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March 17, 2005


Information technology visionary to address U-M commencement

Video from commencement

Transcript of Brown's prepared remarks

Transcript of "Bo" Schembechler's prepared remarks

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—John Seely Brown, former chief scientist of Xerox Corp. and director of its Palo Alto Research Center, and a leading contemporary thinker on the influence of technology on modern life, will give the main address and receive an honorary degree at the University of Michigan's Spring Commencement 10 a.m. April 30 in Michigan Stadium.

Honorary degrees for Brown and five other recipients were approved by the U-M Board of Regents at its March 17 meeting.

"John Seely Brown combines visionary thinking with a clear-eyed understanding of how science affects people in everyday life," said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. "His ground-breaking work in applying information technology to higher education is a great gift to the academy. It is with gratitude and pride that we recognize this celebrated U-M alumnus with an honorary degree."

The honorary degrees to be conferred are: Brown, doctor of science; Henry W. Bloch, founder of H&R Block, also a U-M alumnus, doctor of laws; physicist Mildred Dresselhaus, Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, doctor of science; Bruce S. McEwen, the Alfred E. Mirsky Professor and head of the Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at The Rockefeller University, doctor of science; Margaret Ann (Ranny) Riecker, philanthropist and longtime supporter of higher education and the education of women, doctor of laws; and Glenn E. "Bo" Schembechler, former U-M football coach, doctor of laws.

Dresselhaus will be the main speaker at the University Graduate Exercises to be held in Hill Auditorium at 1 p.m. April 29.

John Seely Brown

John Seely Brown served as chief scientist for Xerox Corp. from 1992-2002 and headed the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) from 1990-2000. Brown—or JSB, as he is widely known—joined PARC in 1978. His work expanded the role of corporate research to include topics such as organizational learning and nanotechnology. In 1984, he became director of PARC's Intelligent Systems Laboratory, which worked on developing artificial intelligence programming. He is a visiting scholar at the Annenberg Center and Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California.

Brown showed early interest in computers, starting with the IBM 650, one of the first computers built for commercial use, while still in high school. He received a B.A. in mathematics and physics from Brown University in 1962, an M.S. in mathematics from U-M in 1964 and a Ph.D. in computer and communication science from U-M in 1970. He is a member of the National Academy of Education and a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also serves as a trustee of Brown University and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Brown is a co-founder of the Institute for Research and Learning, a non-profit institute for addressing the problems of life-long learning. With Paul Duguid, he co-authored the widely acclaimed book, "The Social Life of Information," published in 2000 and translated into nine languages. He was the executive producer of the film, "Art · Lunch · Internet · Dinner," which won the Bronze Medal at Worldfest 1994, the Charleston International Film Festival. During the past year he has co-authored two books, "Storytelling in Organizations" and, with John Hagel, "The Only Sustainable Edge."

Mildred Dresselhaus

A leader in carbon research for 40 years, Mildred Dresselhaus's physics research has seen many breakthroughs in the physics of solids. One of 12 active Institute Professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, over the past decade she has focused on understanding the fundamental science of carbon nanotubes, which have potential for applications in flat-panel displays, drug delivery and electronic devices. She is past director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.   She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 1951, a time when the field had few women, Dresselhaus graduated with a physics degree from Hunter College. After a year at the University of Cambridge on a Fulbright fellowship, she received a master's degree from Harvard University. She completed her Ph.D. in physics at the University of Chicago, where she took classes and interacted with Enrico Fermi. In 1990 she was awarded the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest honor for science.

Dresselhaus also has been a leader in the advancement of science education, especially for women. Having struggled herself with balancing work and home life, she became an advocate for women scientists. She was appointed first chair of the Committee on the Education and Employment of Women in Science and Engineering of the National Research Council, due in part to her past leadership in finding solutions faced by women students and faculty in academia.  

Henry W. Bloch

Shortly after World War II, Henry Bloch and his older brother Leon started the United Business Company in Kansas City, Missouri, offering bookkeeping and tax services. When Leon left to practice law, Henry and his younger brother Richard continued the business. In 1955, the IRS in Kansas City discontinued its free tax preparation assistance service. The company seized this opportunity to focus solely on tax preparation and was renamed H&R Block, Inc.

The company's rapid growth in the early 1960s left it with a shortage of qualified personnel, leading to the founding of H&R Block's Tax Training Schools in 1966. The schools currently train over 200,000 people annually and are one of the country's largest adult education programs.

