Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—Amherst College will celebrate its 186th Commencement Exercises on Memorial Day Weekend. On Saturday, May 26, graduating seniors, families and guests will hear remarks by eight honorary degree recipients, including Patrick Fitzgerald ’82, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak case; Joel Klein, the chancellor of the New York City Department of Education; and investment consultant H. Axel Schupf ’57, a life trustee of the college and co-chair of The Amherst College Campaign.
These distinguished individuals will receive honorary degrees at Amherst College’s Commencement Exercises at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 27, along with Valerie B. Jarrett, one of Chicago’s leading policy makers and the managing director of The Habitat Company, a developer of residential apartments; Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson; chemist J. Peter Toennies ’52; Paul Yock ’73, the co-chair of the Stanford University department of bioengineering; and His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Zen, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong.
Patrick Fitzgerald ’82, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, was born in Brooklyn and grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood. Fitzgerald attended Our Lady Help of Christians grammar school and Regis High School, a prestigious Jesuit Catholic school in Manhattan, then received a B.A. degree in economics and mathematics from Amherst College in 1982 before receiving his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1985.
After practicing civil law, Fitzgerald was named an assistant United States attorney in New York City in 1988. He handled drug-trafficking cases and in 1993 assisted in the prosecution of Mafia figure John Gambino, a capo in the Gambino crime family. In 1994, Fitzgerald successfully prosecuted the case against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 others charged in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In 1996, Fitzgerald became the national security coordinator for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. There, he served on a team of prosecutors investigating Osama bin Laden. He also served as chief counsel in prosecutions related to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Fitzgerald was confirmed as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in 2001. Two years later he was named special counsel in the investigation into the leak of the identity of a CIA operative; Lewis Libby, a White House aide, was convicted of four charges of lying under oath in 2006.
Valerie B. Jarrett is the the president and chief executive officer of The Habitat Company, a leading developer of residential apartments and the company charged with overseeing the rebuilding of Chicago’s public housing system. Until recently she was chair of the Chicago Transit Board. One of Chicago’s biggest boosters, she is also one of the city’s key decision-makers, and one of its most important public servants.
Before joining Habitat, Jarrett worked for eight years for the city of Chicago in finance, planning and development and as an aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley. Before that, she practiced law with two private law firms, specializing in the area of commercial real estate. She chairs the Chicago Stock Exchange Board, and serves as a director of USG Corporation, Harris Insight Funds, Navigant Consulting and The Joyce Foundation. She is a member of the University of Chicago Hospitals Board of Trustees, the Executive Council of Metropolis 2020 and the Local Initiative Support Corporation Advisory Board. She also is the president of the board of the Southeast Chicago Commission. Jarrett received an A.B. degree from Stanford University and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.
The head of the largest public school system in the United States—more than 1.1 million students in more than 1,000 schools—Joel Klein is the chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. Prior to his appointment as chancellor in 2002, Klein served as assistant attorney general of the United States in charge of the Antitrust Division. He prosecuted the United States Department of Justice anti-trust case against Microsoft. Before heading up the Antitrust Division Klein was the deputy to Assistant Attorney General Anne Bingaman and worked in the White House Counsel’s office. He was in private practice for many years, specializing in appellate cases.
Klein received a B.A. degree from Columbia University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He also served as a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell.
Novelist Marilynne Robinson was born in 1947 in Sandpoint, Idaho, where she grew up and attended high school. After graduating from Brown University in 1966, she enrolled in the graduate program in English at the University of Washington. While writing her dissertation, Robinson began work on her first novel, Housekeeping (1981), which tells the haunting story of two girls growing up in mid-20th-century rural Idaho. The novel addresses themes of loss and survival, transience and coming-of-age. The book received the PEN/Hemingway award for best first novel and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. After the publication of Housekeeping, Robinson expanded an essay on the extensive environmental degradation caused by the British nuclear power industry into Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State and Nuclear Pollution (1989), a finalist for the National Book Award, and published a collection of essays titled The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought (1998). Her most recent novel, Gilead, published in 2004, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Robinson has written essays and book reviews for Harper’s, Paris Review and The New York Times Book Review. She also has served as writer-in-residence and visiting professor at colleges and universities, including Amherst College and the University of Massachusetts.
