U.S. Senator Cory Booker to Speak at Penn’s 261st Commencement

Cory A. Booker, United States Senator from New Jersey, will deliver the address at the 2017 University of Pennsylvania Commencement on Monday, May 15.

The announcement was made today by Vice President and University Secretary, Leslie Laird Kruhly.

“We are honored to bestow our highest degree on Senator Cory Booker and have him address our graduates at Penn’s 261st Commencement,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “Senator Booker is a passionate champion of democracy and social justice. During his four-year service in the Senate he has repeatedly reached across the aisle and been a leader on issues such as criminal justice reform, providing support and resources for local law enforcement, comprehensive immigration reform, and fostering economic opportunity. His public service as a senator, as a former Newark, N.J., mayor and city councilperson and as a citizen, embodies Penn’s fundamental values of civic engagement, applying one’s intellect and energy to better the world.”

Booker earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and also played varsity football there. As a Rhodes Scholar, he received a further graduate degree from the University of Oxford, Queen’s College. After earning his J.D. from Yale Law in 1997, he moved to Newark, where he still lives, and started a nonprofit organization to provide legal services for low-income families and tenants seeking to improve living conditions. In 1998, at the age of 29, he sought and won election to the Newark City Council. In 2006, he was elected the mayor. During his seven-year tenure, the city saw economic growth unmatched in decades and a significant decline in overall crime.

Booker is the author of United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good. He currently serves on the Senate's committees on Commerce, Science and Transportation; Small Business and Entrepreneurship; Environment and Public Works; and Foreign Relations.

At the Commencement ceremony, Senator Booker will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. Other 2017 Penn honorary degree recipients will be Isabel Allende, Clara Franzini-Armstrong, Terry Gross, Ada Sue Hinshaw, Robert Parris Moses and Paul Muldoon.

“We are delighted to announce Senator Cory Booker as our Commencement speaker and all of our extraordinary class of honorees. Through their works of outstanding citizenship and public service, discovery and creativity, our honorees exemplify the very highest levels of achievement,” said Andrea Mitchell, Penn trustee and chair of the Trustee Honorary Degrees Committee. “We are privileged to be able to honor them with the Class of 2017.”

Isabel Allende is an award-winning, Chilean-American author, journalist and human rights advocate. In 1982 at the age of 40, her bestselling first novel, The House of the Spirits, established her as a feminist force in Latin America’s literary world. Allende, who emigrated to the United States in 1987, has written more than 20 works of fiction and nonfiction, many of which have been adapted for film, theater, opera and ballet, including Of Love and Shadows, Maya’s Notebook, Ripper and The Japanese Lover. In 1995, following the death of her daughter, Paula, she created the Isabel Allende Foundation, working on behalf of vulnerable women and girls worldwide. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, and is a member of the U.S. Academy of Arts and Letters.  She will be awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. 

Clara Franzini-Armstrong is professor emerita of cell and developmental biology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. A pathbreaking scientist and educator for over 50 years, she is recognized as the world’s leading electron microscopist, making seminal contributions to the understanding of muscle biology, particularly the structural basis of excitation-contraction coupling. She has been a leading influence in promoting a culture empowering women in and in the field of cell biology. A native of Florence, Franzini-Armstrong held positions at Duke University and the University of Rochester before coming to Penn in 1975. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the European Academy of Sciences, and a foreign member of the Royal Society of London and Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei of Rome. She will be awarded an honorary doctor of sciences degree.

​​​​​​​Terry Gross is the host and an executive producer of one of public radio’s most popular programs “Fresh Air,” the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues. She joined Philadelphia’s WHYY-FM as the producer and host of “Fresh Air” in 1975. Each week, the program, which has been distributed nationally by National Public Radio since 1985, reaches over five and a half million listeners over 624 NPR stations across the country and Europe. Gross is widely regarded for her insightful, in-depth interviews and has received many awards for her work. She is also the author of All I Did Was Ask: Conversations With Writers, Actors, Musicians and Artists. President Obama presented Gross with a 2015 National Humanities Medal in recognition of her “artful probing of the human experience.” She will be awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. 

Nursing research pioneer Ada Sue Hinshaw, with a career that spans over 50 years, is known as one of her field’s most impactful leaders. Named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing in 2011, she is Dean Emerita of the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences as well as the University of Michigan’s School of Nursing. Her research on quality of care, patient outcomes and positive nursing work environments has led to fundamental policy improvements in the field. The first permanent director of the National Center of Nursing Research and the first director of the National Institute of Nursing Research at NIH, Hinshaw was instrumental in establishing dedicated nursing research funding in the U.S. In 2008, she left retirement to head USU’s Graduate School of Nursing, launching the Faye Glenn Abdellah Center for Military and Federal Health Care Research, supporting research and evidence-based practices for the care of the deployed, the wounded and their families. She will be receiving an honorary doctor of sciences degree.

MacArthur Fellow, educator and civil rights activist Robert Parris Moses is president and founder of the Algebra Project, Inc., which prepares high school students who underperform on standardized exams, to graduate ready to take on college mathematics. Moses received an M.A. in philosophy from Harvard University in 1957. He directed the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s Mississippi Voter Registration Project from 1961-64 and was instrumental in organizing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964. Moses co-authored Radical Equations—Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project. He has lectured and taught at the NYU School of Law, Cornell University and Princeton University, and he has served on the Education Advisory Committee of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute since 2004. He will be awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

A native of County Armagh, Northern Ireland, poet, professor and critic Paul Muldoon has been described as "one of the great poets of the past 100 years.” He is the Howard G. B. Clark '21 Professor and Founding Chair of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University. He has also been the poetry editor of The New Yorker since 2007. A former radio and television producer for the BBC in Belfast, Muldoon served as Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, where he is an honorary Fellow of Hertford College. His first book, New Weather, was published when he was just 21 and a student at Queen’s University, Belfast. Today, he is the author of twelve major collections of poetry, including Gravel, for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, 2015’s “One Thousand Things Worth Knowing,” as well as “Maggot,” “Horse Latitudes,” “Hay” and “Quoof.” He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Muldoon will be awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters. 

Senator Cory Booker