2021 Honorary Degree Recipients
Ellen Gordon '65
Gordon received a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree for her pioneering achievements in the world of business and her dedication to a number of philanthropic causes, including education, healthcare and human services. She is a founding member, former chair and president of the Committee of 200, an organization bringing together the world’s most successful women in business. She accumulated her wealth through her instrumental role in building Tootsie Roll Industries into the enormous, New York Stock Exchange-listed company that it is today. She took over the position of CEO at Tootsie Roll Industries after her husband’s death in 2015. Gordon has also served on numerous company and university boards.
Herman Hemingway '53
The late Hemingway, who passed away in December 2020, was the first Black man to graduate from Brandeis. As a lawyer and public defender, he dedicated his life to social justice by advocating for the poor and fighting racial bigotry, earning him a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree. He served as acting administrator of the Boston Housing Authority under Mayor Kevin White’s administration and was instrumental in forming the Boston Human Rights Commission and the Boston Housing Court.
Schusterman received a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree. She is the co-founder and chair emerita of Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, an organization based in the United States and Israel. For 34 years, Schusterman Family Philanthropies has tackled systemic issues and provided invaluable support to Jewish communities in both countries. At Brandeis, she founded the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and served on the University’s Board of Trustees. In 2011, she joined Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and other philanthropists in signing the Giving Pledge, committing the majority of her wealth to philanthropy.
Stevenson is the recipient of a Doctor of Laws honorary degree for his work defending poor and incarcerated individuals as a public interest lawyer. He is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which has helped overturn major legal issues such as excessive and unfair sentencing practices. His work was essential in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2012 that mandatory life sentences without parole for children under 17 were unconstitutional. In 2018, he helped create the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which connect the legacy of slavery, lynching and racial segregation to the contemporary issues of mass incarceration and racism. He is the author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” which was made into a film in 2019.
Robert Zimmer ’68
Zimmer, a mathematician, received a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree due to his advocacy for free speech on college campuses. In 2006, he became president of the University of Chicago and pioneered the Chicago Principles in 2014, which have become a national model for promoting free speech in educational settings and beyond. He was awarded the Philip Merrill award in 2017 for his work in supporting free expression. As a mathematician, Zimmer is a prolific author, writing numerous books and papers on differential geometry, ergodic theory and other topics in mathematics. He is also the chair of multiple science boards, including the Argonne National Laboratory and the Fermi Research Alliance LLC.