Honorary Degree Recipients

Honorary Degree Recipients 2018

Since 1984, it has been a tradition at The American University of Paris to award honorary degrees as a way of recognizing a distinguished person’s contributions to a specific field or to society in general. An honorary degree is very often awarded to distinguished individuals whose accomplishments are consistent with the mission and core values of AUP.

It is with great pleasure that we announce this year's honorary degrees recipients:

Rachael Denhollander

Rachael Denhollander

An advocate and educator, Rachael Denhollander became internationally known as the first woman to file a police report and speak publicly against Larry Nassar, one of the most prolific sexual abusers in recorded history. As a result of her brave activism, over 250 women came forward as survivors of Nassar’s abuse, leading to his life imprisonment.

Ms. Denhollander holds a degree of Juris Doctor from Oak Brook College of Law and is a member of the California Bar Association. She has worked for human rights organizations and as a researcher and writer in public policy. A passionate educator, she has taught appellate advocacy and judicial philosophy, and continues to educate on issues of abuse and abuse prevention. She speaks frequently at universities and conferences in support of victims of sexual and domestic abuse. Since the Nassar case, Ms. Denhollander has been active in spearheading legislative reform at the state level and has testified before state judiciary committees.

She is a New York Times op-ed contributor and has appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX News, BBC, and NPR. In March 2018, she participated in the United Nations’ 62nd Commission on the Status of Women, as a featured speaker on a panel organized by Pathways to Peace, an official Peace Messenger of the UN.

Ms. Denhollander lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband and three (soon-to-be four) young children.

Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine

Recipient of the 2016 MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, and two plays, including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue. Rankine is also editor of several anthologies, including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. She also co-produces a video series, The Situation, alongside John Lucas, and is the founder of the Open Letter Project: Race and the Creative Imagination. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and of fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. Rankine’s bestselling book, Citizen: An American Lyric uses poetry, essay, cultural criticism and visual images to explore what it means to be an American citizen in a “post-racial” society. A defining text for our time, Citizen was the winner of the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Collection, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (also a finalist in the criticism category, it was the first book in the award’s history to be a double nominee), the NAACP Image Award and the PEN Open Book Award. Citizen was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award and was selected as an NPR Best Book of 2014. Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry collection to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category.

Ms. Rankine, a graduate of Williams College, lives in New York City and is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University.

Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho is a prominent Finnish composer and performer whose work challenges both the conventions of opera and the boundaries of genre. In 2016, The Metropolitan Opera mounted its first performance of her L’Amour de loin (2000), the first opera by a female composer to be staged by the company since 1903.

Saariaho studied composition in Helsinki, Fribourg and Paris, where she has lived since 1982. Her work at the Institute for Research and Coordination Acoustic (IRCAM) marked a turning point in her musical expression towards spectralism – a technique based on computer analysis of the sound-spectrum. Her characteristically rich, polyphonic textures are often created by combining live music and electronics.

Over the course of her career, Saariaho has received commissions from Lincoln Center (for the Kronos Quartet) and from IRCAM (for the Ensemble Intercontemporain), from the BBC, the New York Philharmonic, the Salzburg Music Festival, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and the Finnish National Opera, among many others. She has received major composing awards, including The Grawemeyer Award, The Wihuri Prize, The Nemmers Prize, The Sonning Prize and the Polar Music Prize.

Previous Honorary Degree Recipients

Honorary degrees have been awarded at the AUP Commencement Ceremony since 1984. Honorary degree recipients often give lectures or presentations on the days preceding Commencement. These events are open to the public and provide graduates and their families the opportunity to meet our awardees in informal settings. One or more of the recipients is often invited to give a commencement address before the assembled faculty, graduates, and parents – an event which is often the highlight of the ceremony. The following renowned scholars, artists, writers, political figures, and researchers have received honorary degrees from AUP. 

Honorable Arthur Hartman

Pierre Salinger

Gene Kelly
Sir Stephen Spender

Vicomte Etienne Davignon
Elizabeth McCormack

Daniel Socolow
Simone Veil

Helen Ahrweiler
Georges Duby
Luc Montagnier
Jessye Norman

I. M. Pei
William Styron


Maurice Allais
Francois Perigot

Bernard Kouchner
Simon Weisenthal

Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Olivia de Havilland

Glenn W. Ferguson
Jeannine Manuel
Frederico Mayor
H. E. Sa’eed Salman

Christiane Amanpour
Pamela Harriman
Richard C. Holbrooke
Harry Wu

Van Gordon Sauter
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Russell Porter
The Honorable Felix G. Rohatyn

Chloe Wellingham Aaron

Martin Gray

Peter W. Goldmark
Willem Peppler

Eunice Kennedy Shriver
The Honorable R. Sargent Shriver, Jr.

Sir Crispin Tickell

Yehuda Elkana

Dr. Taslima Nasreen
Dame Muriel Spark
Dr. Tzvetan Todorov

Barry Eichengreen
Mavis Gallant
Michel Rocard

Edmond Alphandery
James Ivory

Daniel Cohen
Paul Muldoon

Naif Abdullah Al-Rukaibi
Leslie Caron
Reza Deghati
Christine Lagarde

J.M. Coetzee
Eugene Lang
Robert Wilson

Jane Goodall
Rory Stewart

Richard Ned Lebow
David McCullough
Archie Shepp

Louise Arbour
Martha Nussbaum

Edward A. Frieman
Lillian Greene-Chamberlain
Judith Hermanson Ogilvie
Nicholas Vreeland

Lisa Anderson
Margee Ensign
Benjamin Millepied

Justice Stephen Breyer
Bertie Lubner
Kenneth Roth

Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi ’98
Her Excellency Huda Ebrahim Alkhamis '83
Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns