Honorary Degrees
Issue   |   Fri, 05/22/2015 - 10:55

Paul Smith ’76, Attorney

Paul Smith ’76 is a partner at Jenner & Block’s Washington, DC office and is also a member of the firm’s Litigation Department. Smith graduated from Amherst in 1976, receiving both summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors. Smith then went on to receive a law degree from Yale Law School where he also worked as the editor-in-chief for the Yale Law Journal. After school, Smith worked as the law clerk for both Judge James L. Oakes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell. Throughout his legal career, Smith argued several high-profile cases at the Supreme Court, including Lawrence v. Texas, United States v. American Library Association and Mathias v. WorldCom. Smith also received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association in 2010 as well as being named one of the “decade’s most influential lawyers.”

Smith currently serves as the co-chair of Lambda Legal’s National Board of Directors, a national organization that fights for the rights and liberties of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender Americans and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public works.

Pardis Sabeti, Biologist

Dr. Pardis Sabeti is an Iranian-American computational and evolutionary geneticist who developed a statistical method that identifies sections of the genome that have been subject to natural selection. Sabeti was born in Tehran, Iran during the Shah regime. She and her family fled the country after the Islamic revolution in 1979, finding sanctuary in Israel. After moving to Florida, Sabeti attended the Trinity Preparatory School and went on to study biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating with a bachelor degree in science in 1997. She then was named a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford where she completed her doctorate in evolutionary genetics in 2002. In 2006, Sabeti graduated summa cum laude with a Doctor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Sabeti has received a number of awards, including Smithsonian magazine’s American Inegnuity award in the Natural Sciences category in 2012. Most recently, Sabeti was named a TIME Persons of the Year for her work during the Ebola crisis. In her free time, Sabeti is the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band Thousand Days.

Eric Carle, Author & Illustrator

Eric Carle is the award-winning author and illustrator of more than 70 children’s books. He is best known for one of his earliest works, “The Hungry Caterpillar,” which sold more than 38 million copies and has been translated into 62 languages since its release in 1969. In 1929, a young Carle moved to Germany with his immigrant parents. In 1952, Carle returned to the United States and landed a job in the promotion department at The New York Times. Later, Carle became a designer at an advertisement agency, and Bill Martin Jr., a renowned author and educator, noticed one of his works. Martin asked Carle to illustrate “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?,” which remains a classic children book today. Since this early work with Martin, over 128 million copies of Carle’s books have been sold and are loved by generations of children and parents worldwide.

Alice Rivlin, Economist

Alice Rivlin is the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary later this year. Rivlin was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Bloomington, Indiana while her father worked as a professor at Indiana University. Rivlin went on to study at Bryn Mawr College where she changed her major from history to economics. She earned her bachelor’s of art in 1952, writing her thesis on the economic integration of Western Europe (afterwards, she moved to Europe to work on the Marshall Plan). Later, Rivlin served as the vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board and was the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget during Bill Clinton’s administration.

Recently, President Barack Obama named Rivlin to the Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (also known as The Simpson-Bowles Commission). She also co-chaired the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force. Currently, Rivlin is the director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution, where she is also a senior fellow in the Economics Studies Program. She is currently working as a visiting professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.

Jim Ansara ’82, Founder of Construction Firm

Jim Ansara ’82 is the founder of Shawmut Design and Construction, one of the country’s largest and most respected construction management firms. In 1982, Jim began with only a few employees while he established Shawmut as one of New England’s most successful start-up companies. Ansara specialized in developing projects with complex and difficult conditions, the types of projects most construction managers would not begin to consider. After 18 years of dedicated service to his customers and firm, Jim assumed the position of Chairman for Shawmut in 2006.

Today, Ansara continues to work closely with the Board of Directors at Shawmut while also turning his attention to philanthropy. He and his wife, Karen, helped establish the Ansara Family Fund with the mission to affect change in poverty. Since 2008, the Ansaras have worked with Partners in Health, a Boston-based international health organization that works to construct facilities in Haiti. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ansara worked to reestablish the country’s power supply and primary teaching hospital, a project that proved to be a major source of economic development in the region. In 2013, Ansara continued his work in developing countries by establishing Build Health International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building medical facilities in Haiti as well as a number of African countries.

Sonya Clark ’89, Artist & Educator

Sonya Clark ’89 is an award-winning contemporary artist and educator who is known for her use of common materials to address issues of race and class throughout history. Clark first gained recognition for her work 20 years ago during an exhibition of her acclaimed beaded headdresses and braided wig series. Since leaving Amherst, Clark’s work has been shown in six continents, all of which earn consistently favorable reviews in publications such as The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. She earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Chicago as well as a master of fine arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Throughout her career, Clark has received many awards and honors, including the United States Artists Fellowship, a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship and a Rockefeller Foundation Residency. Later, Clark received tenure with distinction as the Baldwin-Bascom Professor of Creative Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since 2006, she has been chair of the Department of Craft/Material Studies in the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University, one of the top art departments in the nation.