H&R Block today has a network of more than 11,000 tax offices located primarily in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, making it the sixth largest retailer in the world. In 2004, the company served more than 21 million clients. In recent years, H&R Block began offering additional financial services and is now a diversified company with subsidiaries that deliver tax services and financial advice, investment and mortgage products and services, and business accounting and consulting services.

Bloch began his college career at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and later transferred to the University of Michigan, from which he graduated in 1944 with a B.S. in mathematics. In 1995 Bloch made a gift to the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts to support innovative curricular revisions incorporating elements of the arts into course offerings.  

Bloch chairs the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, and serves on the board of directors of the Harry S. Truman Library. He also has served as the vice chairman of the Corporate Fund of the Kennedy Center.

Bruce S. McEwen

The studies by Bruce McEwen and his research team at Rockefeller University's Harold & Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory continue to elucidate the impact of stress on brain structure and neurochemistry, as well as to define sex differences in the brain.

His laboratory combines molecular, anatomical, pharmacological, physiological and behavioral methodologies and relates their findings to human clinical information. Commenting on his 2002 article, "The Neurobiology of Stress: From Serendipity to Clinical Relevance," McEwen said that there is an inevitable price for being alive and we can make choices that help us minimize stress. "We can never eliminate it! Choices include the things that make sense, like eating sensibly, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and having a break from work. These are things that our mothers and grandmothers tried to teach us, but they make even more sense when they are based upon an increasing understanding of mechanisms of adaptation and damage," he said.

McEwen received his A.B. from Oberlin College in chemistry, summa cum laude, and his Ph.D. from The Rockefeller University in cell biology, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Neurobiology in Goteborg, Sweden. Past president of the International Society of Neuroendocrinology, McEwen is currently past-president of the Society for Neuroscience. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the New York Academy of Sciences.

He is co-author with Harold M. Schmeck Jr. of "The Hostage Brain"(1994) and is also co-author with science writer Elizabeth Lasley of the book "The End of Stress as We Know It" (2002).

The son of U-M English professor George McEwen, Bruce McEwen grew up in Ann Arbor and graduated from University High School. He continues to serve as a scientific adviser to the U-M Mental Health Research Institute.

Margaret Ann (Ranny) Riecker

Perhaps best known for her foundation work, Margaret Ann (Ranny) Riecker has been for more than 40 years a trustee of both the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation (formed by her parents) and the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. She has worked toward improving the work of foundations, especially family foundations, in Michigan through the Council of Michigan Foundations, and nationwide through the Council on Foundations.

Riecker's support of education is visible on many levels. At the University of Michigan, she has held key leadership positions for major fund-raising campaigns. She was co-chair of the steering committee of the $1 billion Campaign for Michigan (1990-97). She is honorary co-chair with her husband John of The Michigan Difference, a $2.5 billion campaign. She also serves on the Leadership Council of the Center for the Education of Women. Elsewhere, she has been a trustee of both Carleton College (her alma mater) and Central Michigan University.

"Ranny Riecker is deeply committed to improving her community and its institutions—including the University of Michigan," said Rebecca Blank, dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at U-M. "She has been an invaluable source of advice and wisdom to me. She's a tireless volunteer; she co-chaired our fundraising committee for a new building and I literally couldn't have done this without her."

Riecker is also committed to supporting students, especially women, encouraging them to be involved in research. Her gifts to the U-M have supported the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and the Center for the Education of Women (CEW) for research assistance positions for undergraduates working at the Center.  

Glenn E. "Bo" Schembechler

Bo Schembechler served as the head football coach of the Michigan Wolverines for 21 years and served as athletic director from 1988 to 1990. He has won more football games than any other head football coach in Michigan history. His overall coaching record in 27 seasons (including six at Miami University) was 234-65-8. Schembechler never had a losing season, and at his retirement he ranked as the winningest active football coach in NCAA Division I.

Schembechler built a legendary football program founded on teamwork and absolute integrity, values that continue to mark the program today. His coaching record at Michigan was 194-48-5 with 13 Big Ten championships. The connections his teams built with alumni have helped strengthen the University's own ties with its graduates.

Schembechler earned his bachelor's degree in education from Miami University of Ohio, where he also lettered in football and baseball. He received his master's degree from Ohio State in 1952, while working as a graduate assistant coach under Woody Hayes. He later served five seasons as an assistant coach to Hayes before accepting the head-coaching job at Miami of Ohio in 1963. Schembechler won two Mid-American Conference championships in his six years at Miami before moving to Michigan in 1969.

Schembechler was inducted into the Miami University Hall of Fame in 1972, the State of Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, and the University of Michigan Hall of Honor in 1992. In 1993, he was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame.


Contact: Joel Seguine
Phone: (734) 936-6396