A bacteriologist, a Hollywood star and a celebrated writer were among the six people receiving honorary degrees at Brown University commencement this weekend. The ceremony, during which more than 2,400 students received degrees, was the first presided over by Brown’s new president Christina Paxson.
The graduating class weathered some rain and wind during this year's festivities, forcing the university to cancel the traditional Baccalaureate procession on Saturday. Sunday's commencement exercises went forward as scheduled.
Paxson greeted the honorary degree recipients with formal citations in both English and Latin. She told MIT professor and award-winning author Junot Diaz he was chosen because his prose enhances understanding of immigrants and because he has championed a path to citizenship for undocumented students.
Actor-director Ben Affleck, who received an honorary doctor of fine arts, also attended the Sunday ceremony. Paxson called Affleck's career one of the most eclectic and intriguing in Hollywood today. She praised him for encouraging movie audiences to think critically about international relations and for his charitable projects in the war-torn Eastern Congo.