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For immediate release: June 5, 2001

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-5748,

Seven leaders in arts, humanities, sciences and public affairs receive honorary degrees

Princeton University President Harold T. Shapiro today awarded honorary degrees to seven individuals who have made important contributions in the sciences, film, the humanities and public affairs and touched the lives of millions of people.

Shapiro awarded degrees to Kevin Gover, former director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; filmmaker and director Spike Lee; physicist and emeritus Professor Aaron Lemonick; ecologist Jane Lubchenco; aeronautical engineer and emeritus Professor Courtland D. Perkins; basketball legend Bill Russell; and U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Honorary degree recipients are elected by Princeton's Board of Trustees. A trustee committee solicits nominations from the entire University community.

Following is background on the degree recipients, along with the official citations (in italics):

Kevin Gover, Doctor of Laws

After graduating from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1978, Kevin Gover received his J.D. from the University of New Mexico and went on to practice law in his native New Mexico and in Washington, D.C., representing Indian tribal governments and tribal agencies. In 1997 he was appointed assistant secretary for Indian affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior. During his three-year appointment, Gover oversaw the operations of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, including programs relating to gaming, recognition, trust assets, self-determination, water rights, tribal courts, law enforcement and education. He now is a partner in the Washington, D.C. law office of Steptoe & Johnson L.L.P., specializing in federal law relating to Native Americans and tribal law.

Princeton University (A.B., 1978), University of New Mexico School of Law (J.D., 1981)

As an undergraduate he marched on this very ground with placards drawing attention to the plight of the American Indian. Once graduated, he accepted his own challenge, advocating Native American causes effectively through the law. As assistant secretary for Indian affairs in the Department of the Interior, he brought an intelligence, honesty and openness that earned the respect of both federal legislators and the sovereign governments of indigenous Americans throughout this country. His career, marked by the courage of his Pawnee and Comanche ancestors, is a model for members of the 562 American Indian Nations and for all Americans of a life led "in the nation's service and in the service of all nations."

Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee, Doctor of Fine Arts

Spike Lee is an award-winning filmmaker, actor and writer. He received his training at Morehouse College and New York University's Institute of Film and Television, Tisch School of the Arts. His films have been praised for intelligently and sensitively capturing relationships in American society among African-Americans and between African-Americans and whites. Lee's 1986 film, She's Gotta Have It, won the Cannes Film Festival prize for best new film. His other acclaimed films include Do the Right Thing (1989), which is based on tensions between the African-American and Italian-American communities in New York, and Malcolm X (1992), a biography of the civil-rights leader. Lee's most recent film, Bamboozled, was released last year. His media and communications company, 40 Acres and a Mule, is based in his home town of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Morehouse College (B.A., 1979), New York University (M.F.A., 1982)

He has used the wide-reaching medium of film to tell his stories and to record history, focusing the eye of the camera and our hearts and minds on the vast richness of African-American culture. He has captured the sweeping panorama of American life through the events of a single community on a single day, and from simple daily exchange he has produced powerful examples of genuine "Tragedy" and "Comedy." He is a teacher whose work shows that silence about racial or personal differences is divisive; that communication, even about painful issues, can build a united nation; and that respect for each other can lead us to do the right thing.

Aaron Lemonick, Doctor of Science

Aaron Lemonick began his teaching career in 1954 at Haverford College, where he was professor and chairman of the physics department. A specialist in nuclear and elementary particle physics, he joined the physics department at Princeton University in 1961, became dean of the Graduate School in 1969 and in 1973 was appointed dean of the faculty, a position he held until his retirement from the faculty in 1989. Lemonick has won Princeton's highest award for teaching, the President's Distinguished Teaching Award, and, although retired from the faculty, he continues to teach in the physics department and to mentor graduate students. Most recently, he has served as faculty chairman of QUEST, a summer program sponsored by Princeton's Teacher Preparation Program that assists elementary school teachers to develop creative methods to teach science.

University of Pennsylvania (B.A., 1950), Princeton University (M.A., 1952, Ph.D., 1954)

A high-energy physicist and a high-energy teacher, he has committed himself to introducing generations of students to the mysteries and intricate beauty of the world of physics. Eloquent advocate of research of the highest quality, he served as "Fearless Leader" of first the Graduate School and then the Faculty as Princeton opened new areas of scientific inquiry, while strengthening its traditions of undergraduate liberal education. Fond of reminding us that sometimes "things that go without saying ought to be said," he gives us an opportunity to say a heart-felt "thank you" for his deep devotion to Princeton and for a lifelong career of inspired -- and inspiring -- leadership.

Jane Lubchenco, Doctor of Science

Jane Lubchenco is an environmental scientist and marine ecologist who has gained an international reputation for her efforts to increase understanding of the dynamics of the earth's ecosystems. She has become a national spokesperson for marine conservation while serving on the faculty of Oregon State University, where she is the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology and the Oregon State University Distinguished Professor of Zoology. Lubchenco has served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Ecological Society of America, is president-elect of the International Council for Science, and is a member of the Council of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Board.

