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Michael J. Fox Among Notables Receiving Honorary Degrees at Stony Brook Commencement


Actor and philanthropist Michael J. Fox will be among the luminaries receiving honorary degrees at Stony Brook University’s 2017 Commencement. Fox is known for his tireless work on behalf of Parkinson’s research and is beloved worldwide for his acting in Family Ties, the Back to the Future series, and numerous award-winning roles in movies and on television.

Actor and philanthropist Michael J. Fox (photo: Mark Seliger)

Fox will receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, recognizing a career that has brought international acclaim with many honors and awards, as well as a dedication to charitable endeavor best exemplified by the founding and stewardship of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The degree will be conferred on Friday, May 19 at 11:00 am at Stony Brook University’s 57th Commencement ceremony at the Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. Fox will don academic regalia along with nearly 6,000 students as they join the University’s more than 160,000 alumni ranks around the globe.

“Michael J. Fox’s commitment to his craft, combined with his unbound, resolute advocacy for Parkinson’s disease research, makes him an outstanding candidate for this Honorary Degree,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD.

“Michael has spoken frequently about his predisposition to view challenges, including his own Parkinson’s, through a lens of optimism and humor, so it is highly appropriate for Stony Brook University to recognize his many contributions as they continue to transform the lives of so many, just as our graduates are empowered by their Stony Brook degree to make an equally positive impact on the world.”

Stony Brook University’s commitment to finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease is presently housed in the Thomas Hartman Center for Parkinson’s Research Center in the University’s Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. Named in Honor of the late Monsignor Thomas Hartman, Emmy Award-winning television and radio personality and the Catholic half of “The God Squad,” the Foundation was established in 2004 soon after his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease to raise funds to support Parkinson’s disease research. In 2013, as Father Tom’s health began to deteriorate, the Foundation donated $2 million to create the Hartman Center at Stony Brook University to support ongoing research to combat the disease.

In addition to Fox, Stony Brook University’s 2017 honorary degree recipients include, at the main commencement ceremony on Friday, May 19:

  • merode
    Prince Emmanuel de Merode

    Conservationist and anthropologist Prince Emmanuel de Merode, who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters for his service as director and chief warden of Virunga National Park where he has worked on the frontlines of conservation during periods of conflict as well as bringing in significant funding, local enterprise and tourism development.“Prince Emmanuel de Merode’s service as Director and Chief Warden of Virunga National Park is at once driven and courageous,” said President Stanley. “His fundraising efforts to sustain and improve the parks and its ranger force during the Congo’s recurrent civil war, his work in tourism development, and his bold commitment to conservation has had an enormous impact on our world and he is incredibly deserving of the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.”

Jonathan Oringer
  • Programmer, photographer, serial entrepreneur, Stony Brook University alumnus, and founder and CEO of Shutterstock, Jonathan Oringer (‘96), who will receive a Doctor of Science for his contribution to the tech industry. His contributions include the invention of one of the web’s first pop-up blockers and the creation of Shutterstock, the global technology company that disrupted the image licensing industry. Shutterstock went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012, nine years after its inception, and Jon remains the largest shareholder.“ Jon Oringer personifies inspiration; he exemplifies how Stony Brook alumni are empowered to make a difference,” said President Stanley. “He started his career right here at Stony Brook University while a student in the 1990’s which led to his success with Shutterstock and an inspired career. Jonathan embodies the pursuit of big ideas, curiosity and passion we see in so many of our students.”


At the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony on Thursday, May 18, two distinguished scholars will receive Doctor of Science degrees:

  • kramer
    Art Kramer

    Leading psychology and neurosciences researcher Dr. Arthur “Art” Kramer (‘75) will receive a Doctor of Science for his research and leadership in the areas of cognitive neuroscience and psychology, the aging mind, brain plasticity and human factors.“It is a great honor to confer Art Kramer with a Doctor of Science, to showcase his transformative work alongside the Stony Brook University graduating class of 2017 — his new fellow alumni,” said President Stanley. “Art’s personal and professional trajectory were launched at Stony Brook, where he met his wife, Laurie, and where his research pursuits in cognitive neuroscience began. We welcome him back to Stony Brook for this distinctive honor.”


  • shu
    Dr. Frank Shu

    Astrophysicist, astronomer, professor and author Dr. Frank Shu will receive a Doctor of Science for his pioneering theoretical work in astrophysics. As a leader in his field, Dr. Shu has provided the world of science with many advances in how the stars are viewed and his ability to look at the galaxies for more than their beauty alone has impacted students and inspired scholars around the world.“Having taught at Stony Brook early in his academic career, it is wonderful to welcome the highly distinguished astrophysicist and scholar, Frank Shu, back to Stony Brook to confer upon him an honorary Doctor of Science degree,” said President Stanley. “Frank’s curiosity and scientific explorations have led to so many pioneering discoveries, from the birth and early evolution of stars to the origin of meteorites; he has made an indelible impression and we are proud that he is reconnecting with Stony Brook University.

“To be joined in their celebration by such highly accomplished individuals is a remarkable distinction for the class of 2017,” President Stanley continued. “It demonstrates to our newest alumni how much can be achieved with vision, dedication and the relentless pursuit of big ideas that Stony Brook embraces.”

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