2019: Honorary degrees

Wake Forest conferred seven honorary degrees during its 2019 Commencement ceremony.

Julius Chambers

Civil rights pioneer Julius LeVonne Chambers decided to become a lawyer after seeing racial injustice in his small Montgomery County, North Carolina town. Educated in segregated and underfunded black schools, Chambers graduated from N.C. Central University and then entered law school at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1959 as one of its first black students. In 1962 he graduated first in his law class and was the first black editor of the prestigious North Carolina Law Review.

Tapped by Thurgood Marshall as one of the first Legal Defense Fund interns at the NAACP, Chambers later opened his own firm in Charlotte. Now known as Ferguson, Chambers, and Sumter, it was the first integrated law firm in North Carolina. With his partners, Julius Chambers built it into one of the premier civil rights firms in the United States and around the world.

His focus on civil rights made for dangerous work. Despite firebombs in his car, home, and office, Chambers endeavored to end discrimination in education, employment, housing, business, public accommodations, and criminal justice. He successfully argued Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, a case that led to federally-mandated busing and integrated public schools across the nation. An important legal victory, it was only one of his major victories for civil rights before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dedicated to education, Julius Chambers returned to N.C. Central In 1993, where he served as chancellor for eight years. He held many teaching positions at prestigious law schools throughout his life and was an inspiration and a mentor to many in academia as well as his legal and North Carolina community. Julius Chambers passed away in 2013 after a lifetime of focus on freedom and justice.

For tirelessly working to secure civil rights protections around the world despite the danger to himself and his family, for his pioneering efforts to integrate the North Carolina law communities, and for his lifelong dedication to legal and higher education around the United States, Julius Chambers is recommended for the degree of Doctor of Laws, presented posthumously.

(The hood was presented to Geraldine Sumter, his law partner, who continues the firm Julius Chambers founded.)

Jeffrey A. Davis

A proven financial leader of retail giants, including Walmart and J.C. Penney, Jeffrey A. Davis considers his impact on junior colleagues and young people in the community to be as important as the company’s bottom line. For more than 30 years, Mr. Davis has combined an impressive business acumen with a thoughtful and ethical approach to financial management, and his values are reflected in the life he leads outside the boardroom.

Mr. Davis’ career demonstrates a broad expertise in finance across multiple industries. Named CFO of Qurate Retail Group in 2018, he was previously CFO of J.C. Penney following his tenure in that position for Darden Restaurants. Mr. Davis spent nine years at Walmart, where he was promoted to CFO for his success at increasing profit margins and reducing inventory without sacrificing on-shelf availability. Of the many accolades he has received, Mr. Davis is especially proud of the Sam Walton Entrepreneurial Award, which he earned as a team member rather than for individual efforts. Twice being named among the 100 Most Powerful Executives in America by Black Enterprise Magazine and known for his “pay it forward” mentality, Mr. Davis serves on the boards of several nonprofits, including the National Urban League.

For valuing ethical practices and diversity of thought as highly as he values financial success, for sharing his knowledge and experience to lift up others in a traditionally competitive corporate world and for adopting Pro Humanitate ideals in his service to organizations that prepare future businessmen and women, Jeffrey A. Davis is recommended for the degree of Doctor of Laws.

Gary A. Haugen

Attorney and human rights activist Gary A. Haugen founded the International Justice Mission in 1997 to protect the world’s most impoverished from extreme levels of violence. Mr. Haugen contends that poverty cannot be overcome when basic safety is threatened, and vulnerability to sexual assault, forced labor, land theft and police abuse threaten the poor as much as hunger, disease and lack of education.

As CEO of the International Justice Mission, the largest nonprofit of its kind, Mr. Haugen developed a unique collaborative approach to justice by partnering with local investigators to support and rescue victims of violence in developing countries. Over 22 years, his organization has restored safety to more than 47,000 individuals. Mr. Haugen’s mission to combat global violence is rooted in his work against perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. As director of the United Nations’ investigation, he led an international team of lawyers and forensic experts to gather evidence from more than 100 sites of brutality and mass murder. He has been recognized by the U.S. State Department as a Trafficking in Persons “Hero” – the highest honor given by the U.S. government for anti-slavery leadership. Mr. Haugen is the author of several books, including his most recent, “The Locust Effect.”

For his selfless commitment to seek justice for those least able to defend themselves, for his remarkable vision in identifying daily violence as a hidden threat that plagues the impoverished and for embracing Pro Humanitate ideals in his transformative efforts to rescue tens of thousands of the world’s poorest citizens, Gary A. Haugen is recommended for the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Carla Diane Hayden

As the 14th Librarian of Congress, Carla Diane Hayden is fulfilling her vision of providing unprecedented access to America’s largest and most prestigious library. In 2016, Dr. Hayden’s swearing in as the first African American and first woman to lead the Library of Congress was the culmination of a career dedicated to ensuring the free flow of information. Our nation’s lead librarian has received national acclaim for focusing on technology, outreach and access – transforming the local library into an inclusive community resource that benefits all segments of the population.

