COH to Award Honorary Doctorate to Dr. Mae C. Jemison

May 8th, 2019

Dr. Mae C. Jemison, keynote speaker at the UA’s 155th Commencement on May 10, will be presented with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by the College of Humanities.

Jemison, an engineer, physician, entrepreneur, educator and the first woman of color to travel into space, was nominated by Praise Zenenga, Director of the Africana Studies Program, and College of Humanities Dean Alain-Philippe Durand, with full support of COH faculty.

Jemison, who graduated from Stanford in 1977 with dual degrees in Chemical Engineering and African and Afro American Studies, “represents what our Africana Studies Program aspires for: a marriage of the STEM fields and humanities disciplines,” wrote Zenenga in his nominating letter.

Honoring Jemison “will not only help inspire and retain students of color at the University of Arizona, but will also validate and legitimize the interdisciplinary training and career choices that most of our double-majors are opting for,” he wrote.

“As a scientist, Dr. Jemison’s unparalleled understanding of the human condition and human institutions, together with her bilingualism, empathy, and emotional intelligence, can doubtlessly be attributed to her humanities and artistic background.”

Jemison’s education, career and interests perfectly embody and align with the UA College of Humanities’ vision, teaching, and objectives, Durand wrote.

“As a successful physician and later astronaut, Dr. Jemison had to know how to use a variety of high-tech equipment and tools, but most importantly, she also had to know how to face and adapt quickly to the unknown and the unexpected, and manage emotions and intense situations; she had to think critically and creatively; and she had to adapt and work with very different people,” Durand wrote.

Jemison is the first recipient of a College of Humanities honorary degree since 2010, when Bob Woodruff, ABC reporter, author and head injury advocate, and his wife Lee were presented with Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. Other past College of Humanities honorary doctorate recipients include entrepreneur and philanthropist Cele Peterson in 2009 and global education and cultural exchange leader Lin Xu in 2008.