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:
Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi ’98, is an internationally recognized cultural translator, art curator and journalist. His work has appeared in The Financial Times, The Independent, The Guardian, CNN, Foreign Policy, The Huffington Post, Open Democracy, and The Globe and Mail. His tweets became a major English-language news source during the Arab Spring, and Time Magazine listed his as one of the 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011.
Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi received his Bachelor of Arts degree in International Business Administration from The American University of Paris (1998), and an MA in Global Banking and Finance from Regent’s University London (2004). From 2014-2016 he was a Director’s Fellow of the MIT Media Lab—an interdisciplinary research laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology devoted to projects at the convergence of technology, multimedia, sciences, art and design. In May 2015, he received the Regent's University London Honorary Senior Fellowship. He is also a member of the President’s Alumni Advisory Council (PAAC) at AUP.
In 2010, he founded the Barjeel Art Foundation, a museum and cultural institution based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. The Foundation is an independent initiative established to manage, preserve, and exhibit an extensive collection of modern and contemporary Arab art, as well as to support educational programming for the local community via school tours, panel discussions, and lectures. A curated collection of the Foundation’s works drawn from numerous countries across the MENA region is currently on exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe.
Her Excellency Huda Ebrahim Alkhamis ’83 is the founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) as well the world-renowned annual Abu Dhabi Festival. Her career began at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, and she was appointed by H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, to the board of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage, on which she served until 2012. In 1996, she founded ADMAF, which was the first not-for-profit cultural organization in Abu Dhabi dedicated to the advancement of education, culture and creativity. The Foundation reaches 40,000 people annually, including thousands of university students, high school students, musicians and artists of the region and the world via commissions, masterclasses, scholarships and multiple forms of collaboration and outreach. Her Excellency is also Founder and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival, which was established in 2004 and is the largest celebration of arts and culture in the Arabian Gulf.
Her Excellency Huda Ebrahim Alkhamis sits on the Cleveland Clinic International Leadership Board; Advisory Council of the Arab Fund for Arts & Culture; International Circle of the Queen Sofía College of Music; and the International Advisory Board of the Edinburgh International Festival. She is a recipient of numerous awards and commendations including the 2011 Aspen Institute Emerging Voice Award for Cultural Stewardship and the 2010 Puccini Festival Foundation Award. She holds the Abu Dhabi Award and Abu Dhabi Medal, Orden del Mérito Civil and the Royal Order of Isabella the Catholic (Spain), Bundesverdienstkreuz(Germany), the Gloria Artis Medal (Poland) and the Order of the British Empire. She is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), Commendatore dell’ Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà (Italy) and Officer of the Order of the Crown (Belgium).
Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns is the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is also Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and faculty chair for the programs on the Middle East and on India and South Asia. He serves on the board of directors of the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and is a faculty associate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.
Ambassador Burns served in the United States government for twenty-seven years. As a career Foreign Service Officer, he served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008; he was the State Department’s third-ranking official when he led negotiations on the US–India Civil Nuclear Agreement; and he served as the lead US negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program. He was U.S. Ambassador to NATO (2001–2005), Ambassador to Greece (1997–2001) and State Department Spokesman (1995–1997). He also served for five years (1990–1995) on the National Security Council at the White House where he was Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Affairs. Ambassador Burns has served as Special Assistant to President Clinton and as Director for Soviet Affairs in the Administration of President George H.W. Bush.
Ambassador Burns, who is the father of AUP alumna Sarah Burns ’05, has received twelve honorary degrees, the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from The Johns Hopkins University, the Boston College Alumni Achievement Award, and the Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University. He has a BA in History from Boston College (1978), an MA in International Relations from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (1980), and he earned the Certificat pratique de langue française while a student at the University of Paris-Sorbonne (1977).
