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IBM Chief to Address Northwestern Class of 2015

Virginia Rometty and three other notables to receive honorary degrees

Virginia Rometty, chairman, president and chief executive officer of IBM, is among the four distinguished individuals who will be recognized with honorary degrees at Northwestern University’s 157th commencement ceremony.  

Virginia RomettyRanked number one in Fortune magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” for the last three years, Rometty will deliver the main commencement address at 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 19, at Northwestern’s Ryan Field. 

Besides Rometty, the others who will receive honorary degrees are Tony and Grammy Award-winning actress and singer Audra McDonald, the only person to win in all four of the Tony’s acting categories; Dan Shechtman, a widely published researcher who was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for identifying a new category of materials, thereby overturning a centuries-old scientific paradigm; and Margaret Beale Spencer, a psychologist whose work centers on the effects of ethnicity, gender and race on youth and adolescent development.

Biographical sketches of the honorary degree recipients follow:

Virginia (Ginni) M. Rometty is chairman and chief executive officer of IBM. She was appointed president and CEO, effective Jan. 1, 2012, and became chairman of the board of directors Oct. 1, 2012. The first woman to head the company, Rometty joined IBM in 1981 and went on to hold a series of increasingly important leadership positions. In 2006 she received the Association of Management Consulting Firms’ Carl Sloane Award. She was named to the 2012 Time 100 and listed as one of Forbes magazine’s “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women 2014.” For the last three years in a row, Rometty has been the top-ranked executive on Fortune’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business.” She serves on the Council on Foreign Relations, the Board of Overseers and Managers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Northwestern University Board of Trustees. A graduate of Northwestern’s Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Rometty earned a bachelor of science degree, with high honors, in computer science and electrical engineering. In February, she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest honors for engineering researchers and leaders.

Audra McDonald’s acting and singing career is unparalleled in its breadth and versatility. Winner of a record six Tony Awards — for “Carousel,” “Master Class,” “Ragtime,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Porgy and Bess” and “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” — she is the only performer to win in all four acting categories. McDonald has sung with leading orchestras worldwide, and her operatic appearances include Los Angeles Opera’s “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny,” the recording of which she won two Grammy Awards. Her discography also includes five solo albums and numerous cast albums. McDonald’s screen credits include five full-length feature films and numerous television appearances. She has received Emmy nominations for “Wit” and “Raisin in the Sun” and for her role as official host of PBS’s “Live From Lincoln Center.” Among her many honors are five Drama Desk Awards, five Outer Critics Circle Awards and two Drama League Awards, including the league’s Distinguished Performance Award. 

Dan Shechtman is the Philip Tobias Professor of Materials Science at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. He joined the faculty of the institute in 1975 and since 2004 also has served as a distinguished professor of materials science and engineering at Iowa State University. A widely published researcher, Shechtman overturned a centuries-old scientific paradigm with his discovery of quasi-periodic crystals, a fundamentally new category of materials. For this achievement, he was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry. His numerous other honors include the European Materials Research Society Award, the Emet Prize in Chemistry, the Israel Prize in Physics, the Gregori Aminoff Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Wolf Prize in Physics, the Weizmann Science Award, the Rothschild Prize in Engineering and election to the National Academy of Engineering, the European Academy of Sciences, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Margaret Beale Spencer is the Marshall Field IV Professor of Urban Education and Professor of Life Course Human Development at the University of Chicago in the department of comparative human development. She is an alumna of the same department and completed her doctoral training in child and developmental psychology. Before returning to Chicago, she held the inaugural chair as the Board of Overseers Professor in the Interdisciplinary Studies of Human Development Program of the psychology in education division in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Spencer's Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory of human development (known as "P-VEST") serves as the foundation for her developmental science scholarship that examines human vulnerability, resiliency and identity formation processes for diverse youth both in the United States and abroad.