March 6, 2009

Good Morning:

We will confer honorary degrees at this year's Commencement to four extraordinary individuals whose contributions share one common value - making life better for others.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who along with her research partner Luc Montagnier won the Nobel Prize in 2008 for their discovery of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science. Dr. Barré-Sinoussi's discovery of HIV led to the development of methods to diagnose and treat infected patients and to screen blood products, which has substantially decreased the spread of AIDS and dramatically increased the life expectancy of AIDS patients.

Harry Connick Jr., a native New Orleanian and internationally popular musician and actor, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Harry has been a driving force in the recovery of New Orleans, navigating flooded streets by boat to help where he could, testifying on Capitol Hill about conditions in the city, dedicating record proceeds to hurricane relief and helping launch Musicians' Village, an effort to rebuild a community for New Orleans artists whose homes were destroyed by Katrina.

Rebuilding homes in Katrina's wake is also a top concern of William McDonough's, who will also receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. A world-renowned architect and designer, Bill is one of the partners, along with Brad Pitt, in the Make It Right Foundation, which is leading the redevelopment of the Lower Ninth Ward by developing a neighborhood of safe and environmentally-friendly homes.

After Katrina we have all been dubbed survivors, but I don't think any of us can lay claim to that title as convincingly as honorary degree recipient Dr. Jessie Gruman, founder, president and executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Health. A survivor of Hodgkin's disease, cervical cancer, viral pericarditis (a potentially fatal infection of the heart's lining) and colon cancer, Dr. Gruman has dedicated her life to improving the health of others. We will recognize her numerous contributions and personal triumphs with an honorary Doctor of Science.

These four individuals, along with our keynote speaker and Tulane President's Medal recipient Ellen DeGeneres, plus special tributes to our "Katrina Class," promise to make Commencement 2009 one of the best ever. You, too, can play a critical role in all the excitement by joining "Krewe du TU," the cadre of volunteers who help make Commencement possible.

In addition to the satisfaction of helping our graduates and guests, you will receive a parking pass for the ceremony, continental breakfast and lunch on the day of the ceremony and a 2009 Commencement pin. You will also receive two tickets to this year's Wave Goodbye celebration featuring Bonerama, along with an invitation to our annual thank-you party. Aaron Martin of University Communications will serve again as volunteer coordinator. Please sign up to join Aaron's team today at

Have a great weekend,


Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638