Shirley Ann Jackson. Barrier breaker, visionary scientist, federal commissioner, university trustee and president, national leader of scientists. One of a handful of African-American freshmen at MIT in 1964, you co-founded and co-chaired the university’s Black Student Union, performed brilliantly in the classroom, and still found time to volunteer as a tutor and at a hospital in nearby Roxbury. You became the first African-American women to earn a doctorate at MIT, where you are now a life trustee. You conducted research in theoretical elementary particle physics at FermiLab, the Stanford Linear Accelerator, the European Center for Nuclear Research, and the Aspen Center for Physics. Then, in a move that highlighted both your stunning intellectual flexibility and your capacity for appreciating the practical, you joined Bell Labs as a condensed-matter physicist. In a field known for esoteric research, you saw practical implications for communications technology and worked hand-in-hand with those who developed the materials from which communications equipment is made. You carried on that work as professor of theoretical physics at Rutgers University. You are committed to the betterment of science, higher education, and society at large. You have served as president of the National Society of Black Physicists, member of the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology, trustee of Rutgers, Lincoln, Georgetown and Rockefeller universities and the Brookings Institution, and on and the boards of directors of several major corporations. You chaired the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1995-1999 and revitalized it, including establishing the International Nuclear Regulators Association, which you also chaired. As president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, you led the development and implementation of the Rensselaer Plan, which emphasizes excellence, leadership, and community. And as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, you push for increased participation in science those you identify as “the new majority” in our society: women, minorities, and the disabled.
By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Shirley Ann Jackson, the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.
Conferred May 23, 2004