Syracuse University to present six honorary degrees at May 13 Commencement
Syracuse University to present six honorary degrees at May 13 Commencement May 02, 2007Sara Millersemortim@syr.edu
Syracuse University will award honorary degrees to six individuals of exceptional achievement in the areas of law, visual and performing arts, literature and physics at its 153rd Commencement exercises: Thomas K. Gilhool, Austin Roy Kalish, Irma Ginsberg Kalish ’45, Frank McCourt, Martin A. Pomerantz ’37 and Lily Yeh. The Commencement ceremony will be held Sunday, May 13, in the Carrier Dome. McCourt will deliver the Commencement address to the SU and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Class of 2007.
Thomas K. GilhoolDoctor of Education
Thomas Gilhool is of counsel at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and a leading advocate and national champion for the rights of people with disabilities. Because of his passionate and successful legal representation in the landmark case Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC v. Pennsylvania), children with disabilities are guaranteed a free public education and higher education has become a realistic goal for students with severe and complex disabilities. The PARC right to education case triggered 32 federal court decisions, and the PARC Orders were enacted by Congress in the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Both Gilhool and Burton Blatt, former dean of SU’s School of Education, tirelessly opposed the rapid institutionalization of people with disabilities in the 1970s, and because of their efforts, generations of individuals with disabilities have benefited from the rise of inclusive communities. Gilhool was lead counsel in Halderman v. Pennhurst, a critical case that initiated the national movement for the de-institutionalization of persons with disabilities. Implementation of the Pennhurst court orders resulted in the enactment of the Home and Community Based Services Amendment of 1981 to Title XIX of the Social Security Act.
Gilhool fought for the establishment of greater community resources for people with developmental and other disabilities. He was an influential advocate for the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which forbids unnecessary segregation and provides resources and funding for various support services designed to assist people with disabilities in obtaining education, job training, equal citizenship and employment in desired occupations and professions.
Gilhool joined the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia in 1975 and for 32 years — with leaves to serve as secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and to teach in an inner-city school — has practiced civil rights law, focusing his practice on disability rights and early childhood development, including state-of-the-art educational practices and children’s health care. Gilhool is the Public Interest Law Center’s first chief counsel.
Among his professional honors, Gilhool in 2006 received the Andrew Hamilton Award, the highest honor presented by the Philadelphia Bar Association, and in 2001 the President’s Award for Outstanding Service from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Gilhool received a bachelor’s degree from Lehigh University and a master’s degree in political science and a law degree from Yale University. In 2003-04, he was a Senior Fulbright Fellow in Japan, working with the Japanese Disability Movement. Most recently, Gilhool’s work has focused upon children’s health care under Title XIX of the Social Security Act for a dozen state chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Pediatric Dentistry.
Austin Roy KalishDoctor of Speech and Dramatic Arts
Austin “Rocky” Kalish, a longtime writer, producer and director for television, film and theater, has had a career filled with remarkable professional credits. He, along with his wife, Irma Ginsberg Kalish ’45, wrote many of the scripts for the popular television shows of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, including the pilot for “Gilligan’s Island” and long-running shows such as “All in the Family,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Good Times” and “The Facts of Life.” His film credits include “Hollywood Through a Monocle,” a multiple award-winning documentary that he directed.
Kalish has helped advance the careers of many aspiring film and television industry writers and directors through his teaching at the University of Southern California. He and his wife have also taught master classes at the Newhouse School and the College of Visual and Performing Arts, of which they serve on the Board of Advisors. He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Kalish has co-authored 12 books on comedy and is a devotee of community theater, having produced and directed several productions in the Los Angeles and Palm Springs areas. In 2003, he won the Palm Springs Desert Stars Award for Outstanding Director-Comedy for “Plaza Suite,” and he is now writing another screenplay. He also lends his time and talent to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides health, social and charitable services for entertainment industry professionals and their families.
In 1996, the Kalishes donated to SU a collection of nearly 350 television scripts — including pilots and drafts — of shows that aired between 1961 and 1990. The collection also contains nearly three dozen videotapes of such shows as “227,” “The Hogan Family” and “Sugar & Spice.”
Irma Ginsberg Kalish Doctor of Speech and Dramatic Arts
Irma Kalish is recognized as one of television’s most talented writers/producers and a pioneer in the industry, having been one of the first women to write for television and produce a television series.
She began her career as a writer shortly after graduating from SU, when she was hired by a New York City magazine. By 1950, she and her husband had moved to Los Angeles and begun collaborating on radio scripts for the “Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Hour.” When the show moved from radio to television, the Kalishes followed as writers, at a time when few women were writing for television. They both continued to collaborate on televisions scripts for shows including “The Ray Milland Show” and “Gunsmoke.”
Working independently as a writer for “Good Times,” Kalish became the first woman to be made producer — and eventually executive producer — of a television series. She also became the chief writer for “227” and executive producer of “The Facts of Life,” among other shows.
She has worked with the Motion Picture & Television Fund as a longtime trustee and has served on MPTF’s board for 22 years, as well as on several of the organization’s committees, including the MPTF Accreditation and Quality Assurance Committee and the executive committee of the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation Child Care Center of the Fund. She is a strong advocate for women in the entertainment industries, working with organizations including Women in Film and the Association for Women in Communication. She is also a founding member of Women & Science, an organization that serves as community spokespersons for the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. She is also past vice president and board member of the Writers Guild of America, West, which honored her with the prestigious Morgan Cox Service Award in 1993. In 1997, Kalish was honored by SU with a George Arents Pioneer Medal, the University’s highest alumni honor.
