YU’s 80th Commencement Ceremony

NYU President, Legal Scholar and Former New York Federal Reserve Bank Chair, John Sexton, to Receive Honorary Degree and Keynote YU Commencement on May 26

Dr. John Sexton, a legal scholar and higher education advocate who, as president of New York University for the past decade, has positioned the institution among the foremost in the world, will deliver the principal address and receive an honorary doctoral degree at Yeshiva University’s 80th Commencement on Thursday, May 26.

Dr. John Sexton, president of NYU, will deliver the keynote address at YU's May 26 commencement.
John Sexton, president of NYU, will deliver the commencement address at YU's May 26 commencement ceremony.

At the Commencement ceremony, at 11 a.m. at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ, Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel will also confer honorary doctorates upon global business leader Ronald S. Lauder, who as U.S. Ambassador to Austria and through vast philanthropic activities has played a pivotal role in revitalizing Jewish life across Eastern and Central European communities that had been devastated by the Holocaust; Father Patrick Desbois, a French Roman Catholic priest who undertook the monumental task of uncovering the previously unknown history of 1.5 million Jews murdered in the former Soviet Union during World War II; and Mira Kowarski Rothenberg, whose pioneering research into the treatment of autistic children, some of it conducted while a graduate student at YU in the late 1950s, demonstrated to the world that such children are treatable and educable.

(Visit the commencement page for dates, locations, directions and information on ceremonies for all Yeshiva University schools and affiliates. Seniors, learn more about all the commencement experience and share tips for getting the most out of graduation at www.yu.edu/experience.)

“Each individual we are honoring embodies our University’s principles and commitment to Jewish values and to innovative thinking that impacts the greater community,” said President Joel. “It is our hope that our graduates will be uplifted and inspired by the magnitude of their accomplishments.”

More than 1,800 undergraduate students from Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women and Sy Syms School of Business, as well as graduate students in the fields of law, medicine, social work, education, Jewish studies and psychology, will be awarded degrees from YU during its Commencement season.

Honorary Degree Recipients

John Sexton, the 15th and current President of New York University, is also the Benjamin Butler Professor of Law and NYU Law School Dean Emeritus, having served as Dean for 14 years. He was named the University’s President in 2001.

A leading voice for American higher education, he serves as chair of the American Council on Education and of the New York Academy of Sciences, and is immediate past chair of the Commission on Independent College and Universities of New York. He is also a past member of the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities. In other professional endeavors, Dr. Sexton served as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and of the Federal Reserve Systems Council. He has also been a board member of the National Association of Securities Dealers and was founding chair of NASD Dispute Resolution.

Before coming to NYU, Dr. Sexton served as Law Clerk to Chief Justice Warren Burger of the U.S. Supreme Court and to Judges David Bazelon and Harold Leventhal of the U.S. Court of Appeals. For 10 years, he served as Special Master supervising pretrial proceedings in the infamous Love Canal litigation.

A prolific author, his books include Redefining the Supreme Court’s Role: A Theory of Managing the Federal Court System, and the nation’s leading casebook on civil procedure.

Ronald S. Lauder combines his deep commitment to his heritage with an innovative network of business enterprises in a mosaic of philanthropic and professional endeavors around the world.

Ronald S. Lauder
Ronald S. Lauder

Appointed as Ambassador to Austria by President Reagan in 1986, he brought to his diplomatic post fluency in European languages and the experience he gathered in European affairs during his previous service as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy. During his tenure, he built strong diplomatic bonds between the United States and Austria, while personally repudiating then-Austrian President Kurt Waldheim’s Nazi past.

His experience in Austria heightened his commitment to revitalize Jewish life across Eastern and Central Europe that had been destroyed during the Holocaust. He established the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, supporting Jewish schools, camps and community centers in Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

Among his many leadership posts in the Jewish community, Mr. Lauder is chairman of the Jewish National Fund, president of the World Jewish Congress and chairman of the International Public Committee of the World Jewish Restitution Organization. He has served also as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

In his professional endeavors, Mr. Lauder is chairman and the primary stockholder of Central European Media Enterprises Ltd., investing in and operating broadcast television in Eastern and Central Europe. He is also the sole owner of the New York-based Water Holding Group RWL, LLC.

Father Patrick Desbois
Father Patrick Desbois

Father Patrick Desbois is co-founder and president of the Yahad-In Unum (“together” in Hebrew and Latin) Association, an organization fostering Catholic-Jewish relations. Its flagship initiative is locating the sites of mass graves of Jewish victims of Nazi killing units in Ukraine and Belarus and securing witness testimonies to these atrocities. To date, the organization has identified over 900 mass graves at some 2,000 locations, and interviewed some 1200 witnesses whose testimonies are archived at its Paris headquarters and shared with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s permanent collection.

His interest in these matters originated with his grandfather, a French soldier deported to a Nazi prison camp in the Ukraine during World War II. Father Desbois became curious about the Holocaust and its victims, and he later studied Judaism and its tenets and traditions while preparing for ordination.

In 2004, Father Desbois traveled to the Ukraine to observe where his grandfather had been imprisoned and to pay respects at a memorial for all who had died. Upon arrival, he was shocked to discover there was no single marking or commemoration of Jewish victims in Ukraine and Belarus. This led to the founding of Yahad-In Unum.

Father Desbois, who is also head of the Commission for Relations with Judaism of the French Bishop’s Conference and a consultant to the Vatican, is the author of the award-winning book about his work, The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews.

In 1958, at a time when most autistic children were misdiagnosed as “mentally retarded” and placed in institutions, where they were often abused and neglected, Mira Kowarski Rothenberg co-founded and served as clinical director of Blueberry Treatment Centers, the first internationally recognized therapeutic agency for the treatment of autistic and schizophrenic children. Through her pioneering work, she showed that autistic children are educable and can be treated and get better.

Mira Kowarski Rothenberg
Mira Kowarski Rothenberg

Ms. Rothenberg’s work with autistic children was the basis of her acclaimed book Children with Emerald Eyes, which was published in 1960 and translated into eight languages. Her efforts were also captured in an article, “The Rebirth of Jonny,” in Harper’s Magazine and Reader’s Digest in the early 1960s, and a documentary based on that article aired on public television and received an Emmy Award nomination.

As a result, her work was soon disseminated around the world.

Born in Vilna (Lithuania), she came to the United States in the 1930s to study education and psychology. While pursuing her master’s degree at Columbia University, she was recruited by the Washington Heights Synagogue’s Yeshiva Rabbi Moses Soloveichik to work with 32 troubled and orphaned children who survived the Holocaust and had been brought to the United States from displaced persons camps. This led to her becoming a child therapist and to attending YU’s Graduate Division of Psychology (now the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology), where she completed work on her dissertation, some of which formed the basis of Children with Emerald Eyes.


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