Commencement speaker, honorary degree recipients announced

April 5, 2019

Deborah Lipstadt MA ’72, PhD ’76, will deliver the commencement address at Brandeis’ 68th commencement ceremony, according to an email from President Ron Liebowitz. Lipstadt, Rivka Carmi, Jon Landau ’68, Cixin Liu, Barbara Mandel P’73, Perry Traquina ’78 and Susan Windham-Bannister PhD ’77 will all be receiving honorary degrees from the university during commencement.

“Our honorary degree recipients have all distinguished themselves through their lifetimes of groundbreaking achievements,” said Liebowitz in the email. “Their accomplishments stretch across the academy, the arts and sciences, and the business world, providing sources of inspiration for all our degree recipients.”

Lipstadt was the 100th individual to receive a PhD from Brandeis and is one of the most well-known historians of the Holocaust, according to the email. She will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree from Brandeis, according to a BrandeisNOW article.

Lipstadt is currently the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and is the author of “History on Trial,” which was published in 2005.

“She chronicled the London courtroom battle that erupted when English author David Irving filed a libel suit against her in the United Kingdom for having called him a Holocaust denier,” according to the BrandeisNOW article. Her book was adapted into the critically acclaimed 2016 feature film “Denial,” starring Rachel Weisz.

Her most recent book, “Antisemitism: Here and Now,” published in early 2019, “continues to warn the world about the ever-present danger of antisemitic hatred and violence,” according to the BrandeisNOW article.

Lipstadt was the founder and first director of the Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory. She was a historical consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and helped to design the part of the museum that focused on the American response to the Holocaust. She was also given the Albert D. Chernin Award, the highest honor given out by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Carmi, who will receive a Doctor of Science honorary degree, was the first woman to serve as president of an Israeli university at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in Negev from 2006-2018, according to the Brandeis website. She graduated from Hadassah Medical School of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a pediatrician, neonatologist and medical geneticist.

Carmi was previously the Kreitman Foundation Chair in Pediatric Genetics at BGU, according to the Brandeis website, and has published more than 150 works on medical genetics, as well as helped to identify 12 genes and describe three syndromes, one of which is named after herself.

Carmi also served as director of the Genetics Institute at Soroka University Medical Center, an affiliated teaching hospital with BGU and the chair of Israel’s Association of University Heads, where she advocated for the “advancement of women in medicine and academia,” according to the Brandeis website. She was also made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, an honor bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II.

Landau was a history major at Brandeis and wrote music reviews for the Justice as well as national publications like Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone while he was an undergraduate. He will receive a Doctor of Music honorary degree. After graduating from Brandeis, he was named editor of Rolling Stone’s album review section.

He also helped rock and roll star Bruce Springsteen’s rise to fame by developing a creative and business partnership with Springsteen and becoming his manager, according to the Brandeis website.

Landau has been Springsteen’s manager for 40 years and is the chair of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee. He also created the Jonathan Landau ’68 Endowed Scholarship in 1997 to help fine arts majors at Brandeis.

Liu, who will receive a Doctor of Arts honorary degree, is a science fiction writer who has written seven novels and numerous short stories. He was also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, China’s most prestigious literary science-fiction award, according to the Brandeis website.

“The Three-Body Problem” (2007), Liu’s most famous work, talks about an alien civilization that attempts to invade Earth to save itself from extinction. The book begins in the 1970s during the Cultural Revolution in China.

Critics of Liu’s works say that it measures “the limits of human understanding,” according to the Brandeis website. “Though we are compelled to attempt to scale the highest peaks, Liu writes, ‘we are all always at the foot,’ because the universe’s mysteries will remain far beyond our comprehension.”

Mandel was elected to the Board of Trustees in 2005 and a vice chair of the board, co-chair of the Institutional Advancement Committee and a member of the Nominating and Governance, and Coordination committees. She will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree.

Mandel was also the president of the American Friends of the Hebrew University and the national vice president of the National Women’s Division of United Jewish Appeal. Mandel received the Hannah G. Solomon Award from the National Council of Jewish Women and has been inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame.

Mandel and her husband, Morton Mandel, donated a gift to Brandeis that helped to build the Mandel Center for the Humanities. The Mandel Center auditorium is dedicated in her honor.

Traquina, who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree, is a retired chairman and CEO of Wellington Management Company. The company is an investment management firm, which manages more than $900 billion in client assets, according to the Brandeis website. He is also a corporate director on the board of eBay, Morgan Stanley and Allstate.

He has served on the Board of Trustees since 2002 and is currently the chair of the Investment Committee and a member of the Resources Committee. Traquina studied economics and American studies while at Brandeis, graduating summa cum laude, and was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Windham-Bannister is an internationally recognized expert in “innovation, market access and market optimization strategies,” according to the Brandeis website, and will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree. She is a managing partner of Biomedical Innovation Advisors, a company she founded with Harvey Lodish. She also serves as president and CEO of Biomedical Growth Strategies.

She was also the president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for seven years, which is a “state-funded investment organization charged with administering a $1 billion life science-focused innovation fund created by Gov. Deval Patrick,” according to the Brandeis website. Windham-Bannister is also the first African American to lead a large scale life sciences innovation fund.

Windham-Bannister was named one of the 10 Most Influential Women in Biotech by The Boston Globe and one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Boston by Boston Magazine.

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