NASA Astronaut Rick Mastracchio to Receive Honorary Degree

Mastracchio and seven other distinguished individuals will receive honorary degrees during Commencement ceremonies in May.

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio participates in a 5-hour, 28-minute spacewalk, as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. (Photo/NASA)

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio participates in a 5-hour, 28-minute spacewalk, as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. (Photo/NASA)

Photo Date: June 18, 2013 Location: Building 8, Room 183 - Photo Studio Subject: Individual Astronaut Photo for Rick Mastracchio Photographer: Robert Markowitz
Rick Mastracchio (Robert Markowitz)

Astronaut and engineer Rick Mastracchio is currently orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station, and that will be the spot where he records his commencement remarks for the School of Engineering ceremony on May 10.

Mastracchio ’82 (ENG) is one of nine distinguished individuals who will receive honorary degrees from the University of Connecticut this year.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer engineering at UConn, Mastracchio began his career with Hamilton Standard (now UTC Aerospace Systems) before transferring to Houston, where he applied his engineering knowledge supporting 17 NASA missions as a flight controller. He was accepted into the astronaut corps in 1996.

In the nearly two decades since he became an astronaut, Mastracchio, a Connecticut native, has made four trips to the International Space Station and logged more than 51 hours working outside the orbiting laboratory during space walks. As mission flight engineer on the space station since his arrival in November, Mastracchio has managed a variety of research projects. He also repaired a vital cooling system during several high-risk space walks.

Mastracchio will receive the Doctor of Science from the School of Engineering.

The Board of Trustees recently approved honorary degrees for Mastracchio and the following recipients, some of whom will also deliver commencement speeches at UConn school and college ceremonies.

Dr. Richard Besser, Doctor of Science, UConn Health ceremony May 12

Dr. Richard Besser.

Besser has spent nearly two decades with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including serving as acting director during the H1N1 pandemic, as well as director of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response. He is currently ABC News’ chief health and medical editor.

Author and co-author of more than 100 presentations, abstracts, chapters, book, editorials, and publications, Besser has received numerous awards for his work in public health and his volunteer service, including the Surgeon General′s Medallion for his leadership during the H1N1 response.

After earning his bachelor’s in economics at Williams College, Besser went on to receive his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a residency and a chief residency in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Md.


Liza Donnelly, Doctor of Fine Arts, Graduate School ceremony May 10

Liza Donnelly.
Liza Donnelly.

For more than 30 years, Donnelly has been a political and cultural cartoonist best known for her work with The New Yorker. But her images have appeared in numerous other national publications, including The New York Times, The Harvard Business Review, The Nation, Audubon, Glamour, and Good Housekeeping.

The author of 15 books, Donnelly is a celebrated and highly sought-after speaker and artist. Donnelly has also curated numerous exhibitions, among them an exhibition of cartoons about women’s rights at the annual conference of Women Deliver.

As a charter member of an international project, Cartooning for Peace, Donnelly helps promote understanding around the world through humor. She is also one of the founding members of the nation’s chapter of the Federation of Cartoonists Organizations, and the U.S. Department of State Cultural Envoy, traveling around the world to speak about freedom of speech, cartoons, and women’s rights.

Donnelly is a graduate of Earlham College.

Peter R. Farina, Doctor of Science, School of Pharmacy ceremony May 10

Peter Farina, senior vice-president of development for Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Peter Farina. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Farina has dedicated more than 40 years to enhancing the quality of life through improved pharmaceutical products. Currently a managing partner of Salient Science and Technology, Farina also founded Developing World Cures, a non-profit company focused on the discovery of therapeutics for neglected diseases of developing countries.

Farina began his career in the pharmaceutical industry at Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals. Over a 28-year span, he transitioned from the director of inflammatory diseases, to vice president of research and senior vice president for development in North America.

A longtime board member and co-chairman of the Connecticut United for Research Excellence (CURE), Farina has also served on the Connecticut Governor’s Council on Economic Competitiveness and Technology Advisory Board, and on the New York Academy of Sciences President’s Council.

Farina earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Pennsylvania State University.

Philip H. Lodewick, Doctor of Humane Letters, School of Business ceremony May 11

Philip Lodewick.

Lodewick is owner and president of the Tradewell Corp., a high-technology equipment leasing company that provides and finances computers, communication networks, telephone systems, and scientific instrumentation to companies across North America.

After earning a bachelor’s in marketing and a master’s of business administration in industrial administration from UConn’s School of Business in 1966 and 1967, he began working on behalf of the University. Lodewick is a former chairman of the UConn Foundation Board of Directors and the School of Business Board of Advisors. In 1995, he was inducted into the School of Business Hall of Fame and, in 2000, received the University Service Award with his wife Christine. Because of their advocacy and support, the University’s Lodewick Visitors Center was named in their honor.

Lodewick has also served as president of the Mansfield Downtown Partnership since its inception more than a decade ago. In this role, he has been instrumental in the development of the Storrs Center project in downtown Mansfield, creating a true downtown for the town and the University.

Martin McNamara, Doctor of Science, School of Nursing ceremony May 11

Martin McNamara.

McNamara currently serves as the dean of nursing and head of the University College of Dublin (UCD) School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems. He is a co-founder of the UCD Irish Centre for Nursing and Midwifery History, and has published several scholarly papers on aspects of nursing history and professional identity. A registered mental health and general nurse, he specializes in emergency and trauma nursing.

