Five to receive honorary degrees at Washington University’s 161st Commencement – The Source

Washington University in St. Louis will award five honorary degrees during its 161st Commencement May 20.

During the ceremony, which will begin at 9 am on Francis Olympic Field, the university will also bestow academic degrees on approximately 3,800 members of the Class of 2022.

Mae Jemison, MD, the first woman of color to become a NASA astronaut and to travel into space, founder of two companies and creator of an international science camp to increase science literacy, will deliver the Commencement address and receive an honorary doctor of science degree .

The other honorary degree recipients and their degrees are:

  • Brian K KobilkaMD, the Hélène Irwin Fagan Chair in Cardiology and a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University School of Medicine and Nobel Prize winner, doctor of science;
  • sonia sotomayor, the first Latina justice and the third woman to serve on the US Supreme Court, doctor of laws;
  • Andrew C. (Andy) Taylor, executive chairman of Enterprise Holdings Inc., a life trustee and dedicated benefactor at Washington University and a noted civic leader and philanthropist, doctor of humanities; and
  • Barbara Broadhurst Taylor, a longtime supporter of St. Louis’ civic and cultural organizations and advocate for the region’s progress, doctor of humanities.

Sotomayor will not be on campus for the Commencement ceremony. A recording of the justice being presented her honorary degree while she visited the university last month will be shown during the ceremony. She spoke before a crowd of more than 3,000 students, faculty and staff during a question-and-answer session April 5 in the Field House.

Honorary degree recipients

At age 16, Jemison entered Stanford University, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering and fulfilled the requirements for a bachelor of arts in African and Afro-American studies in 1977.

She then attended medical school at Cornell University and earned a doctor of medicine degree in 1981. During medical school, she volunteered in Kenya and at a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand. After completing a medical internship, she volunteered with the Peace Corps as a medical officer in Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1983 until 1985 before working as a general practice physician in Los Angeles.


Kobilka earned a bachelor of science degree in biology and chemistry, summa cum laude, from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, in 1977. He earned his medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine in 1981 and completed his residency in internal medicine at Washington University School of Medicine and what was then Barnes Hospital.

In 1984, Kobilka joined Lefkowitz’s lab at Duke as a postdoctoral fellow. There, he conducted the early part of the work that would lead to recognition by the Nobel committee. Kobilka and his colleagues cloned the gene responsible for coding the receptor for the hormone adrenaline. The research helped identify an entire family of receptors called G-protein-coupled receptors. About half of all medications in use today act through this type of receptor.

Kobilka’s lab at Stanford has focused on understanding the structure and function of G-protein-coupled receptors at the molecular level. In particular, his lab is known for its work defining and imaging high-resolution 3D crystal structures of this type of receptor using X-ray crystallography.

He has also shown the structure of these receptors when they are bound to the hormone on the outside of the cell and when they are activating the G protein inside the cell. His detailed structural analyzes could lead to more precise medications that only activate the specific desired receptor, reducing unwanted side effects.

President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor on May 26, 2009, to serve as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

When she was sworn in Aug. 8, 2009, she became the first Latina justice and the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor was born in the Bronx, New York, to Puerto Rican parents. She graduated as valedictorian from Cardinal Spellman High School in New York City. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1976 from Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta. In 1979, she earned a JD from Yale Law School, where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Barbara Taylor

The first woman to hold the president’s office, she played a key role in the museum’s expansion, culminating in the opening of the new East Building in 2013.

Barbara Taylor serves on the board and executive committee of Forest Park Forever and has served as a trustee for Webster University, Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School, the Junior League of St. Louis and the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Friends Board.

Barbara and her husband, Andy Taylor, have provided leadership and support to a broad range of St. Louis institutions. In addition to helping fund scholarships, Barbara and Andy Taylor and the Crawford Taylor Foundation committed $20 million to the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in 2012 to fund the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research. In 2019, the Taylors committed an additional $10 million to the Taylor Family Institute, which is designed to advance the science underlying the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illnesses.

In 2016, Andy and Barbara Taylor gave $21 million to the Saint Louis Art Museum to endow the museum’s directorship, which is named for Barbara. They previously provided $15 million for a new wing and sculpture garden at the museum.

In 2009, the Taylors received the Jane and Whitney Harris St. Louis Community Service Award, which is given annually to a couple dedicated to improving the St. Louis region through service, generosity and leadership. In 2018, the Taylors were recognized with Washington University’s Robert S. Brookings Award for their dedication to the university.

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