2021 honorary degrees, medals, and teaching awards announced : NewsCenter




May 12, 2021



Distinguished leaders, educators, and humanitarians will be honored during this spring’s commencement ceremonies.

The University of Rochester will recognize the outstanding contributions of distinguished leaders, educators, and humanitarians by bestowing honorary degrees, Eastman Medals, Hutchison Medals, and awards for scholarship and teaching.

The honors will be presented during University commencement ceremonies, May 14 to 23, or celebrated at a later date.

University Honorary Degree

Honorary Doctor of Science

Commencement 2021 Details

New York State guidelines may be updated before the University’s commencement ceremonies take place. Visit the official commencement website for the latest details and to

  • See the up-to-date ceremony schedule
  • Get answers to frequently asked questions, including about livestreaming and regalia
  • Check out the #UR2021 Celebration Toolkit, so you can mark this special occasion with printable signs, digital backgrounds, and social media frames

James Wyant ’67 (MS), ’69 (PhD) is a professor emeritus and founding dean of the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona. The college, where he has been a faculty member since 1974, was renamed in his honor in 2019.

A leader in the field of optical metrology, Wyant is founder of two companies that produce optical measuring equipment: the WYKO Corporation, at which he served as president and board chair from 1984 to 1997, and the 4D Technology Corporation, at which he served as board chair from 2002 to 2018. He has received several awards for his technical work and entrepreneurialism, including the Optical Society’s (OSA) Joseph Fraunhofer Award; International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) Gold Medal, as well as its Visionary Award; the State of Arizona’s Innovator of the Year Award; the University of Arizona’s Technology Innovation Award; and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Rochester’s Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences.

Wyant has contributed to the life of the University of Rochester in many ways over several decades. He taught in the Institute of Optics Summer School from 1983 to 2015; served on the Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2017, after which he became a life trustee; and honored his former optics professor by establishing the M. Parker Givens Professorship in Optics.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and of the National Academy of Inventors, a fellow and former president of OSA, and a member and former president of SPIE. Wyant received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Case Western Reserve University before earning master’s and doctoral degrees in optics from Rochester.

The Eastman Medal recognizes outstanding achievement and dedicated service in honor of the University’s great benefactor and the founder of Eastman Kodak Company

John (Dutch) Summers is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Graywood Companies, a Rochester-based global private equity firm with more than 50 business units in 13 states and nine countries. Graywood Companies began as a small tool and die business started by Summers’s father and grew to its current scope under his leadership. Summers continues to be actively involved in Graywood Companies while also contributing financially and in-kind to a variety of community and philanthropic projects. Over the past few years, much of his philanthropy has been focused on education and on improving the educational outcomes of schools and higher education.

In 2017, he and his wife, business leader and University Trustee Sandy Parker, were the recipients of the Monroe Community College Foundation’s Salute to Excellence Award for their commitment to public higher education and the community. The following year, RIT’s Saunders School of Business presented Summers with the Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award, an award given annually to an individual who has developed a business that improved the Rochester economy, or whose innovative management skills have changed the course of an existing business.

Summers has served on the board of directors of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and was inducted into the Rochester Business Hall of Fame in 2010.

The Charles Force Hutchison and Marjorie Smith Hutchison Medal recognizes alumni for outstanding achievement and notable service

Alice Holloway Young ’57 (MEd), ’69W (EdD) has called her life’s mission “breaking down barriers so that others may shine.” She is a groundbreaking educator, community leader, and children’s advocate.

Born in 1923 in North Carolina, she overcame the challenges of growing up in the Jim Crow South before starting her career with the Rochester City School District (RCSD) in 1952. She was among the first African American teachers in the district and the first African American to hold the titles of reading specialist, vice principal, and principal for RCSD. Additionally, she wrote and supervised the district’s first integration programs, including the Urban-Suburban program, the oldest voluntary desegregation program in the country. She retired from RCSD in 1985 as supervising director of elementary education.

Young also served as a founding trustee of Monroe Community College in 1961 and chaired the college’s Board of Trustees from 1978 to 1998. In March, she was presented with the 2021 Liberty Medal—the highest honor awarded by the New York State Senate. The award, given for lifetime achievement and exceptional community acts, recognized Young’s impact on education in Rochester and Monroe County spanning more than 50 years.

She has received numerous other awards and recognitions, including a 2019 Icon Success Leadership Award from the Rochester Business Journal; a 2018 Woman of Distinction honor from the New York State Assembly; the Anne M. Bushnell Memorial Award for Special Achievement, the highest honor conferred by the State University of New York Association of the Boards of Trustees of Community Colleges; and the Urban League of Rochester’s Distinguished Community Service Award, among several other accolades.

University Teaching Awards for Excellence

Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Reinhild Steingröver is a professor of German at the Eastman School of Music and an affiliate professor of film studies in the Program of Film and Media Studies in the School of Arts & Sciences. Her interdisciplinary background is a strong asset for her teaching in the humanities department at Eastman, where she quickly nurtured the love of language and added elective courses in film studies. Besides excellent language instruction, a critical component of this curriculum’s success is the German Romantic Poetry course she developed specifically for music students. This popular course, taught in German, has become a prized experience and an incentive for students to pursue language study to an advanced level.

Her research is focused on marginalized voices in contemporary German film and literature. Steingröver has won grants and awards from the German Academic Exchange Service, the Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA) Foundation, the Suhrkamp Foundation, and the Eastman School, which awarded her the Eisenhart Award for Excellence in Teaching. She was also awarded a Bridging Fellowship from the University to spend a semester at the George Eastman Museum’s L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation.