The founder in 1979 of H. A. Schupf & Company, an investment consulting firm, H. Axel Schupf ’57 received a B.A. degree in history from Amherst College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He was named to the Amherst College Board of Trustees in 1993 and served two terms, from 1993 until 2005, before he was appointed a life trustee in 2005. Co-chair (with Charles A. Lewis ’64) of The Amherst College Campaign, which raised more $270 million for the college’s most important priorities between 1996 and 2001, Schupf received the college’s Medal for Eminent Service in 1992.
In addition to his extensive service to his alma mater, Schupf has served as the president of the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital and chairman of the Jewish Museum, and as a trustee of the 92nd Street Y, the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Jewish Museum. He has served as special assistant to the mayor of New York for health, and as chair of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.
Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, chemist J. Peter Toennies ’52 is known for his pioneering work in the development of helium droplet spectroscopy, used to determine the chemical composition and physical properties of molecules, ions and atoms. Toennies earned a B.A. degree in physics at Amherst College and enrolled in a doctoral program at Brown University after spending a year at the University of Göttingen on a Fulbright scholarship between 1953 and 1954. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Brown in 1957. Toennies’s academic career began in the department of physics at the University of Bonn. In 1968 he became a scientific member of the Max Planck Society and the director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Srömungsforschung in Göttingen. He served in these roles until 1998, when he became emeritus scientific member of the Max Planck Society. In 1971 he accepted appointments as associate professor of physics at the University of Göttingen and honorary professor of physics at the University of Bonn; he continues his work at both. Toennies also served as Visiting Miller Professor of Chemistry and Physics at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2005.
Toennies has been active in scientific organizations, including the Council of the European Physical Society, the Atomic Physics Section of the German Physical Society and the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. He is a fellow of the World Innovation Foundation and a member of the Interdisciplinary Board of the World Cultural Council. His honors include the Physics Award of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, the Hewlett-Packard Europhysics Prize and the Stern-Geriach Gold Medal—the highest distinction given by the German Physical Society for work in experimental physics. He received the Kolos Medal from the Faculty of Chemistry at Warsaw University in 2006.
The co-chair of the Stanford University department of bioengineering and director of the Stanford Program in Biodesign, Paul Yock ’73 is also the Martha Meier Weiland Professor of Medicine and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford.
A cardiologist known internationally for his work in inventing, developing and testing new devices, including the dominant angioplasty system, Yock also invented a Doppler-guided hypodermic needle system. Yock directs the Center for Research in Cardiovascular Interventions, a Stanford facility that develops and tests new technologies in cardiovascular medicine. The focus of his research is intravascular ultrasound, a field in which he holds fundamental patents. He founded Cardiovascular Imaging Systems, now a division of Boston Scientific. In 1998 Yock developed a new interdepartmental and inter-school program at Stanford, the Medical Device Network (MDN), to help stimulate and guide the process of biomedical technology innovation. MDN has expanded under Yock’s leadership into a broader research and educational initiative, the Stanford Program in Biodesign. The biodesign program promotes the invention and implementation of new health technologies through interdisciplinary research and education at the frontiers of engineering and the biomedical sciences.
His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Zen, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, has traveled the long and dangerous road his church has had to follow since the triumph of the Communist Party under Mao Zedong in 1949. Born in Shanghai in 1932, Zen fled to Hong Kong after the Chinese Civil War. Zen received a licentiate in theology and a doctorate in philosophy from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome, and since 1973 he has taught in the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Hong Kong.
Zen was appointed provincial superior of the Salesians for “external” China (Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) in 1978. From 1983 to 1996, he lectured at both official and underground seminaries across China. In 1996, Zen was ordained Coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong. In 2002 he was installed as Bishop of Hong Kong.
As Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Zen took advantage of the former British colony’s extraordinary relationship with mainland China to speak out in ways largely impossible for the bishops in China. He has been a vocal opponent of the strict controls Beijing exercises over the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI recognized the staunch defense of church freedom and the courage of the Bishop of Hong Kong; the Pontiff named Zen a cardinal at his first consistory on March 24 last year.