Colorado College (B.A., 1969), University of Washington (M.S., 1971), Harvard University (Ph.D., 1975)

In her research, she has elucidated the basic ecological and evolutionary relationships among the plants and animals of coastal shores. A dedicated and highly effective teacher, she led the development and implementation of a critically important agenda for ecological research for the new millennium by providing decision-makers and the general public with a clear understanding of the challenges facing our environment and the opportunities for development and use of sustainable resources. A visionary leader in the international scientific community, she has been one of the most influential voices for science and science policy in our nation and the world.

Courtland D. Perkins, Doctor of Science

Courtland D. Perkins joined the Princeton faculty in 1945 to head a fledgling program in flight test engineering and remained at the University until he retired in 1978, serving as chairman of the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Sciences Department from 1951 to 1972. He was a pioneer in the field of in-flight test analysis of aircraft stability, and the textbook he co-authored in 1949, Airplane Performance, Stability and Control, remains in print. During World War II he headed the Stability and Control Unit of the Aircraft Laboratory, U.S. Army Air Corps, and took leave from Princeton twice to serve the Department of Defense. His government service also included leadership of the Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development for NATO (1964-67) as well as membership on the Space Sciences Board for NASA (1965-70) and the Central Intelligence Agency's Intelligence Review Board (1986-88). He is a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and served as president of the National Academy of Engineering from 1975 to 1983.

Swarthmore College (B.S., 1935); Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.S., 1941)

His pioneering text on aircraft stability and control laid the groundwork for scientifically testing the limits of flight in air and space. Over two decades his vision directed a fledgling department to the leading edge of aerospace engineering, and steered the University toward a new era of large-scale research. Having begun his career in the nation's service, he has repeatedly returned to public leadership. As engineer, teacher, administrator, and wise adviser, he has provided inspiration to students who have advanced the frontiers of knowledge, captained the aerospace industry and planted Princeton's flag on the moon.

William Felton Russell, Doctor of Humanities

Bill Russell's basketball stardom began in college, when he led the University of San Francisco to the 1955 and 1956 National Collegiate Athletic Association championships. During his career as center and then player-coach for the Boston Celtics (1956-1969), the team won 11 National Basketball Association titles and Russell revolutionized the role of defense. An 11-time NBA All-Star and five-time winner of the Most Valuable Player Award, he gained recognition for his successful efforts to break racial barriers in sports. He was the first African-American to coach a major league professional team, coaching the Celtics from 1967 to 1969, the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973 to 1977 and the Sacramento Kings for the 1987-88 season. He has spoken and written candidly and eloquently about race, sports and society, and has been acclaimed for his character, intelligence and athletic skill. Russell is a member of the board of the National Mentoring Partnership.

University of San Francisco (B.A., 1956)

One of the most dominating college basketball players ever, a member of the 1956 U.S. Olympic gold-medal basketball team and member and coach of the Boston Celtics when they won 11 National Basketball Association championships, five times the NBA's Most Valuable Player, and a member of the Hall of Fame since 1975, this legend of the basketball court made defense an offensive element of the game. As Americans grappled with civil rights during the turbulent sixties and seventies, he was appointed the first African-American professional coach of a major sport, and the victories he won throughout his life were as much victories for equality and fair treatment as they were victories for this quintessentially American sport. Known as a gentle man and a gentleman, he continues to be a voice of common sense and of courage who shifts our gaze upward to the highest ideals of American life.

Sonia Sotomayor, Doctor of Laws

Sonia Sotomayor grew up in the Bronx, graduated from Princeton University summa cum laude and attended Yale Law School, where she was editor of the Yale Law Journal. She began her legal career as an assistant district attorney with the New York County district attorney's office. In 1984 she joined the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt, and became a partner with a focus on international commercial litigation and arbitration of commercial and commodity export trading cases. Sotomayor was appointed a United States District Court judge for the Southern District of New York in 1992 and was confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the second circuit in 1998. Her decisions include a 1995 injunction that ended an impasse between baseball owners and players, a reinterpretation of copyright law in the context of new media, and rulings in favor of public access to private information and in defense of religious freedom.

Princeton University (A.B., 1976), Yale University (J.D., 1979)

She brings to the courts of law her intelligence and wisdom, her insight and passion, and the perspectives she gained from her heritage, her childhood, her years at Princeton, and her experience in private practice. She has won wide acclaim for her decisions in complex cases and her skills in resolving seemingly unresolvable disputes. During the summer of 1995, in a matter of hours, she unraveled a Gordian knot that had held baseball hostage for more than 230 days. With wisdom and judgment that cross cultural boundaries, she strengthens our nation's commitment to liberty and justice for all.