Davina Durgana ’12 is a labor statistician who earned her Master’s in International Affairs, Conflict Resolution and Civil Society Development at AUP, and her Ph.D from American University’s School of International Service where she created a statistical model called the Human Vulnerability Diagnostic Tool (HDVD) to measure and identify human trafficking abuses around the globe. Her method of tracking such abuses—guiding governments and NGOs, the US Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice, and the Polaris Project today—transcends anecdotal and subjective accounts, replacing them with statistical models that ascertain where instances of human trafficking are most likely to be present. Vulnerability indices and Gallup data help her to identify where trafficking is likeliest to occur. “Anywhere there are vulnerable people and a viable market, there will be trafficking,” she maintains. Durgana is part of a team that publishes the annual Global Slavery Index, serves as an advisor for SeraphimGLOBAL, works as a senior statistician at the Walk Free Foundation and as a senior practitioner and associate professor at School of International Training (SIT) Graduate Institute. Durgana also received the 2013 Human Trafficking Teardrop Award from the Trafficking in America Task Force, and was named the Harry V. Roberts Statistical Advocate of the Year in 2016 by the American Statistical Association. During her undergraduate graduation from GWU, she was commended by Michelle Obama. She also earned prestigious a White House Internship in the Office of Joe Biden, where she was offered a position as an Associate in the Presidential Personnel Office. She currently teaches at American University and Harvard University. This spring and most recently, she was awarded a spot on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the science category, making a name for herself amongst “the brightest young entrepreneurs, innovators, and game changers” of the year. She feels called to public service, and envisions running for office in the not-too-distant future. “A lot of what motivates me and keeps me so excited,” writes Durgana, “is really finding my niche.”
Olivia de Havilland, world-renowned and revered actress and AUP parent (of Benjamin Goodrich) and board member (1970-71), was 100 years old last year. She has resided in Paris since the mid-1950s. De Havilland occupies today a very special place in the public imagination for her illustrious stage and film career, perhaps most notably for her portrayal of the angelic character Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind (1939), opposite Vivien Leigh’s fiery Scarlett O’Hara. She is today the last surviving star of the most popular film of all time. De Havilland was born in Tokyo, but moved early to California with her mother and sister, the actress Joan Fontaine. Her first big break was a performance of Hermia in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the famed Hollywood Bowl in 1933. By 1935 she had signed with Warner Brothers. The Studio paired her with swashbuckler Errol Flynn, with whom she made 8 films, including Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), but her talent took her much beyond those early films. De Havilland went on to garner Academy Award nominations for stellar performances in both Gone with the Wind and Hold Back the Dawn (1941) with Charles Boyer, and to win Best Actress Awards for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949), for which she also won a Golden Globe.
One of the hallmarks of de Havilland’s career was the psychological depth of the characters she brought to life. The Snake Pit (1948) was one of the first films to explore mental health issues, portraying a young woman experiencing a breakdown, and The Heiress featured a young woman psychologically torn between her love, played by Montgomery Clift, and her father. Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964), in which she played, much later, opposite Bette Davis, was also an acclaimed psychological thriller.
Always a fighter, de Havilland took on the Studio culture in Hollywood by first refusing to take on any further parts for sweet young things. Warner Brothers suspended her and subsequently refused to release her from her contract. She ultimately took Warner Brothers to court for financial abuses of her contract, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court of California, which in a landmark 1945 judgment, reaffirmed a lower court ruling in favor of de Havilland. The case created the de Havilland rule, which limited the length of a studio contract to a maximum of seven calendar years. Victory came at a steep price, for de Havilland did not make a film for three years. When she did, playing an unwed mother who is forced to give up her child, she won her first Oscar for Best Actress.
A member of the ACP Board in the early 1970s, and the only woman on that Board, de Havilland remembers taking the part of student protesters during that period of tension between members of the Board and ACP students. She represented the political ideas of the students, encouraging fellow Board members to be open to new and constructive ideas. She also remembers not winning that battle for the students in the face of AUP’s rather conservative Board at the time. She resigned as a result.
The star of 49 films, author of a best-selling memoir, and recipient of a star on the Walk of Fame, Olivia de Havilland took the stage at the Academy Awards in 2003, to the famous swells of Gone with the Wind, receiving an endless standing ovation. She received a special lifetime tribute from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 2006. Two years later, President George W. Bush awarded her the National Medal of Arts (2008). She earned the Légion d’Honneur from French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010. In 2011, at the Nuit des Césars, de Havilland was greeted by yet another standing ovation for an illustrious life in cinema, a life sumptuously well lived.
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
Sir Stephen Spender
Vicomte Etienne Davignon
I. M. Pei
Olivia de Havilland
Glenn W. Ferguson
H. E. Sa’eed Salman
Richard C. Holbrooke
Van Gordon Sauter
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
The Honorable Felix G. Rohatyn
Chloe Wellingham Aaron
Peter W. Goldmark
Eunice Kennedy Shriver
The Honorable R. Sargent Shriver, Jr.
Sir Crispin Tickell
Dr. Taslima Nasreen
Dame Muriel Spark
Dr. Tzvetan Todorov
Naif Abdullah Al-Rukaibi
Richard Ned Lebow
Edward A. Frieman
Judith Hermanson Ogilvie
Justice Stephen Breyer