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March 18, 2004

"Dean" of automotive journalists to address U-M commencement

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—David E. Davis Jr., founder and editor emeritus of Automobile Magazine, dubbed the "dean of America's automotive critics" by Time Magazine, will give the main address and receive an honorary degree at the University of Michigan's Spring Commencement May 1 in Michigan Stadium.

Honorary degrees for Davis and five additional recipients were approved by the U-M Board of Regents at its March 18 meeting. Commencement begins at 10 a.m.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman said she is delighted that Davis has agreed to deliver the commencement address.

"The automobile has been such a defining characteristic of life in America and in the state of Michigan, and we're very pleased to be able to recognize an individual whose work has been so influential in the culture of the automobile. His career is emblematic of how one creative, insightful writer can help shape an entire industry, and more," she said.

The honorary degrees to be conferred, including four to U-M alumni, are: Davis, doctor of humane letters; Daniel Aaron '33, professor emeritus of American literature at Harvard University, and founder and director of the Library of America series, doctor of humane letters; Julius Chambers '59, director of the Civil Rights Center of the University of North Carolina Law School, doctor of laws; William Nelson Joy '75, internet pioneer and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, doctor of engineering; Helmut Stern, industrialist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and humanitarian, doctor of laws; and Karen Uhlenbeck '64, the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents' Chair in Mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, doctor of science.

Chambers will be the main speaker for the University Graduate Exercises to be held at Hill Auditorium at 3 p.m. April 30.

Rachel Fisher, a senior honors student in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, has been chosen as the student speaker for the commencement. Fisher was selected by a committee of students and faculty members from a group of candidates who submitted their speeches in writing and on audio cassette.

David E. Davis Jr.

Besides founding and editing Automobile Magazine, Davis is also past editor of Car and Driver and Motor Trend, and he held executive positions at Road & Track, all car enthusiast publications. Known widely as David E., he began his career as a race car driver but made his mark as an automotive journalist. For six decades he has been, says fellow journalist David Halberstam, "the most important and authentic voice of one of America's great industries—alternately enthusiast, scold, nag, and lover, depending more on the performance of the industry itself than the whim and mood of the writer. . . a great, uniquely American voice for a great, uniquely American industry."  

In 1998, Davis received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Automotive Media Awards. His writing about automobiles, their history, culture and place in our society has appeared in Forbes, Newsday, Outdoor Life and The Washington Post. In "Thus Spake David E.," published in 1999, he offered a collection of some of his columns as chief editor of Car and Driver and Automobile magazines.

Davis serves on the board of directors of U-M's Knight-Wallace Fellows Program. In that position he has made major contributions to the quality of the program, helping with the annual selection process of fellows and garnering financial support.

Julius Chambers

Chambers founded North Carolina's first integrated law firm. He worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund on an array of desegregation and equal employment opportunity cases throughout the state, winning several landmark civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Most prominent among those cases was Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education, upholding busing as a remedy for segregation. He was national director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund in New York from 1984 to 1993. During his years of work with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Chambers faced numerous threats to his life: his car was dynamited while he spoke in a church, his law office was firebombed, and his home hit by a predawn explosion.  

Chambers returned to North Carolina in 1993 to become chancellor of North Carolina Central University, his alma mater. He retired from that position in 2001 and is now director of the University of North Carolina law school's Civil Rights Center.

After graduating summa cum laude from North Carolina Central, Chambers earned a Master of Arts degree in history from U-M, a J.D. degree with high honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an LL.M. degree from Columbia University School of Law.

Daniel Aaron

Aaron may be the most eminent living critic of American literature and culture. He is the author of many articles and books, including, Men of Good Hope: A Story of American Progressives, The Unwritten War: Writers of the Civil War and, with Richard Hofstadter and William Miller, The Structure of American History, all books that have appeared in numerous editions.  

After graduating in 1933 with a Bachelor of Arts degree from U-M, Aaron received a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He began his career at Smith College, where he was on the faculty from 1939 to 1971. He became professor of English at Harvard University in 1971 and from 1975 to 1983 he held the Victor S. Thomas Chair in English and American Literature at Harvard. Along with Alfred Kazin and Irving Howe, Aaron is a founder of the field of American Studies. His surveys of American history and literature—and the interplay between the two—have helped shape two generations of scholarship.  

Aaron is a founder of the Library of America series, and has served for many years as its president and director, helping to make American literary works available to a wide audience. The Library of America has published 125 authoritative editions of works by American authors, publications that have been called national treasures.

William Nelson Joy

One of the computer industry's most respected and ingenious technologists, Business Week has called Joy "the Edison of the Internet" and Fortune magazine termed him "the Merlin of the computer industry." He co-founded Sun Microsystems in 1982, and designed Sun's Network File System.

Joy also initiated the Jini project, a revolutionary interconnection technology for networked computers. In September 2003, he stepped down as chief scientist of the company and is pursuing a career of independent commentary on the development of digital technologies and their impact on society.

After earning a Bachelor of Science and Engineering degree in computer engineering, magna cum laude, from U-M in 1975, Joy earned a master's in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California-Berkeley. While there, he was the principal designer of Berkeley UNIX, which became the operating system standard for education and research and a foundation for the Internet.

In 1997, President Clinton appointed Joy co-chair of the Presidential Information Technology Advisory Committee. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. In 2000, he received the U-M College of Engineering's Alumni Society Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the College's Alumni Society Board of Governors.

Helmut Stern

A refugee from Nazi Germany who became a highly successful businessman in his adopted country, Stern is president of Arcanum Corp., a company that conducts carbon research in an effort to clean the environment and allow the country to become more energy independent. He is also president of the Helmut Stern Foundation, which has made grants to a number of organizations in Michigan. He has long been active in many civic and community organizations.

Stern is fluent in French, Italian, and Spanish, as well as German and English, and he has a highly cultivated mind. He is a serious collector of art and has a world-class collection of African art. His deep love of the humanities and the arts has long been evident in the effort he has given to promoting their study on campus as well as in his munificent gifts. He has long supported many units of the University, including the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies; School of Music; Institute for the Humanities; Medical School; Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; Kellogg Eye Center; and Museum of Art. He has also served on many University committees, including as a charter member of the Visiting Committee for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and committees for the Institute for the Humanities, Ford School of Public Policy and Medical School.

Karen Uhlenbeck

One of the world's foremost researchers on non-linear differential equations and their geometric properties, Uhlenbeck is widely acclaimed as a talented and creative mathematician, as well as someone who has made a serious commitment to young women mathematicians. While a visiting professor at Princeton from 97-98, she was a founder of the Park City Mathematics Institute for Advanced Study, where she still conducts the mentoring program for women there each year.

After graduating from U-M in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics, Uhlenbeck attended the Courant Institute in New York. She earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in 1966 and 1968, respectively from Brandeis University. Before going to the University of Texas, she taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Illinois, Chicago.  

Uhlenbeck has made pioneering contributions in mathematical physics and the theory of partial differential equations. She is also recognized as an expert in theoretical physics. In 1982, she received a MacArthur Fellowship, and in 1985 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1986, she became the first woman mathematician to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In 2000, she received a National Medal of Science for "special recognition by reason of [her] outstanding contributions to knowledge" in mathematics.  

Contact: Joel Seguine,
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