University honors three scholars with honorary degrees

November 14, 2002

University honors three scholars with honorary degrees ANN ARBOR—Three distinguished scholars—two authors and a composer—will be awarded honorary degrees by the University of Michigan in a commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. Dec. 15 at Crisler Arena. Authors Philip Levine and Nellie Y. McKay will receive Doctorates of Humane Letters, and composer Roy Hamlin Johnson will receive a Doctorate of Music. The degrees were approved by the U-M Regents at a meeting Thursday (Nov.14). Levine, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, author and essayist is a native of Detroit. He is recognized for his devotion to exploring issues of race and class through writing. Levine has earned two National Book Awards for his poetry collections "What Work Is" (1991) and “Ashes” (1979) as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award for “Ashes” and “7 Years From Somewhere” (1979). Born in 1928 to Russian-Jewish immigrants, Levine graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. and M.A. in English literature, and then completed an M.F.A. at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He taught literature at California State University, Fresno, from 1958 to 1992, and currently, he teaches at New York University. McKay, an indelible force in shaping the discipline of African-American studies, is a teacher, author and editor known for her own research and as a master of weaving together the African-American social fabric through literature. One of her best-known works is the 2,665-page “Norton Anthology of African American Literature,” (1996) which she edited with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. She is also a prominent scholar in the works of Toni Morrison, of whom she has edited critical essays and written casebooks of her novel “Beloved.” A New York City native, McKay received her B.A. in English at Queens College of the City of New York, and her M.A. and doctorate degrees in English and American Literature at Harvard University. She taught at Simmons College in Boston for five years before joining the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she currently is the Evjue-Bascom Professor of American and African-American Literature. Johnson, America’s foremost living composer of carillon music, has been a pioneer in deriving music exclusively for the unique nature of the carillon bells. His most well-known and widely performed work, “A Carillon Book for the Liturgical Year,” is a 2 ½-hour collection of Hymn-Preludes inspired by the Chorale Preludes of J.S. Bach. His debut piece, “Summer Fanfares” (1956), was played at the dedication of the University’s Ann and Robert H. Lurie Tower Carillon in 1996. A native of Fayetteville, West Virginia, Johnson earned an Artist’s Diploma and a Doctor of Musical of Arts degree at the Eastman School of Music, and has also studied in Paris as a Fulbright Scholar. After serving as the official pianist for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and teaching piano at the University of Kansas, Lawrence for 11 years, Johnson is now a professor emeritus of piano at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The public can receive free tickets to the commencement ceremony at the will call booth inside Crisler Arena from 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Dec. 15. Graduates and candidates receive their tickets for their families and friends at ticket distribution from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 9 through Dec. 12 at the Michigan Union Pond Room. Each graduate can receive up to six tickets.