Honorary Degree Recipients for Commencement 2015

May 7, 2015

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 our privilege to announce this year's honorary degree recipients, who will be awarded at our Commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

Benjamin Millepied, Director, Paris Opera Ballet

Benjamin-MillepiedBenjamin Millepied (born 10 June 1977) is a French dancer, choreographer, and director, perhaps most widely known for his work in the movie Black Swan in which he starred and which he choreographed.  Millepied was born in Bordeaux, France, and raised in Dakar, Senegal.  His ballet training started at the age of eight under the tutelage of his mother, Catherine Flori, a former ballet dancer.  Between the ages of 13 and 16 he studied with Michel Rahn at the Conservatoire National in Lyon, France.  In the summer of 1992 Millepied attended classes at the School of American Ballet (SAB) and returned to study full-time in 1993, with a scholarship from the French Ministry. Early in his career Millepied was mentored by choreographer Jerome Robbins, who took an interest in him.  At SAB's 1994 Spring Workshop he originated a principal role in Jerome Robbins' premiere of 2 and 3 Part Inventions and also received the Prix de Lausanne. Millepied joined New York City Ballet's corps de ballet in 1995, was promoted to soloist in 1998 and became principal dancer in 2002, at the age of 25. Millepied is also a choreographer, creating dances for City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, the School of American Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the Paris Opera Ballet, Ballet de Genève, American Ballet Theatre, and his own company, Danses Concertantes. From 2006 to 2007, he was choreographer-in-residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York. Millepied has commissioned and collaborated with contemporary composers including David Lang, Nico Muhly, Thierry Escaich, Daniel Ott, and Philip Glass. The Jerome Robbins Trust and Foundation has underwritten Millepied’s work. 

In 2001, Millepied's dancing was motion captured for the animated children's film Barbie in the Nutcracker, along with that of other New York City Ballet dancers. His dancing was again captured for the 2003 Barbie film Barbie of Swan Lake. In 2009 he served as choreographer for Black Swan, a psychological thriller directed by Darren Aronofsky which stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis as ballet dancers in New York City. In 2010, he was the leading man in a short film co-directed by Asa Mader and starring Léa Seydoux, called Time Doesn’t Stand Still.

In 2010, he was made Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. In 2012, Millepied founded The Amoveo Company, a multimedia production company and art collective. He has directed a number of short films in collaboration with various artists, including Mark Bradford, Philip Glass, IO Echo, Zeds Dead, and Lil Buck.  In 2014, Millepied became the Artistic Advisor of the new Dance Academy at the Colburn School in Downtown Los Angeles, joining fellow former-principal dancers with the New York City Ballet, Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette.  At roughly the same time he founded the L.A. Dance Project, establishing a full-time residence at Los Angeles Theatre Center with the objective of presenting new works throughout the city.  Later that year, Millepied and L.A. Dance Project dancer Amanda Wells performed a 30-minute duet entitled "Framework" at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The dance collective’s first program featured a Millepied premiere, Moving Parts, with a score by Muhly and visual design by painter Christopher Wool. The program also includes a revival of Merce Cunningham’s 1964 Winterbranch, a movement exploration of falling bodies set to a mostly two-note score by La Monte Young, and William Forsythe’s Quintett, a 1993 study in loss and hope to avant-garde composer Gavin Bryar’s composition Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.[18] Millepied's collaborators include Rodarte, Barbara Kruger, and Alex Israel, a contemporary California painter and video artist.

