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Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter to speak at commencement

Jeff Unger, News Bureau
(217) 333-1085


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Barry Bearak, a New York Times reporter and a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, will speak at commencement ceremonies May 18 at the Assembly Hall in Champaign.

Bearak, who earned his master’s degree in journalism at Illinois, will receive an honorary doctoral degree, as will five other people.

Bearak’s work was cited by the Pulitzer committee for "his deeply affecting and illuminating coverage of daily life in war-torn Afghanistan" in 2001. Among his other numerous honors are a George Polk Award for foreign reporting, the first prize of the South Asian Journalist Association for outstanding story of the year and the Mike Berger Award, given by Columbia University for reporting about New York City.

While at Illinois, Bearak was the winner of the graduate fiction prize and was a contributor to the Daily Illini.

Prior to beginning work for the Times in 1996, Bearak worked for 14 years as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and six years as a reporter for the Miami Herald.

"The sheer number of Mr. Bearak’s prestigious journalism awards attests to his remarkable talent and dedication," said Ron Yates, head of the UI journalism department. "To win just one of these awards would be considered extraordinary by many journalists. To win so many of them is truly recognition of Mr. Bearak’s contributions, not only to journalism, but also to society at large."

Bearak earned his master’s at Illinois in 1975. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.

In 1980-81, Bearak was named a Fellow by the National Endowment for the Humanities at the University of Michigan, where he conducted research on developmental economics, religion and literature.

At the Illinois commencement in May, he will be awarded an honorary doctor of literature degree.

The others who will receive honorary degrees during the 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. ceremonies:

orange dot Irving Azoff, a concert promoter, personal manager, movie producer, music publisher and chief executive officer of one of the big five record companies, will receive an honorary doctor of music degree. The chairman of the Azoff Music Management Group, Azoff is the personal manager of the Eagles, whose "Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975" is the best-selling album of all time. A native of Danville, Ill., and Illinois alumnus, Azoff produced "Urban Cowboy" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and several other films. In 2000, he became co-chairman of Concerts West, a live entertainment promotion company. In 1990, Azoff founded Azoff Entertainment Co., a joint venture with Time Warner. Prior to forming Giant Records, Azoff was the chairman of the MCA Music Entertainment Group. He has been honored by the T.J. Martell Foundation and by the City of Hope – receiving their Humanitarian of the Year award and Spirit of Life Award, respectively.

orange dot Louise Bourgeois, considered "one of the 20th century’s top 25 most influential artists" (ARTNews magazine), will receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree. "There is certainly no living American woman more revered as an artist today than Louise Bourgeois," said Jonathan Fineberg, a professor of art and design at Illinois. "She is in nearly every important museum of modern art in the world and the estimation of her work continues to climb." Her work has been featured in one-person exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Now in her 90s, Bourgeois remains active, devoting each day to the practice of art. In 1997, she received a National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton at the White House.

orange dot Rita R. Colwell, the director of the National Science Foundation, will receive an honorary doctor of science degree. The head of the NSF since 1998, Colwell has led the agency’s emphases on K-12 science and mathematics education, graduate science and engineering education/training and the increased participation of women and minorities in science and engineering. Colwell was the president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute from 1991-1998. She is the author or co-author of 16 books. "Her broad understanding of biology has been invaluable in helping her to develop a modern biology program at the National Science Foundation, where she has initiated programs on biocomplexity that transcend previous disciplinary limitations and bring a variety of scientists from biology, computer analysis and engineering together," said Abigail Salyers, a professor of microbiology at Illinois.

orange dot Peter Gay, a professor emeritus of history at Yale University, will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree. Gay is "the most distinguished cultural historian of modern Europe, on either side of the Atlantic, and anywhere in the English-speaking world," said David Cannadine, the director of the Institute for Historical Research at the University of London. The director of the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Gay is the author of more than two dozen books. His works "have been hailed repeatedly for their scope, originality, intelligence, and elegance," said Peter Fritzche, the chair of the department of history at Illinois. Gay’s "The Enlightenment: An Interpretation" won a National Book Award in 1967.

orange dot Hermann Zapf, a distinguished typographer and type designer, will receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree. In addition to his type design, Zapf may be the most noted calligrapher of the past 50 years. Several of his most popular type designs, such as Optima, Palatino, Zapf Chancery and Zapf Dingbats are on most home computers. Other Zapf-designed fonts, including Michelangelo and Zapf Renaissance, are commonly used by graphic designers. "His discerning scholarship has set a new standard for excellence in typographic practice, by now having inspired more than five generations of graphic designers," said Ken Carls, the interim director of the School of Art and Design at Illinois.