Biographies of the Honorary Degree Recipients

Clifford Geertz
Edward N. Lorenz
Sonia Picado
Peter Ralston
Helen Vendler

Clifford Geertz is professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Among the world's leading anthropologists, Geertz has conducted extensive ethnographic research in Southeast Asia and North Africa as well as, early in his career, in the American Southwest. He has been highly influential in turning anthropology toward a concern with the frames of meaning within which various peoples live. His scholarly interests within anthropology have included religion, especially Islam, bazaar trade, economic development, traditional political structures, and village and family life. His current research involves ethnic diversity and its implications in the modern world. Geertz is the recipient of 14 honorary degrees and of several major prizes, including the Talcott Parsons Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Huxley Memorial Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, the Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prize, and the National Books Critics Circle Prize in Criticism.

Edward N. Lorenz, a professor emeritus of meteorology at MIT, is widely known as a founder of the new science of chaos theory. While experimenting with early computer models of the atmosphere, Lorenz discovered that the non-linear nature of the equations led to multiple solutions from essentially identical initial states. In computer weather modeling this means there is no way to prepare the initial state of the system with such care as to allow long- term predictions. In a 1972 speech Lorenz asked, "Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set off a Tornado in Texas?," introducing the world to the concept of the "Butterfly Effect." Now, chaos theory helps physicists, chemists, biologists, economists, and many others in their quest to understand complex phenomena. Lorenz's current research involves determining the extent to which weather is predictable and the long-term behavior of mathematical models.


Sonia Picado is a parliamentarian in the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica and former president of the National Liberation Party. She also serves as the chair of the board of directors of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights. In 1999 she led the International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor, studying human rights in that region, and presented a report to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She was Costa Rican ambassador to the United States from 1994-1998 and executive director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights from 1984-1994. From 1988-1994 she also served as judge and vice chair of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Picado also has represented Costa Rica on a variety of human rights-related commissions and boards and on the International Commission for the Recovery and Development of Central America. She was the first woman elected dean of a law school in Latin America and has taught at institutions in the United States and Europe.


Peter Ralston is a widely published and honored photographer and executive vice president of Maine's Island Institute, which he helped found in 1983. Mr. Ralston's photography has appeared in 34 books and more than 50 magazines, including American Artist, Architectural Digest, Art and Antiques, National Geographic, New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Time, and Smithsonian. His work also has been exhibited in galleries across the United States and abroad, and he has worked with artist Jamie Wyeth and other members of the Wyeth family since 1978 as their reproduction photographer of choice. At the Island Institute, whose mission is to sustain the islands and communities of the Gulf of Maine, Ralston serves as art director and principal photographer of the Island Journal and continues to promote the institute's programs and aims.


Helen Vendler is A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard and a world-renowned scholar of poetry written in English. She is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Swedish Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a past president of the Modern Language Association. She also is a former director of and a regular participant at the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo, Ireland, and has been a visiting scholar at major universities in the U.S., England and Ireland. She holds 16 honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the United States, England and Ireland. She is the author of critically acclaimed books on Yeats, Keats, Herbert, Stevens, Shakespeare and Seamus Heaney, and she reviews contemporary poetry for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and The London Review of Books.


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