New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Human rights scholar Martha Minow to speak at this year’s commencement

Minow, who is the former dean of Harvard Law School, will be among three women to receive honorary degrees at NYU’s commencement ceremony in May.
Martha Minow at the 2010 Harvard Law commencement ceremony. (Photo by Chen Siyuan, via Wikimedia)

Martha Minow, a human rights law expert with a decadeslong career in international conflict resolution, advocacy for racial and religious minorities and expanding access for people with disabilities, will deliver NYU’s commencement address to 2024 graduates in May. 

Minow, who is the former dean of Harvard Law School and now holds the university’s highest professorship, will be one of three women — herself, Nobel Prize-winning diplomacy expert Ouided Bouchamaoui and Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Katalin Karikó — to receive an honorary degree from NYU at the 191st all-university commencement ceremony. This year marks the first time the university’s honorary degree recipients have all been women.

“This year’s honorees and award winners have excelled individually in their chosen fields as scholars and scientists, business leaders and philanthropists, bridge builders and changemakers; collectively they have forged a legacy of distinction that will continue to inspire generations to come,” NYU president Linda Mills said in an announcement. “New York University is proud to acknowledge this outstanding group and their accomplishments, as we are proud to gather to honor and commemorate the class of 2024.”

Minow’s work in human rights advocacy and international law includes serving on a commission that proposed solutions for the armed conflict and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo to the United Nations, working at a center created to combat violent extremism and helping to launch a UN program aimed at ensuring peace in the aftermath of conflict. Minow, who is currently the chair of the Macarthur Foundation and is involved in many other academic, legal and human rights organizations, has also worked with the U.S. Department of Education to expand access to course materials for students with disabilities. 

Minow has also written or edited more than a dozen books on topics such as constitutional law, genocide and mass violence, and multiculturalism in liberal democracies. She is the recipient of nine honorary degrees, as well as the Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize, the Gold Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Public Discourse, the Sargent Shriver Equal Justice Award and the Holocaust Center Award. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Law degree from NYU.

Minow has taught at Harvard Law since 1981, and served as the school’s dean from 2009 to 2017. During her tenure as dean, Minow took various steps aimed at promoting diversity at Harvard Law, saying she would hire more minority professors, conduct a campus-wide diversity survey and make changes to student orientation programming. In 2015, she also created a committee to review the school’s seal, which was criticized for having ties to a slaveholding family, ultimately resulting in the seal being removed

Bouchamaoui, who was a part of the Nobel Prize-winning Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet — a group of four organizations that helped create a lasting constitution and democracy in Tunisia — and is now a professor of practice of diplomacy and conflict resolution at NYU Abu Dhabi, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Bouchamaoui is also the former leader of the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, a national employers’ center aimed at advancing Tunisia’s private sector.

Karikó, a professor at the University of Szeged, was a recipient of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work helping develop the mRNA technology used in Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines. She has received various other honors over her career, including the Horwitz Prize, the Ross Prize in Molecular Medicine, the Breakthrough Prize and the Japan Prize, and will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from NYU.

This year’s Presidential Medal recipients will be business leader and philanthropist Richard Ming-Hsing Tsai, who is also on the Stern School of Business’ executive board and is a member of NYU’s President’s Global Council, and Daniel Doctoroff, founder of a nonprofit aimed at supporting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research and former New York City deputy mayor. Former chair of the NYU Board of Trustees William Berkley will receive the Albert Gallatin Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Society, and New York Public Library president Anthony Marx will receive the Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City.

Contact Carmo Moniz at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Carmo Moniz
Carmo Moniz, Managing Editor
Carmo Moniz is a junior studying journalism and politics. She enjoys covering city news and dabbling in data journalism, and aspires to one day join the journalism-to-law-school pipeline. When she's not in classes or at the Washington Square News, you can find her looking for a movie to watch or embarking on random art projects. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @carmo_moniz or send tips at [email protected].

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