Millepied officially suceeded Brigitte Lefevre as Director of Dance at the Paris Opera Ballet in October 2014.  He is married to actress Natalie Portman, whom he met during the making of Black Swan


Lisa Anderson, President, American University of Cairo

LisaLisa Anderson is an American political scientist and the current President of the American University in Cairo (AUC).  A specialist on Middle Eastern and North African politics, Anderson served as the Provost of AUC from 2008 to 2010 before succeeding David Arnold as president.  Prior to joining AUC, Anderson served as the James T. Shotwell Professor of International Relations at Columbia University, the Dean of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, the Chair of the Political Science Department and the Director of the Middle East Institute]. Previously, she was Assistant Professor of Government and Social Studies at Harvard University.
Anderson is the former president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) and former chair of the board of the Social Science Research Council.  She is also a former member of the Council of the American Political Science Association and served on the board of the Carnegie Council on Ethics in International Affairs.  She is member emerita of the board of Human Rights Watch, where she served as co-chair of Human Rights Watch/Middle East, co-chair of the International Advisory Board of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and member of the International Advisory Council of the World Congress for Middle East Studies.  She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In fall 2013, she visited the American Academy in Berlin as a Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Visitor. She was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Anderson holds a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University.  She earned her Ph.D in political science from Columbia University in 1981, where she also received a certificate from the Middle East Institute. Her academic research focuses on state formation, regime change, and economic and political development in the Middle East. Anderson is the author of Pursuing Truth, Exercising Power: Social Science and Public Policy in the Twenty-first Century (Columbia University Press, 2003), The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980 (Princeton University Press, 1986), editor of Transitions to Democracy (Columbia University Press, 1999) and coeditor of The Origins of Arab Nationalism(Columbia 1991).
Anderson holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. She earned a PhD in political science from Columbia University, 1981, where she also received a certificate from the Middle East Institute.


Margee Ensign, President, American University of Nigeria

MargeeDr. Margee Ensign is president of the American University of Nigeria (AUN), located in Yola, Adamawa, one of the three northeastern Nigerian states still under a state of emergency. She also leads the Adamawa Peace Initiative (API), a local Yola-based response to the escalating violence, which has successfully promoted peace in the area through education, empowerment and community development. Under Dr. Ensign, API is also currently undertaking humanitarian relief work in the region and providing food aid to more than 270,000 internally displaced people sheltering with family members in Yola.

Margee Ensign has worked in and on the continent for fifteen years and has served as an advisor to the governments of Uganda and Rwanda. She is a widely published scholar whose work focuses primarily on the challenges of international development, as well as on the implications of development assistance. She co-authored Rwanda: History and Hope, in which she documents Rwanda’s rebuilding efforts since 1994. She is also the author of Doing Good or Doing Well? Japan’s Foreign Aid Program and Images and Behavior of Private Bank Lending to Developing Countries. Her most recent publication is entitled Confronting Genocide in Rwanda: Dehumanization, Denial, and Strategies for Prevention.

The third president of AUN, Ensign earned her B.A. from New College in Florida, and her PhD in International Political Economy from the University of Maryland. She began her academic and administrative career at Columbia University in New York City where she was Assistant Professor of Politics and Economics and Director of the International Political Economy Program.  Subsequently, she led Tulane University’s  International Development department and USAID’s Development Studies Program. She has also taught as visiting professor at both Georgetown and American Universities.

Prior to assuming the presidency at AUN, Ensign served as Dean of the School of International Studies and Associate Provost for International Initiatives at the University of the Pacific in California. At Pacific, she founded undergraduate and graduate programs in social entrepreneurship, inter-American studies, and intercultural relations.  She also established the Gerber Lecture Series that attracted globally renowned speakers, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Vice-President Gilbert Bukenya of Uganda, President César Gaviria of Colombia, and Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway.

Ensign was awarded the African Business Roundtable’s Distinguished Leadership Award for Educational Excellence in London in 2011, the African Leading University of the Year Award, by African Leadership Magazine in 2012.  Rotary International made her a Paul Harris Fellow Award in 2012, the same year she received the Adamawa State, Peace Ambassador Award.  In December 2014, Dr. Ensign received the African Leadership Award from the World Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. In 2015, the Women of Jama’atul Nasril Islam in Nigeria recognized her for her contributions to leadership, philanthropy and the education women and girls in Northeast Nigeria.