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Speakers announced for May commencement ceremonies

Photo: Genzyme Corporation

From the People of Japan through global entrepreneurs to community champions, Northeastern University will recognize many at this year’s commencement who have inspired us all this year. One of these honorary degree recipients, Henri A. Termeer, former chief executive officer and chairman of Genzyme Corporation and a pioneer in developing and delivering treatments for rare genetic diseases, will deliver the commencement address to the Class of 2011.

Termeer will speak to more than 22,000 graduating students, their families and friends on Friday, May 6, at the TD Garden.

“Health is a major focus of Northeastern’s research enterprise, and we are pleased to welcome Henri Termeer, a path-breaking leader in scientific discovery and health,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University.

“He is a true global entrepreneur. It will be exciting for our graduates to hear his story and benefit from his wisdom.”

Also receiving honorary degrees this year are: Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Global Development Program, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Leslie Cohen Berlowitz, president and William T. Golden Chair, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Rev. Gregory G. Groover Sr., chair, Boston School Committee, and pastor, Historic Charles Street A.M.E. Church; Bert and John Jacobs, cofounders, Life is good Company; and Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Northeastern will also present an honorary degree to Ichiro Fujisaki, Ambassador of Japan to the U.S., on behalf of the People of Japan, in recognition of their extraordinary response to the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck their country on March 11, 2011.

“Our honorary degree recipients span the fields of human endeavor,” added Aoun. “Their collective success exemplifies the innovative spirit of Northeastern.”

Burwell will address graduate students during the afternoon ceremony, and Manjoo will speak during the School of Law’s commencement ceremony on Friday, May 27, 2011.

Termeer led Genzyme’s growth from a modest entrepreneurial venture to one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies. He was appointed president of Genzyme in 1983, two years after the company’s founding. He became its CEO in 1985 and chairman in 1988. Under his leadership, the company diversified from its focus on genetic diseases to include kidney disease, orthopaedics, cancer, transplant and immunological diseases and diagnostic testing.

Termeer serves on the boards of Partners HealthCare and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and is chairman emeritus of the New England Healthcare Institute, a nonprofit, applied research health policy organization he was instrumental in founding. He is also a strong voice in the realm of economic policy, as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s board of directors, as a member of Governor Deval Patrick’s Council of Economic Advisors, and as cochair of the Leadership Council of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Collaborative.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell leads one of the world’s most imaginative and aggressive efforts to eradicate poverty in the developing world as president of the Global Development Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In her role, she is taking a coordinated and comprehensive approach to find innovative ways to address the issues at the root of poverty: nutrition, sanitation, personal financial security and basic education. An influential voice in the arena of international relations, Burwell is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the Trilateral Commission, and a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, a bipartisan forum that explores the preeminent foreign policy issues facing the United States.

Berlowitz, a strategic thinker about issues that affect higher education, most recently organized the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, to enrich teaching and research in fields critical to culture, education and America’s economic competitiveness. A national leader on humanities policy, Berlowitz also led the creation of the academy’s Initiative for the Humanities and Culture and its widely cited “Humanities Indicators,” the first-ever comprehensive source of data on the state of humanities education in the United States.

The Rev. Gregory G. Groover Sr. is a powerful and consistent voice for the people of Boston, and particularly for the city’s children. Appointed to the Boston School Committee in 2007, he was elected vice chair that same year and chair in 2009, based on his unwavering commitment to education and educational innovation. All of those qualities are also evident in his role as chair of the Education Committee of the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston (BMA). In that position, he has been instrumental in bringing together public school officials, teachers, community leaders, parents and the clergy in planning and developing the BMA after-school program, a $1.5 million initiative. As pastor of the Historic Charles Street A.M.E. Church since 1994, he has increased participation and diversity, and established new ministries aimed at building congregational life.

Brothers Bert and John Jacobs took a simple idea — that an optimistic attitude can make a real difference in the world — and turned it into a global business selling apparel and accessories in the United States and 30 other countries. The brothers’ success is characterized by the same entrepreneurial values upheld by Northeastern and so many of its alumni: innovation, perseverance, self-confidence, passion and commitment. They designed their first T-shirt in 1989. Today, they run a $100 million business and plan to expand its offerings and reach as a global brand. The Life is good Festivals have also raised more than $4 million since 2004 to help kids overcome life-threatening challenges such as violence, illness and extreme poverty.

Rashida Manjoo is a lawyer, teacher, activist and public servant who has worked globally for women’s rights in classrooms, courtrooms, legal clinics and at the United Nations. Since 2009, she has served as the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, documenting abuse and calling attention to nations that fail to comply with international standards on the human rights of women. She brings the same expertise and influence to the International Criminal Court, as a member of the advisory board to the court’s Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice.

An associate professor of public law at the University of Cape Town and an advocate of the High Court of South Africa, Manjoo helped enshrine the rights of women in her native country’s constitution, leading the development of the Women’s Charter, which detailed women’s constitutional rights.
Undergraduate commencement ceremony will be held at TD Garden on Friday, May 6, at 10:30 a.m.
Afternoon ceremony for advanced degree recipients will take place at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena on Friday, May 6, at 3:30 p.m.
School of Law commencement will take place at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena on Friday, May 27, at 1 p.m.

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