USC to grant five honorary degrees in May

USC will grant five people honorary degrees during the commencement ceremony on May 11.

The recipients are USC’s commencement speaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, USC Trustee Major General Charles Bolden Jr., biochemist Jennifer Doudna and filmmaker Forest Whitaker.

According to the news release, USC is honoring them “for their work as philanthropic, academic, scientific, arts, civic and military leaders.”

Mukherjee is an oncologist and assistant professor at Columbia University. USC noted that he is being honored for his cancer research. His novel, The Emperor of All Maladies, won a Pulitzer Prize, and was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 best nonfiction books of the past century.

A retired Marine Corps general, Bolden graduated with a master’s degree from USC Viterbi School of Engineering in 1977. During his career as an astronaut, Bolden commanded and piloted four NASA missions to space. He joined the USC Board of Trustees in 2003, before leaving to serve as the NASA administrator under the Obama administration in 2009. Bolden rejoined the Board this year.

LAPD Chief Beck is being honored for managing the police department of the second-largest city in the United States for nearly a decade. Beck has worked with the LAPD for over 40 years, and in that time, led programs such as the Safer Cities Initiative, which aimed to give shelter to and prevent crimes against individuals experiencing homelessness.

Doudna, a biochemist and chemistry professor at UC Berkeley, is credited with helping establish the field of CRISPR research, which uses RNA protein to create a mechanism that can edit the DNA of any organism. Her book, A Crack in the Creation, addresses the ethical implications of human control over genetics.

Whitaker, a director, actor and producer, is the recipient of multiple awards, including a Golden Globe and Academy Award, for his acting in The Last King of Scotland. Most recently, Whitaker starred in Black Panther as the character Zuri. Beyond his work in cinema, Whitaker founded the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative in 2012 to implement peace-building programs in communities affected by conflict.  

Along with the honorary degrees, 15,500 degrees will be commended this year, including over 1,500 doctorate degrees. The University’s 135th commencement ceremony is expected to draw 60,000 attendees, according to USC News. The ceremony will be held in Alumni Park.