As a writer and commentator on professional and academic nursing, McNamara has a particular interest in academic identity, disciplinary development, and the history of the profession. He is also a strong advocate for end-of-life care in Ireland.

In 2013, McNamara participated in the Health Systems Re-engineering Institute at Purdue University, and he delivered the keynote address at UConn for the School of Nursing’s Athena Research Conference. McNamara holds a bachelor’s degree, three master’s degrees – in arts, education, and nursing – and a doctorate in education.

James M. Nederlander, Doctor of Fine Arts, UConn Health ceremony May 12

James Nederlander.

As chairman of the Nederlander Producing Company of America Inc., James M. Nederlander built one of the largest private live entertainment companies in the world that encompasses venue ownership, management, theatrical production, and concert presentation.

During a career that spans 70 years, Nederlander has produced more than 100 of the most acclaimed Broadway musicals and has produced and presented some of the world’s most distinguished performing companies on Broadway including the Royal Shakespeare Co., Rudolf Nureyev and Friends, The Bolshoi Ballet, and the Virsky’s Ukrainian State Dance Co.

In 1972, he founded the Theatre Hall of Fame. In 1973, he partnered with George Steinbrenner to purchase the New Yankee Baseball. Nederlander is the recipient of many distinguished honors, including the United Nations Foundation Champion Award, The Broadway League’s Schoenfeld Vision for Arts Education Award, the New York Pop’s Man of the Year, and the Tony Award.

Philip Uri Treisman, Doctor of Humane Letters, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences ceremony May 11

Philip Uri Tresiman.

Treisman’s pioneering work at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1980s set a standard for effective intervention that promotes the success of traditionally under-represented groups in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines.

In his groundbreaking research, Treisman found that despite similar backgrounds and socioeconomic status, Asian students developed a social network that helped them to achieve, while African American students frequently studied on their own and subsequently underachieved. Through various interventions, the underachieving students improved.

That work led to Treisman’s current role at the University of Texas at Austin as the director of the Charles A. Dana Center, which focuses on improving mathematics and science education to ensure that every student leaves school prepared for success.

A former MacArthur Fellow, Treisman has been the recipient of numerous accolades. In 2006, he was named Scientist of the Year by the Harvard Foundation of Harvard University, and he is currently Senior Partner in the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Treisman earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of California at Los Angeles, and his doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley.

George M. Woodwell, Doctor of Science, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources ceremony May 10

George M. Woodwell.

Woodwell is an ecologist who founded the Woods Hole Research Center in 1985 as an institute for research on environmental issues. The center is now running major research programs to study the ecological effects of ionizing radiation on vegetation, and the role that biotic systems, especially forests, play in global warming.

Woodwell’s research, about which he has published more than 300 papers, covers such areas as the structure and function of natural communities and their role in the biosphere. He has worked extensively in forests and estuaries in North America and has made well-known studies of the ecological effects of ionizing radiation and the circulation and effects of pesticides and other toxins. He was awarded the Heinz Award in the Environment in 1997 and the Volvo Environment Prize in 2001.

A prolific writer, Woodwell has contributed articles to Science, Scientific American, BioScience, Ecology and the Journal of Ecology, among others. He has written and edited books on the effects of nuclear war, the global carbon cycle, biotic impoverishment, and satellite imagery used in measuring the area of forests globally.

In addition, the following two people will deliver commencement speeches:

Steven Were Omamo, speaker, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources ceremony, May 10

Born in 1963 in a small town in western Kenya, Omamo came to the United States for higher education, earning his bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from California State University, Fresno, and a master’s in agricultural economics from UConn.

After graduating from UConn, Omamo worked as a lecturer in agricultural economics at Egerton University in Kenya, taking leave in 1990 to pursue a doctorate at Stanford University, and returning to Egerton full-time in 1995.

For the next two decades, Omamo worked first as a research economist with several organizations in Africa, Europe, and the United States, before joining the United Nations World Food Programme. He held several roles before finally serving as director of the Addis Ababa office and representative to the African Union and U.N. Economic Commission for Africa.

In 2012, Omamo joined the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa as director of policy and advocacy, a role in which he leads AGRA’s efforts to strengthen Africa’s food and agricultural policy systems, focusing on catalyzing reforms and partnerships that promote a uniquely African Green Revolution.

Barry C. Scheck, speaker, School of Law ceremony May 10

Barry Scheck.
Barry Scheck.

Scheck and his colleague Peter Neufeld founded the Innocence Project after realizing the profound potential for DNA evidence to overturn wrongful convictions. Their pioneering work using DNA evidence to exonerate the wrongly convicted led to a national movement that has changed the landscape of criminal procedure in America, as over 300 individuals, many on death row, have been exonerated in the United States through post-conviction DNA testing.

In Connecticut as well as other states, these exonerations have led to improvements in identification procedures, providing new safeguards against conviction of the innocent, and new tools to identify the guilty. The Project also assists police, prosecutors and defense attorneys in trying to bring about reform in many areas of the criminal justice system, including eyewitness identification procedures, interrogation methods, crime laboratory administration, and forensic science research.

Scheck has done extensive trial and appellate litigation in significant civil rights and criminal defense cases. He has represented such notable clients as Hedda Nussbaum, O. J. Simpson, Louise Woodward, and Abner Louima. He has published extensively in these areas, including a book with Jim Dwyer and Peter Neufeld entitled, Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong And How To Make It Right.

A longtime faculty member at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Scheck also worked as a staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society in New York City early in his career. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley.