (also known as the academic Heisman), and the AAU James E. Sullivan Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding amateur athlete.

In 2014, Urschel was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens and played for three seasons. He left professional football to pursue doctoral work full-time at MIT under the supervision of mathematician Michel Goemans, completing his PhD in math in 2021, with research focused on fundamental problems in matrix analysis, numerical linear algebra, and spectral graph theory. He was recently awarded the SIAM DiPrima Prize for his PhD thesis Graphs, Principal Minors, and Eigenvalue Problems. Before joining the MIT faculty, he was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study.

Still committed to football, he has served a three-year term on the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Roy Vagelos (Doctor of Humane Letters) 

Physician-scientist and philanthropist Roy Vagelos is the retired chairman and CEO of Merck & Co., Inc., and retired chairman of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Vagelos earned an AB in 1950 from the University of Pennsylvania. After completing his MD from Columbia University and a residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital, he joined the National Institutes of Health, where he served 10 years, first as senior surgeon and then as section head of comparative biochemistry. In 1966 he became chairman of the Department of Biological Chemistry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In 1973, he founded the university’s division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences. 

In 1975, Vagelos joined Merck Research Laboratories as president of research. In 1985 he was named CEO and later became chairman. He retired from Merck in 1994 and became chairman of Regeneron, from which he retired in 2023.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, Vagelos has received many awards in science and business and 15 honorary doctorates. He chaired the board of the University of Pennsylvania and has served on the boards of TRW, McDonnell Douglas, Prudential Finance, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and The Nature Conservancy.

He is currently chairman of the board of advisors of Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons—named in recognition of gifts Vagelos and his wife, Diana, have made to the college—and chair of the board of advisors of the Columbia Climate School. The Vagelos’ generosity has also helped launch three undergraduate programs at the University of Pennsylvania: Molecular Life Sciences, Life Sciences and Management and the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research. 

Important Commencement Dates

Saturday, May 11

9 a.m.—Geisel School of Medicine Class Day at Lebanon Opera House, Lebanon, N.H. The speaker is John Paul Sánchez, dean of Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine.

Friday, June 7

2 p.m.—Geisel MPH and MS Class Day on Life Sciences Center lawn. The speaker is Irene Dankwa-Mullan, Geisel ’97, chief health officer at Marti Health.

Saturday, June 8

9:15 a.m.—Thayer School of Engineering Investiture at the West End Circle. Mung Chiang, president of Purdue University, will deliver the keynote address. 

1 p.m.—Tuck Investiture at the steps of Tuck Hall. Kenny Mitchell ’97, Tuck ’04, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Levi’s brand at Levi Strauss and Co., will deliver the investiture address.

2 p.m.—Baccalaureate, a multifaith, multicultural celebration for graduates and their families, Rollins Chapel. The speaker will be Andrew Nalani ’16, an assistant professor of human and organizational development at Vanderbilt University.

4 p.m.—Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies Investiture on the Green. Reception to follow on the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center Lawn. 

Sunday, June 9

9 a.m.—Academic procession to the Green. The Commencement ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m.

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