In 2010, prior to nominating her as Librarian of Congress, President Obama asked Dr. Hayden to join the National Museum and Library Services Board. She had served as chief executive of Baltimore’s public library system since 1993, making it a model for a modern and engaged public library system. In 2004, as president of the American Library Association, Dr. Hayden drew national attention when she publicly opposed a provision of the Patriot Act that gave federal agencies the authority to view library users’ records. Her vocal defense of the right to privacy earned her Ms. magazine’s 2003 Woman of the Year award. She was also named Librarian of the Year by the Library Journal in 1995.

For devoting her career to preserving the fundamental right to open and equal access to information, for her strategic, innovative and forward-thinking approach to expanding the role of the library and for her deep commitment to serve the community by facilitating access to America’s intellectual and cultural treasures, Carla Diane Hayden is recommended for the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Sandra Maree Ouellette

Globally acclaimed for her contributions to nursing, Sandra Maree Ouellette has been instrumental in the educational advancement and organizational growth of the international nurse anesthetist community as well as Wake Forest School of Medicine’s elite nurse anesthesia program. An alumna of the Wake Forest program, Ms. Ouellette has served as director, curriculum developer and key instructor of the program she graduated from 50 years ago. Rarely has one individual been so singularly responsible for shaping and growing a nationally ranked academic program.

In 2005, Ms. Ouellette retired after a 23-year tenure as director of the Wake Forest School of Medicine Nurse Anesthesia Program but remained on the faculty until 2014. A pioneer in nurse anesthesia, Ms. Ouellette has advanced the profession through service on numerous educational and accreditation boards and committees. She has held multiple leadership positions on the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists and received the organization’s Agatha Hodgins Award for Outstanding Accomplishment. Ms. Ouellette achieved international recognition as a charter member of the International Federation of Nurse Anesthetists, serving as president for six years and receiving its Hermi Löhnert Award for leading global collaboration efforts. In her commitment to create opportunity through education, Ms. Ouellette has generously endowed a School of Medicine Nurse Anesthesia Program scholarship.

For dedicating five decades to the advancement and elevation of nurse anesthesia, for spearheading international collaboration efforts among nurse anesthetists and for her humanitarian spirit that led her to serve through medicine, Sandra Maree Ouellette is recommended for the degree of Doctor of Science.

Philip A. Pizzo

As dean of Stanford University School of Medicine, renowned pediatric oncologist Dr. Philip A. Pizzo engineered an institutional rebirth by transforming the school’s research, clinical and educational programs as well as its physical landscape. Previously, he served 23 years at the National Cancer Institute, where he conducted groundbreaking clinical research on immunocompromised children with cancer and HIV.

Dr. Pizzo was awarded the John Howland Medal, the highest honor in pediatric academic medicine bestowed by the American Pediatric Society. Before joining the Stanford community, he excelled in clinical research as physician-in-chief of Children’s Hospital in Boston and chair of the pediatrics department at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Pizzo is the author of 630 scientific articles and 16 books and monographs, including “Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology,” the definitive work on childhood cancer. In his publications, personal practice and teachings, Dr. Pizzo emphasizes the doctor-patient relationship. He believes a patient should be treated not only with the best medicine, but also as an individual who merits compassion and thoughtful attention. A visionary who advocates an expanding role for higher education, Dr. Pizzo founded Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute for continued learning.

For honoring Pro Humanitate values for more than four decades as an exceptional researcher and distinguished physician who serves our country’s most vulnerable children, for his unparalleled leadership in academic medicine guiding future doctors in patient-centered care and for his foresight in recognizing that increased longevity can bring renewed relevance to higher education, Philip A. Pizzo is recommended for the degree of Doctor of Science.

Frederick J. Ryan

In 2014, communications pioneer Frederick J. Ryan was named publisher and CEO of the Washington Post. Mr. Ryan, widely recognized as an innovative media entrepreneur, savvy political adviser and devoted public servant, has distinguished himself in the increasingly digital arena where politics and communications converge.

Mr. Ryan fortified the Washington Post in a declining industry by adding newsroom staff and spearheading a digital focus that significantly increased readership. A champion of the journalistic responsibility to uncover the truth, he is celebrated as a powerful voice for accountability and freedom of the press. Previously, Mr. Ryan co-founded the politically focused website and newspaper, Politico, redefining political media coverage with a multi-platform approach that combined online reporting with the broadcasting of two major Washington, D.C., media outlets. Well-versed in national politics, Mr. Ryan was an aide to President Ronald Reagan before serving as the former president’s chief of staff. He supervised the construction and organization of Reagan’s presidential library, and he has served as chairman of the board of trustees for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation since 1995. Mr. Ryan’s commitment to his community has led to multiple nonprofit leadership positions, including chair of the White House Historical Association and membership on the boards of the National Museum of American History and Ford’s Theatre.

For his commitment to defend the underlying principles of freedom of the press, for revolutionizing media coverage by conceiving a multi-platform approach and for modeling Pro Humanitate principles in his leadership on numerous nonprofits, Frederick J. Ryan is recommended for the degree of Doctor of Laws.