Columbia Announces 2023 Honorary Degree Recipients

Katori Hall, Joyce Ladner, Jonathan Lavine, Jeannie Lavine, Tania León, Minouche Shafik, Bob Woodward, and Shing-Tung Yau will be honored.

April 06, 2023

On May 17, 2023 Columbia University will confer its honorary degrees during the annual, university-wide graduation. The honorands will receive their awards on the steps of Low Library on Columbia’s Morningside campus in New York City, in front of all the graduates and their friends and family.

The recipients this year, Joyce Ladner, Jonathan Lavine, Jeannie Lavine, Tania León, Minouche Shafik, Bob Woodward, and Shing-Tung Yau, will receive honorary degrees. Katori Hall will be awarded the University Medal for Excellence.

During this celebration of Columbia’s 269th academic year, each recipient will be presented with an honorary degree by Lee C. Bollinger, who is marking his last Commencement as the university’s president after 21 years.

An archived video of the ceremony and digital program will be available for viewing shortly after the live webcast.

Katori Hall, University Medal for Excellence

Katori Hall, a woman with short dark hair, in a dark top.

Pulitzer Award-winning and two-time Tony-nominated Memphis-native Katori Hall is the book writer and co-producer of the West End and Broadway hit Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. She’s also the creator of P-VALLEY, the Starz drama based on her play Pussy Valley. The critically acclaimed series has garnered a variety of accolades, including the NAACP Image Award for best Television Drama. Her latest theatrical piece, The Hot Wing King, premiered in Spring 2020 at the Signature Theatre, rounding out her three-play residency and winning her the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Read more. 

Joyce A. Ladner, Doctor of Letters

Joyce Ladner, a woman with short white hair and red glasses, in a red top.

Joyce Ladner was a professor of sociology, provost, and interim president at Howard University. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the District of Columbia Financial Control Board to balance the city’s budget after it became bankrupt. She was also a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. As a sociologist, Joyce Ladner studied and interpreted the intersectionality of race, gender, and class in her book, Tomorrow’s Tomorrow: The Black Woman that was the forerunner of the field of Black Girlhood Studies and is part of the canon in her field. Read more. 

Jeannie Bachelor Lavine, Doctor of Laws

Jeannie Lavine, a woman with medium length light hair and glasses, in a white top.

Jeannie Lavine is the Co-Founder and Trustee of the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation, an organization that she established with her husband, Jonathan Lavine. The foundation delivers financial resources to a wide variety of nonprofit organizations that are focused on leveling the playing field for individuals and families. Under their leadership, the foundation has supported a diverse array of causes, including numerous initiatives at Columbia University designed to impact many aspects of student life, faculty support, research and scholarship, and support of Columbia’s neighboring communities. Read more. 

Jonathan Scott Lavine, Doctor of Laws

Jonathan Lavine, a man with short hair in a grey suit.

Jonathan Lavine is Co-Managing Partner of Bain Capital, a leading global private investment firm with approximately $160 billion in assets under management, 1,600 employees, and 23 offices worldwide. He also serves as the Chief Investment Officer of Bain Capital Credit and Bain Capital Special Situations, which he founded in 1998. Together, those businesses have more than $57 billion in assets under management, and more than 440 employees and offices on four continents. Lavine joined Bain Capital’s private equity group in 1993. Read more.

Tania León, Doctor of Music

Tania León, a woman with short dark hair in a red top.

Tania León is a composer, conductor, educator, and advisor to arts organizations. Her orchestral work Stride, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music. In 2022, she was named a recipient of the 45th Annual Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements. In 2023, she was awarded the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition from Northwestern University. Most recently, León became the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s next Composer-in-Residence—a post she will hold for two seasons, beginning in September 2023. Read more. 

Minouche Shafik, Doctor of Laws

Minouche Shafik, a woman with long dark hair, in red glasses and a red top.

Nemat "Minouche" Shafik is an economist, policymaker, and higher education leader who will become the 20th President of Columbia University in the City of New York on July 1, 2023. For more than three decades she has served in senior leadership roles across a range of prominent international and academic institutions. Since 2017 she has been President and Vice Chancellor of the London School of Economics and Political Science, one of the world’s leading centers for research and teaching in the social sciences. Read more. 

Bob Woodward, Doctor of Laws

A man with short white hair, in a suit and tie.

Bob Woodward is an associate editor of The Washington Post, where he has worked for 52 years. He has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes, first in 1973 for the coverage of the Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein, and second in 2002 as the lead reporter for coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He has authored or coauthored 21 books, all national bestsellers. Fifteen were #1 New York Times bestsellers, including his last three books on the Trump presidency: Fear (2018), Rage (2020), and Peril (2021). Woodward recently released The Trump Tapes, a bestselling audiobook of his 20 historic interviews with President Donald Trump. Read more. 

Shing-Tung Yau, Doctor of Science

Shing-Tung Yau, a man with short white hair and glasses, in a dark suit and tie.

Shing-Tung Yau is a Chinese-American mathematician. He is known for a wide variety of contributions to mathematics and theoretical physics. He and Richard Schoen proved positive mass conjecture, discovered the first black hole existence theorem due to the condensation of matter, and most recently worked on defining “quasilocal mass,” which allows the measurement of gravitational energy on any finitely extended region. Making use of ideas from quasilocal quantities, they solved a long-standing problem on understanding angular momentum in general relativity. Read more.

Why does Columbia confer honorary degrees, and who are some of the past recipients?

Learn more about this beloved university tradition.