Eric Carle
Eric Carle receives an honorary degree from President Biddy Martin on May 24, 2015

Doctor of Humane Letters

Eric Carle is an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s picture books. Since 1967, when his collage-like images appeared in Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Carle has illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also wrote. His distinctive artwork and engaging themes have helped to sell 128 million copies of his books, which have been published in more than 60 languages. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, perhaps his most famous story, has sold 38 million copies worldwide since it was first published in 1969.

Born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1929, Carle moved to Germany with his parents at age 6. He speaks of painful memories of growing up during World War II and how his colorful illustrations are a kind of “antidote to the grays and browns” of his childhood.

Following the war, he planned his much-anticipated return to America and arrived in New York City in 1952 with just $40 in his pocket. With a portfolio he had assembled in Germany, Carle found work as a graphic designer in the promotion department of The New York Times. Later, he became the art director at an advertising agency. Friend and author Bill Martin Jr. took note of a lobster Carle had painted for an antihistamine ad and approached him about collaborating on a children’s book. Brown Bear was the result.

In 2002, Carle, along with wife Bobbie, founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. The 44,000-square-foot space includes an art studio, theater and library, in addition to galleries displaying Carle’s work along with that of other illustrators. The museum has welcomed more than 500,000 visitors. Among Carle’s many honors are the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association and the Original Art Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Illustrators.


audio Hear talks given by the honorary degree recipients over Commencement Weekend.