Gates, Summers To Receive Honorary Degrees


The University will confer honorary degrees today on 10 people, including professors, philosophers, a basketball player, and one drop-out billionaire.

The recipients include Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, a drop-out of Harvard College; former University President Lawrence H. Summers; former Harvard Corporation member Conrad K. Harper; Harvard history professor Daniel Aaron; British astronomer S. Jocelyn Bell Burnell; philosopher Richard M. Rorty; Celtics star center Bill Russell; gender historian Joan W. Scott; New York Review of Books founding editor Robert B. Silvers; and University of Texas mathematician Karen K. Uhlenbeck. [CORRECTION APPENDED]

Gates will receive an honorary degree—his first from the University since leaving Harvard to start a small computer company in 1975.

Perhaps the most interesting pair receiving degrees is Summers and Harper.

Harper, the Corporation’s first African-American member and a prominent lawyer, served as a catalyst in the downfall of the president he helped select in 2001.

Four years into Summers’s term, Harper resigned from Harvard’s governing board to protest an increase in Summers’ salary.

After professors at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences declared their lack of confidence in the embattled Mass. Hall chief, Harper wrote in an letter to Summers, “In my judgment, your 2004-2005 conduct, implicating, as it does, profound issues of temperament and judgment, merits no increase whatever.”

This morning the two will share the same stage in Tercentenary Theatre.

—Staff writer Samuel P. Jacobs can be reached

CORRECTION: The June 6 article "Gates, Summers To Receive Honorary Degrees" incorrectly stated that philosopher Richard M. Rorty would receive an honorary degree from the University. In fact, Rorty was unable to travel to Cambridge to accept the award and did not receive a degree, according to a Harvard spokesman. He died on June 8 of pancreatic cancer.