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Contact: Mary Caffrey 609/258-5748
Date: June 4, 1996

From Governor Belcher to
President Clinton: Honorary Degrees
at Princeton

Princeton, N.J. -- Princeton University has awarded honorary degrees since its earliest days. In 1748, at the first commencement, a Master of Arts was awarded to Governor Jonathan Belcher of the Province of New Jersey. Belcher, a Harvard graduate, had granted the young college its second charter and was recognized as a "founder, patron, and benefactor."

During the first 150 years, when Princeton was called the College of New Jersey, most honorary degrees were awarded by the Board of Trustees during their regular meetings; recipients learned of the honor by letter. In 1895, the trustees amended the college's by-laws to state that no honorary degree would be awarded unless the recipient accepted it in person. During the Sesquicentennial Celebration the following year, the newly renamed Princeton University awarded 56 honorary degrees, the largest number ever awarded at one time.

Recipients have had distinguished careers in government, education, law, science, the arts, music, literature, business, philanthropy and public service.

Honorees since 1947 include Aaron Copland (1956), Helen Hayes (1956) Marian Anderson (1959), Henry Cabot Lodge (1961), Dean Rusk (1961), Thurgood Marshall (1963), Andrew Wyeth (1965), Charles Scribner Jr. (1966), Robert Oppenheimer (1966), Nicholas DeBelleville Katzenbach (1966), Russell W. Baker (1969),Coretta Scott King (1970), Simone Veil (1975), Peter W. Rodino Jr. (1975),Barbara Jordan (1977), A. Bartlett Giamatti (1978), Eunice Kennedy Shriver(1979), James Earl Jones (1980), Marcel Marceau (1981), Stephen Hawking(1982), Bill Bradley (1983), George W. Ball (1984), Maurice Sendak (1984),Theodor Seuss Geisel, or Dr. Seuss (1985), William J. Brennan Jr. (1986),Eudora Welty (1988), C. Everett Koop (1989), Doris Lessing (1989), Ella Fitzgerald (1990), Meg Greenfield (1990), Martin Scorsese (1991), Donna E. Shalala (1991), Marian Wright Edelman (1993), William Julius Wilson (1994), and Wynton Marsalis (1995).

A 1991 honoree, Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, this year shared the Nobel Prize in medicine with Princeton Professor Eric Wieschaus for their collaboration in research on embryo development.

In 1970, Princeton honored Bob Dylan with these words: " . . . one of the most creative popular musicians of the last decade. . . . Although he is now approaching the perilous age of 30, his music remains the authentic expression of the disturbed and concerned conscience of young America." The remarks were all but drowned out by the din of cicadas that had descended on the campus, an event Dylan later described in his song, Day of the Locust .