Steingröver has curated live-to-picture programs for the George Eastman Museum, RIT, and the Cinematheque Berlin. In 2009, she was cocurator for the film festival in Los Angeles titled Wende Flicks: Last Films from East Germany. Most recently, Steingröver curated the live-to-picture program Sound Utopias, a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus art movement, performed by the German National Jazz Youth Orchestra (BuJazzO). Together with BuJazzO, the Filmmuseum Frankfurt, and composer Jeff Beal ’85E, she is preparing Sound Utopia II to premiere later this year.

Steingröver earned her PhD from the University at Buffalo.

Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Stewart Weaver is a professor of history in the School of Arts & Sciences whose teaching encompasses a wide range of subjects, including global exploration, natural history, the history of India, British history, and the First World War. An eloquent lecturer and compassionate facilitator of discussions, Weaver has long been one of the most beloved teachers in the department of history. He excels in three important areas of history instruction: planning a meaningful syllabus with well-chosen readings and lecture topics; delivering engaging and edifying lectures; and skillfully facilitating discussions in which students themselves lead the process of historical discovery.

His first two books reflected his early career interest in the history of labor and the working classes in Great Britain during the Industrial Revolution. His subsequent turn to the history of exploration and the environment began with his prize-winning book, Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes (Yale University Press), coauthored with Maurice Isserman ’79 (PhD), and Exploration: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press).

Most recently, Weaver has been at work on “Climate Witness: Voices from Ladakh,” a community-engaged project to help preserve the culture and history of a mountain region in northern India under immediate threat from the forces of climate change. In 2019, he was named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, and this year the “Climate Witness” project won the Public Outreach Award of the American Society for Environmental History. Weaver earned his bachelor’s degree in history and English from Duke University in 1979 and his doctoral degree in history from Stanford University in 1985.

Graydon Curtis ’58 and Jane W. Curtis Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching Excellence

Tricia Shalka is an assistant professor in the Warner School of Education and Human Development’s higher education program. Her primary research investigates the impacts of traumatic experience on college students, particularly in terms of developmental outcomes. She also maintains a secondary research interest in the internationalization of higher education with a particular emphasis on the experiences of international students in American colleges and universities. Shalka exemplifies excellence in the classroom, as a mentor and advisor, and as a colleague looking to innovate and explore new programming that meets the needs of Warner School students. She is described by students as being student-centered and highly supportive of their goals.

Shalka’s scholarship is actively informed by her previous experiences in higher education administration. She has worked in residential life, fraternity and sorority life, student affairs assessment, and student and young alumni programs. She currently serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Trauma Studies in Education and is on the editorial board of the Journal of College Student Development. Shalka has published in several major journals, including the Review of Higher Education, the Journal of College Student Development, and the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.

She has received several awards, including the American College Personnel Association’s (College Student Educators International) Emerging Scholars Award and the Association of College Unions International’s Chester A. Berry Scholar Award. Shalka received her doctorate in higher education and student affairs from the Ohio State University, her master’s degree in college student personnel from the University of Maryland, and her bachelor’s degree in English from Dartmouth College.

Graydon Curtis ’58 and Jane W. Curtis Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching Excellence

Ellen Matson is the Wilmot Assistant Professor of Chemistry in the School of Arts & Sciences. Not just focusing on in-class instruction, she has a strong interest in the advancement of scientific knowledge broadly, and a firm commitment to the holistic training of future leaders in chemistry. In addition to her teaching load of undergraduate and graduate chemistry courses, she has collaborated with the Rochester Center for Community Leadership and the Center of Excellence in Teaching and Learning to develop two new undergraduate courses. Both classes take innovative approaches to creating unique learning experiences for STEM majors.

Her research focuses on the synthesis and characterization of multimetallic metal oxide assemblies for applications in energy conversion and energy storage. Currently her work is supported by the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

She has won numerous awards for her teaching and scholarship, including the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s Course Hero–WW Excellence in Teaching Fellowship; the Research Corporation for Science Advancement’s Cottrell Scholar Award; and, most recently, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation’s Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.

Matson graduated from Boston University with degrees in chemistry and science education in 2009 before completing her PhD in chemistry at Purdue University in 2013. Before joining the Rochester faculty, Matson was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

William H. Riker University Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching

Brian Brent is the Earl B. Taylor Professor at the Warner School of Education and Human Development. Beginning his career as a certified public accountant, Brent developed an interest in school finance. He entered graduate school in education at Cornell University, earning a master’s degree and a PhD before joining the faculty of the Warner School.

As a faculty member in the Educational Leadership Program, Brent teaches courses in administrative decision making and fiscal issues in schools and universities. In these courses, he provides students with the methodological skills needed to conduct thoughtful decision analyses to improve organizational policies and practices. Several years ago, he and his colleagues completely reimagined the EdD degree and developed one of the first accelerated cohort models of doctoral education for school administrators in the country. Central to their model was a revamped capstone project, creating a new degree requirement that school administrators would find useful to their career trajectories.

Brent’s research interests include the equity of district- and school-level human and capital resource allocation policies and practices, equity in the ability of districts to raise local revenues, and the cost-effective use of education dollars.

During his Warner tenure, Brent has served as the senior associate dean for graduate studies and as the acting dean. He currently serves as Warner’s faculty ombudsperson for the University Ombuds Office and the Ombuds Affiliate Network. He has received several awards for his scholarly work and teaching, including the University’s Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Jean Flanigan Award from the American Education Finance Association.

Tags: Brian Brent, commencement, commencement awards, Department of Chemistry, Department of History, Eastman School of Music, Ellen Matson, featured-post-side, Institute of Optics, Reinhold Steingrover, School of Arts and Sciences, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Stewart Weaver, Tricia Shalka, Warner School of Education

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