Six honorary degrees to be awarded this spring

March 15, 2001

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan Regents voted at their March 15 meeting to award six honorary degrees at the University’s spring commencement exercises.

Honorary degrees will be presented to William Davidson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Guardian Industries Corp.; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Bill Ivey, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA); Adam Michnik, a founder of Poland’s Solidarity movement and outspoken human rights activist; Robert Pinsky, professor of English at Boston University (BU) and former U.S. poet laureate; and Marshall Sahlins, the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Anthropology at the University of Chicago.

Pinsky will give the main address at the Spring Commencement on April 28 and Sahlins will be the main speaker at the University Graduate Exercises on April 27 at the Ann Arbor campus. Ivey will present the commencement address at the U-M-Flint graduation ceremony May 6.


Pinsky, who earned a B.A. degree from Rutgers University in 1962 and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University in 1966, is poetry editor of the online journal Slate. Before joining the BU faculty, he taught at Wellesley College and the University of California, Berkeley, and was poetry editor of The New Republic.

His publications include “Jersey Rain” (2000), “Americans’ Favorite Poems” (1999), “The Sounds of Poetry” (1998), “The Handbook of Heartbreak” (1998), “The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation” (1994), “The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996” (1996), “The Separate Notebooks, Poems by Czeslaw Milosz” (1984), and “An Explanation of America” (1980). His work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Antaeus, The New Yorker, Paris Review, The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, The Harper American Literature and The Harvard Book of Contemporary Poetry. Pinsky, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Pulitzer Prize nominee, received the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America in 1996.


Sahlins is a world-renowned anthropologist, especially known for his works on cultural theory, social evolution, and the ethnography and history of Polynesian peoples, particularly Fijians and Hawaiians. He has written many books on these topics, including “How ‘Natives’ Think: About Captain Cook, For Example” (1995); “Anahulu: The Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawaii, Vols. I and II” (1992), which he co-authored; “Islands of History” (1985); “Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities: Structure in the Early History of the Sandwich Islands Kingdom” (1981); “Culture and Practical Reason” (1976); and “Stone Age Economics” (1972). Sahlins, who earned a B.A. degree in 1951 and an M.A. degree in 1952, both from the U-M, and a Ph.D. in 1954 from Columbia University, taught in the U-M Department of Anthropology from 1957 to 1973 before joining the University of Chicago faculty. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the British Academy, and an honorary fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.


Ivey, a folklorist, scholar and writer, directed the Country Music Foundation in Nashville, Tenn., one of the South’s most distinguished arts education and research centers, from 1971 until his appointment to the NEA in 1998. As head of the NEA, Ivey has undertaken numerous initiatives, including the development of a five-year strategic plan that targets support to arts education, services for young people, cultural heritage, community partnerships, and expanded access to the arts. He also has worked to extend NEA support to states that previously have been underrepresented in NEA grant awards. During Ivey’s tenure, the NEA received its first budget increase since 1992. Ivey, the first NEA chair to have developed and run a nonprofit cultural organization, served on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and was a major contributor to the committee’s report “Creative America,” an analysis of American cultural life. He earned a B.A. degree in history from the U-M in 1966 and an M.A. degree in folklore and ethnomusicology from Indiana University in 1969. He was a senior research fellow at the Institute for Studies in American Music of Brooklyn College and also taught at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. Ivey was a long-time trustee of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and served two terms as the academy’s chair.


Davidson, who earned a B.B.A. degree from the U-M in 1947 and a J.D. degree from Wayne State University in 1949, is a prominent philanthropist, industrialist and entrepreneur. In addition to heading one of the world’s largest flat glass companies, Davidson is the managing partner of the Detroit Pistons Basketball Club and majority owner of Palace Sports and Entertainment. In 1992, Davidson made the largest gift ever to any business school, public or private, to create the William Davidson Institute at the U-M Business School. The Institute is a leading center of education, student development and research on the subject of emerging market economies.

Recognized by The American Benefactor magazine as one of the nation’s 100 most generous Americans, Davidson endowed the Davidson Institute of Science Education at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Davidson’s other philanthropic interests include endowing the Davidson Graduate School at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City and the visitors center and archeological restoration of a Second Temple Period Park as part of the Jerusalem Archeological Park in Israel. He also serves as founding chairman of the Pistons-Palace Foundation, and he was the driving force behind the Partnership to Adopt and Renovate Parks for Kids (PARK) Program, which renovated parks in Detroit and helped establish programming at these parks.


Ginsburg, who has served on the Supreme Court since 1993, earned a B.A. degree from Cornell University in 1954, attended Harvard Law School, and earned a law degree from Columbia Law School in 1959. After serving as a law clerk, she taught at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963 to 1972 and became Columbia Law School’s first woman tenured professor in 1972. As founding counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project, Ginsburg argued a series of cases solidifying a constitutional principle against gender-based discrimination. While a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1980 to 1993, and a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, she wrote more than 450 opinions covering some of the most important issues facing the nation, including equal educational and employment opportunity rights, voting rights and affirmative action. Ginsburg is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Michnik, a leader of Poland’s democratic opposition to communist rule whose activism on behalf of human rights has extended throughout the world after communism’s collapse, also helped launch what has become one of Eastern Europe’s most respected dailies, Gazeta Wyborcza, in 1989 and continues to serve as its editor-in-chief. Identified by Poland’s communist government as a dissident when he was a teen-ager, Michnik was suspended from the University of Warsaw numerous times for participating in anti-government discussions. In 1976, he wrote “A New Evolutionism,” in which he set out his basic philosophy for change in Poland, urging intellectuals and workers to join together, ally with the Roman Catholic Church, and challenge the government to permit basic human rights and independent institutions. This and other essays formed the intellectual framework for the Solidarity movement. Imprisoned several times in the 1970s and 1980s, he was released in 1986 and participated in negotiations between the government and Solidarity that led to free elections and dismantling of the totalitarian system. He has received numerous awards recognizing his eloquent advocacy of democracy and press freedom, including the French PEN Club Freedom Award in 1982 and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1986.

RegentsWilliam Davidsonmain addressAmerican Academy of Arts and LettersAmerican Academy of Arts and SciencesWilliam Davidson Institute