CLASS OF 2021 DEGREE RECIPIENTS AND AWARD WINNERS
Honorary Degree Recipients
Commencement speaker: Hon. Leticia James, New York State Attorney General
Letitia James is a proud New Yorker, an accomplished activist, and a powerful force for good in our communities.
She is the first woman to be elected New York State Attorney General, and the first woman of color to hold statewide office in New York.
Born in Brooklyn and educated at Lehman College, James has dedicated her life to serving the people of New York. She began her career at the Legal Aid Society, serving New York’s neediest as a public defender. She later ran the Brooklyn Regional Office of the New York State Attorney General’s Office, resolving consumer complaints, investigating predatory lenders, cracking down on businesses violating human rights and environmental laws, and assisting the Civil Rights Bureau in its investigation of the New York Police Department’s notorious stop-and-frisk policy.
Then James moved into public office. Representing Brooklyn in the New York City Council for 10 years, she continued to fight for everyday New Yorkers. She passed the Safe Housing Act, forcing landlords to improve living conditions in the city’s worst buildings, uncovered corruption in city government, and pushed through a revolutionary new recycling program. In five years as New York City Public Advocate, the city government’s internal watchdog, she passed more legislation than all previous public advocates combined, fought for protections for tenants, children in foster care, and children with disabilities, and took on the gun industry by pushing New York City’s largest pension fund to divest from gunmakers.
In 2018, she was elected the 67th New York State Attorney General. From that distinguished office, James continues to advocate for those in need and stand up to the powerful. She took on the National Rifle Association. She is fighting public and private corruption. And she keeps looking out for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.
For her tireless advocacy, her uncompromising devotion to the people of New York, and steadfast dedication to a career in public service, Pace University is proud to confer upon New York Attorney General Letitia James the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.
Commencement speaker: Dr. Philip Ozuah, president and CEO of Montefiore Medicine
Dr. Philip Ozuah is a pediatrician, a researcher, a teacher, a leader, and an immigrant.
He is the president and CEO of Montefiore Medicine, which includes Montefiore Health System and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. And Montefiore, one of the largest health systems in the New York region, is centered in the Bronx and Westchester, an early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With steadfast commitment, Dr. Ozuah led his organization and his communities through a tumultuous, challenging year, and he did so with the spirit of dedication and care that has guided his entire career.
Dr. Ozuah was born in Nigeria, where he entered medical school at just 14 years old. His plan was to get extra training in the United States before returning to his homeland to build and run a hospital. But when he arrived in Los Angeles for graduate work at the University of Southern California, he was shocked to discover how much poverty existed alongside America’s great wealth. Addressing healthcare disparities became the focus of his life’s work.
Dr. Ozuah first came to New York for an internship and residency at Einstein and Montefiore. He returned to USC for a post-doctoral fellowship in medical education, and then he came back to the Bronx to build his career. He earned a reputation as a world-class and innovative clinician, teacher, and researcher.
As he rose to professor and university chairman of pediatrics at Einstein, physician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of Montefiore, president of Montefiore Health System, and eventually his current role, Dr. Ozuah has always fought to increase access to care, especially in the under-resourced communities Montefiore serves. He advocates for young people to come into medicine, and he strives to further diversify the field. And he expertly guided the 13 hospitals and hundreds of clinics in the Montefiore network through the unprecedented early days of the pandemic, when COVID-19 patients in the system rose from two on March 11, 2020, to nearly 2,000 less than a month later.
For his wisdom, dedication, and leadership, for helping to care for our city during its most trying health crisis in a century, and for his example of personal accomplishment, Pace University is proud to confer upon Dr. Philip Ozuah the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.
Commencement speaker: Francine Berman, PhD, distinguished professor in computer science
Dr. Francine Berman is a pioneering computer scientist, a leading data scientist, and a fierce advocate for the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and math.
Appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Council on the Humanities, she combines her expertise as a technologist with a humanistic passion for social good. Her current work at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she is the Edward P. Hamilton Distinguished Professor in Computer Science, focuses on the social and environmental impact of information technology—and in particular of the Internet of Things, the pervasive ecosystem of billions of connected devices and systems. The goal of her work is to ensure that this transformative technology is used wisely: that benefits are maximized, risks minimized, individual rights protected, and the public interested served.
Dr. Berman has been the director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center, director of the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure, and the vice president for research at RPI. She is a fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery, a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and a faculty associate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. In 2019, she was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and last year she was elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.
Throughout her career, Dr. Berman has remained steadfast in her commitment to supporting women in technology and diversifying the field. She served as board chair at the Anita Borg Institute, a global organization dedicated to connecting and supporting women technologists, and was a founding member of the Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women. She has been a keynote speaker at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference.
For Dr. Francine Berman’s visionary leadership in technology and many contributions to society, Pace University is proud to confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.
OPPORTUNITAS IN ACTION AWARD
José Luis Castro, president and CEO of Vital Strategies
José Luis Castro is an expert in today’s most pressing area: global public health. He is the president and CEO of Vital Strategies, which partners with governments and civil society groups around the world to help countries confront the most pressing public health problems. Over the past year, his organization has provided technical support to more than 50 countries in their COVID-19 response.
This is Castro’s life’s work. An immigrant to the United States from Cuba and a Pace graduate, Castro has worked with the government of India on the world’s largest tuberculosis control program, led the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, and served as the first president of the NCD Alliance, a network dedicated to combating the global non-communicable disease epidemic. At Vital Strategies, he oversees work in 73 countries to tackle the world’s leading killers, primarily in low- and middle- income countries. His organization has touched the lives of more than 2 billion people.
At our Commencement in 2005, Pace University honored Castro with an honorary doctorate of humane letters. This year, when the crucial importance of effective public health has been so clearly demonstrated, we recognize that José Luis Castro has exemplified the ideals of Opportunitas, and we are very pleased to honor him with our Opportunitas in Action Award.
Rep. Nita Lowey, retired member of Congress
Representative Nita Lowey served in the US Congress for 32 years, a passionate advocate for the people of New York—and especially those of her Westchester district, including our Pleasantville Campus. A lifelong New Yorker, her entire career was dedicated to public service. Mrs. Lowey worked in the New York Secretary of State’s office for 13 years, ultimately serving as assistant secretary. In 1988, she was elected to Congress, and her constituents in Westchester and Rockland counties happily continued to re-elect her. In 2018, she became the first woman to chair the powerful House Appropriations committee.
In late 2019, Mrs. Lowey announced that she would retire from Congress with the 2020 election, and we looked forward to honoring her at last year’s Commencement.
Throughout her long and successful career, Representative Nita Lowey exemplified the ideals of Opportunitas, and we are very pleased to now be able to honor her with Pace University’s Opportunitas in Action Award.
NEW YORK CITY
Community Service Award
Community Service Award