News Bureau | University of Illinois

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign logo


2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
Email to a friend envelope icon for send to a friend

Four chosen to receive honorary degrees at U. of I. May commencement

Sharita Forrest, News Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Four people have been chosen to receive honorary degrees at the 135th commencement of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on May 14 at Assembly Hall. The speaker for the ceremony is yet to be named.

The honorary degree recipients:

• Julian Bond, chairman, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, distinguished professor at American University, Washington, D.C., and professor of history at the University of Virginia; honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Since 1998, Bond has chaired the board of the NAACP, the oldest and largest U.S. civil-rights organization. Bond served as a Georgia legislator for 20 years, during his legislative tenure sponsored or co-sponsored more than 60 bills that became law, and successfully fought for the creation of a majority black congressional district in Atlanta.

• Elaine Fuchs, laboratory head of mammalian cell biology and development of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Rockefeller University; honorary doctor of science degree. A U. of I. alumnus, member of the National Academy of Sciences and past president of the American Society for Cell Biology, Fuchs is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Her studies on the molecular mechanisms underlying the development and differentiation of mammalian skin, and how the processes go awry in various human diseases, including cancer, are fundamental achievements known to scientists worldwide.

• Elbert “Burt” L. Rutan, president and CEO of Scaled Composites LLC; honorary doctor of engineering degree.  An aerospace engineer, Rutan is an acknowledged leader in light-aircraft design and manufacturing, having designed, fabricated and flown many of his own designs over a period of 30 years.

Rutan designed the Voyager that set the record for the first flight to circumnavigate the globe without refueling, as well as the SpaceShipOne, the first private venture to successfully launch a manned vehicle into sub-orbit and return safely twice in a two-week period. His ideas have influenced military and general aviation aircraft and air transports designed for passenger and cargo in space. Rutan is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a National Aviation Hall of fame honoree, and received the Presidential Citizen’s Medal from President Ronald Reagan.

• Thomas M. Siebel, founder and chairman of the board, Siebel Systems Inc.; honorary doctor of engineering degree.  Siebel, who began his career with Oracle Systems and Gain Technology, founded Siebel Systems Inc. in 1993, a developer of eBusiness software that has become a $2 billion corporation. Siebel earned three degrees at Illinois and has been a generous donor to the U. of I. and other universities. The state-of-the-art Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science at the Urbana campus and themulti-institutional Siebel Scholars program were named in his honor. The U. of I. awarded Siebel the Presidential Award and Medallion in 2001.

Siebel serves on several advisory boards at Illinois, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. The philanthropic endeavors of Siebel and his wife, through the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, have made a great impact in higher education, research and innovation, and community wellness programs throughout the nation.