In 2006, Kalish published a novel, “As Dead as it Gets” (Forge Books), under the pen name Cady Kalian, and she will release a second novel, “A Few Good Murders,” this fall.
Frank McCourt Doctor of Letters
Acclaimed memoirist and Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt, born in New York City and raised in Limerick, Ireland, in the 1930s and ’40s, is best known for his 1996 childhood memoir, “Angela’s Ashes,” which was honored with the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, the ABBY Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award and Britain’s Royal Society for Literature Award, and was listed by many newspapers as one of the Best Books of 1996.
At the age of 19, McCourt returned to the United States from Ireland to seek an education and career. After graduating from New York University’s School of Education and supporting himself with several odd jobs, he began his career as a New York public high school teacher. In September 1996, after retiring from teaching, McCourt released “Angela’s Ashes,” published by Scribner Publishing. It quickly rose to the top of the hardcover bestseller lists, remaining on The New York Times list for 117 weeks. It was also selected as the number one nonfiction book of the year by Time and Newsweek magazines. With the 1999 release of the film version of “Angela’s Ashes,” by Paramount Pictures, the paperback edition also achieved bestseller status.
In September 1999, McCourt published the follow-up to Angela’s Ashes, “‘Tis: A Memoir,” which hit The New York Times bestseller list at number one, as did the paperback edition. For a time, “‘Tis’ and “Angela’s Ashes” were simultaneously at number one in hardcover and paperback, respectively. “‘Tis” received the New York Society Library Award and Italy’s Riccardo Bacchelli Award. In November 2005, “Teacher Man” was released and jumped to number one on The New York Times bestseller list.
McCourt’s acclaimed musical revue, “The Irish and How They Got That Way,” ran for more than a year at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City. And the two-man play “A Couple of Blaguards” continues to be produced throughout the United States, Australia and Canada.
He is a contributing editor for LIFE magazine and is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards. He is also collaborating with composer David Amram on a New York City-inspired Mass called “Missa Manhattan.”
Martin A. PomerantzDoctor of Science
Martin Pomerantz, internationally known astrophysicist, is best known for his contributions to Antarctic research and his pioneering solar observations, studying the the interior of the sun by a technique known as helioseismology.
Pomerantz is also a leader in the fields of submillimeter astronomy, cosmic and gamma rays, and measurements of cosmic background radiation. He has made a lasting impact on observational cosmology, with research spanning all areas of cosmic ray physics. He pioneered the utilization of the unique environmental conditions that prevail at the South Pole for making astronomical observations. In recognition of his innovation in Antarctic astronomy, Pomerantz was honored in 1995 with the dedication of an observatory bearing his name (the Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory) at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
Pomerantz first began his research at the University of Delaware’s Bartol Research Institute in 1938. There, he spent much of his research career, serving as the institute’s president until 1987, and being named professor emeritus in 1990. In addition to serving as a research fellow, professor, visiting professor and lecturer both in the United States and abroad, Pomerantz has led several National Geographic expeditions; worked on eight national and international scientific communities; served on the board of trustees for the Franklin Institute; and been a member of several prestigious science and space research organizations. Other honors include the Centennial Medal from SU in 1973, the Distinguished Public Servant Award from the National Science Foundation in 1987 and the Distinguished Science Achievement Award from NASA in 1990. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, of the American Geophysical Union and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in physics from SU, Pomerantz earned a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, a Ph.D. at Temple University and an Sc.D. at Swarthmore College.
Lily YehDoctor of Humane Letters
Lily Yeh is the founder of the Village of Arts and Humanities, one of the most successful community revitalization programs in Philadelphia and a major provider of arts-inspired programs in education, land transformation, construction and economic development. From 1986-2004, Yeh served as executive director and lead artist for the Village, which now serves 10,000 low-income individuals in the North Philadelphia area. Today, Yeh directs her new organization, Barefoot Artists, Inc., a nonprofit group based in Philadelphia that uses the power of art to transform impoverished communities. Yeh founded Barefoot Artists in 2003 with the goal to train and empower local residents and organize communities to take action for a more compassionate and sustainable future. Using the concept and model proven in her 20 years of work at the Village, Yeh works on international projects in China, Ecuador, Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda, among other countries. She recently returned from Africa, where she designed and sponsored the building of the Genocide Memorial Park in Rugerero under the auspices of Barefoot Artists.
An international figure who combines public art and community action, Yeh is also an accomplished painter and taught art and art history at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia for 30 years. Born in China and a native of Taiwan, Yeh received a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Fine Arts, where she earned a master of fine arts degree in painting.
For her work with the Village and abroad, Yeh has been honored with several prestigious awards, including most recently the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award from Arts Leadership and Service in 2000, the Leadership for a Changing World Award from the Ford Foundation in 2003, and several honorary degrees.
In Syracuse, Yeh serves on the international advisory board of Partners for Education (PFE), a nonprofit organization that provides learning and leadership for arts in education in Central New York and throughout New York state. In 2005, Yeh visited PFE as a special guest speaker, and she has since stayed engaged with the organization.