Honorary degrees to be awarded at the start
Five individuals will be recognized by the University of Delaware with the presentation of honorary degrees at the University’s commencement ceremony on May 28.
The Honorary Degree, the University’s highest honour, is reserved for individuals who reflect, in their personal and professional achievements, the University’s mission and who serve as role models for students, alumni, the University community. and the world of UD.
This year’s class, approved by the board at its spring meeting, includes Arup K. Chakraborty, alumnus and director of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and Robert T. Haslam professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ; Theresa J. Rebeck, award-winning playwright; Gerret Van S. Copeland, philanthropist and UD instructor; Tatiana B. Copeland, philanthropist; and the late James E. Newton, Emeritus Professor of African Studies. Dr. Newton, who died on May 24, 2022, will be recognized at a later ceremony.
About the winners
Arup K. Chakraborty
Chakraborty receives a Doctor honoris causa in science. An esteemed multidisciplinary researcher, he earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at UD. After teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, he joined the faculty at MIT, where he is one of 12 professors at the Institute, the highest rank awarded to an MIT faculty member. He is also one of only 25 people who are members of the three branches of America’s national academies – the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering.
A pioneering researcher, Chakraborty supervises and collaborates with researchers from the Chakraborty Group, which brings together approaches from immunology, physics and engineering. His research focuses on understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of the adaptive immune response to pathogens and harnessing this knowledge to help design better vaccines and therapies, with a focus on HIV and influenza. One of the characteristics of his research is the close synergy and collaboration between the theoretical and computer studies of his laboratory and the investigations carried out by experimental and clinical biologists.
Honored as a teacher and mentor, he teaches at the undergraduate and graduate levels and has lectured around the world. Chakraborty has received several teaching awards, most recently the MIT Chemical Engineering Department’s Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award in 2020 and 2021.
Rebeck, who receives a Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, is a prolific playwright whose works have been produced on Broadway and elsewhere, in the United States and abroad. when she plays Bernhardt/Hamlet premiering on Broadway in 2018, it was her fourth Broadway production and made her the most-produced Broadway playwright of our time. Pulitzer Prize finalist for his play Omnium Gatheringshe won a National Theater Conference Award and several other playwriting accolades.
Four of Rebeck’s works had their world premieres on campus, presented by UD’s professional theater training program, the Resident Ensemble Players. His records are housed in the Special Collections of the University of Delaware Library.
An acclaimed television and film writer, Rebeck created and produced the television musical series To break and has written for numerous series, including Law and order: criminal intent, Third watch, LA Law, the brooklyn bridge and others. His writing for Blue NYPD won him numerous awards, including a Peabody, the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, and the Hispanic Images Imagen Award. His film credits include Harriet the spy, Gossip, catwoman and the recent thriller The 355. She is also the author of three novels and the non-fiction book, Free Fire Zone: A playwright’s adventures in the creative battlefield of film, television and theater.
Copeland, an accomplished business executive and owner and president of Rokeby Realty Company, receives a Doctor honoris causa in human letters.
A wine lover, he and his wife, Tatiana, founded the Napa Valley winery Bouchaine Vineyards, of which he is president. For 14 years he was a guest lecturer in the field of wine at the University.
As a passionate conservationist, he and his cousin, the late George “Frolic” Weymouth, formed the Brandywine Conservancy, which protected nearly 65,000 acres in Delaware and Pennsylvania from development. The Conservancy is a leading local and national advocate for responsible land use, open space preservation, and water protection.
Copeland grew up on the property now known as Mount Cuba Center, and he has long worked with this renowned horticultural center. He is also active with Longwood Gardens and sits on its board of directors.
A noted philanthropist, he is a devoted supporter of the Delaware Art Museum and currently chairs its board of trustees. He and his wife are also performing arts champions in Delaware.
The Copelands have received the Order of the First State, Delaware’s highest honor, the Delaware History Makers Award from the Delaware Historical Society, and the Josiah Marvel Cup from the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.
A cosmopolitan businesswoman who speaks five languages, Copeland receives a Doctor honoris causa in human letters.
She had a successful career in international trade and taxation with the multinational PricewaterhouseCoopers and later at DuPont and is now Owner and President of Tebec Associates Limited and Co-Owner and President of Bouchaine Vineyards.
As patrons of the arts, she and her husband, Gerret, have supported live musical and theatrical performances. A member of the board of trustees of the Grand Opera House, she is past president and president of the Delaware Symphony Association and past national trustee of the National Symphony Orchestra. She also helped fund the renovation of the Playhouse in Rodney Square.
A Delaware community champion, she and her husband have shared their time, money, and expertise with dozens of local and regional nonprofits, including the University of Delaware. The Copelands are also big dog lovers and have set up a fund to help pet owners pay for veterinary care.
His support was essential for the state to obtain its own tall ship, the Kalmar Nyckela replica of the ship that brought the first European settlers to Wilmington in 1638. Her likeness adorns the bow of this vessel, and she was knighted by the King of Sweden with the Royal Order of the Polar Star.
James E. Newton
An award-winning artist and longtime member of the University of Delaware faculty, Dr. Newton will be awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters posthumously. Dr. Newton retired from the University in 2005 after a 33-year career that included heading the Department of Black American Studies, now the Department of African Studies, and chairing the Commission for the Advancement of racial and cultural diversity. While at the University, he received the Excellence in Teaching Award, the Black Student Union Faculty Award, an Excellence in Teaching Award from the Mortar Board Honor Society, and the diversity Louis L. Redding.
He has served on the Delaware State Advisory Committee of the United States Civil Rights Commission and the National Board of Directors of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. An active member of the community, he has served on the board of numerous organizations, including the Walnut Street YMCA, Delaware State Arts Council, Delaware Art Museum, Tatnall School, YMCA of Delaware, and Public Allies.
He is the author of Principles of Diversity: A Handbook for a Diversity-Friendly America and A program evaluation of students’ knowledge of African-American life and history, as well as several articles on multicultural education, African-American art and diversity. He has also written over 30 articles on black Delawares. Additionally, he co-edited The Other Slaves: Mechanics, Artisans and Artisans, and he won first prize in sculpture and graphic design at the National African American Art Exhibition in Atlanta.