main navigation
my pace

2017 Honorary Degree Recipients

We are pleased to announce the 2017 Honorary Degree recipients! 

Law School

Roberta A. Kaplan
New York State Attorney General Partner in the Paul, Weiss Litigation Department
Degree: Doctor of Laws (LLD)
Roberta A. Kaplan will be the speaker and honorary degree recipient at the Pace Law School commencement ceremony. Kaplan, partner in the litigation practice of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, had an extraordinary legal career, litigating cases that have made a notable difference to ordinary citizens. Kaplan earned a BA from Harvard College and a JD from Columbia University. Kaplan’s successful arguments in the landmark Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor advanced the civil rights of this generation and impacted millions of Americans by making same-sex marriage legal across the country.
Kaplan is among the nation’s premier commercial litigators, having represented an array of Fortune 100 companies in complex, high-stakes matters. She is nationally known for her expertise dealing with the complex interplay between regulatory investigations, criminal prosecutions, and the civil lawsuits that often follow. Kaplan’s pro bono work has involved numerous civil rights and public policy matters from marriage equality to the rights of same-sex couples to adopt children to fighting so-called religious “freedom” laws that violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
Kaplan’s book, “Then Comes Marriage,” has been recognized as a fascinating account of the innumerable strategic and tactical decisions that go into a landmark legal victory.

Westchester Undergraduate

Ingrid Burke
Dean of Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Degree:  Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD)
Ingrid Burke is the speaker and honorary degree recipient for Pace’s Westchester undergraduate commencement ceremony. Burke is an ecosystem ecologist whose research has focused on carbon and nitrogen cycling in dryland ecosystems. She earned her B.S. in Biology from Middlebury College and her Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Wyoming, and has taught at Colorado State University and the University of Wyoming. Her work has addressed how drylands are influenced by land use management and climatic and regional variability. She teaches environmental science, ecosystem ecology, and biogeochemistry. Burke was the Dean of the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming. She went to Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 2016.
She has received over $20 million in grant support for research, and published over 150 peer-reviewed articles, chapters, books, and reports. Burke has served as a member of several National Research Council (NRC) committees to review national environmental research programs and policies, as a member of the NRC Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, on the national Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board, and as a member of numerous National Science Foundation, NASA, EPA, and other advisory panels.  She has served on editorial boards for a number of nationally ranked scientific journals.

New York Undergraduate

Stephen J. Friedman
President, Pace University
Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD)
Patricia Curran
Former Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Wal-Mart
Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD)
This year’s honorary degree recipients and speakers for Pace’s New York City undergraduate commencement ceremony are Stephen J. Friedman and Patricia Curran.
Stephen J. Friedman became the seventh president of Pace University in June of 2007. Prior to becoming President, Friedman retired from the international law firm, Debevoise and Plimpton, where he had long served as senior partner and co-chair of the corporate department. Before being named president, Friedman served for three years as dean of Pace Law School.
Under Friedman’s leadership, Pace emerged from a period of financial challenge. Friedman hired 283 full-time faculty members, transformed Pace’s Pleasantville Campus, and launched a major revitalization in Lower Manhattan. The University also significantly expanded its nationally recognized internship program, strengthened the undergraduate curriculum, added new graduate programs, and introduced the Pace Path, an innovative plan for student success combining academics and real-world experience. Last year, the University received the largest philanthropic gift in its history, for which the Law School was renamed the Elisabeth Haub School of Law.
Before joining Pace, Friedman enjoyed a distinguished career in law and public service. After clerking for Justice William J. Brennan Jr. of the United States Supreme Court, he interspersed law practice with serving as commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, deputy assistant secretary for capital markets policy at the United States Treasury Department, and executive vice president and general counsel of the Equitable Companies Incorporated and the E.F. Hutton Group. He also worked on the presidential campaigns for Jimmy Carter and Robert Kennedy.
Friedman is chairman emeritus of American Ballet Theatre. He serves as a Board member of the National Museum of the American Indian in New York; the Alliance for Downtown New York, Inc.; Westchester County Association; and Project Rebirth. He is a trustee emeritus and former president of the Practicing Law Institute.
Friedman received his AB magna cum laude from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He earned his JD magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review and a recipient of the Sears Prize.
Friedman has written and lectured widely on regulation of the securities markets and of financial institutions. He is the editor of “An Affair with Freedom”, (Atheneum 1967), a collection of Justice Brennan’s opinions and speeches during his first ten years on the Supreme Court.
Patricia Curran is the former Chief Executive Officer of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Curran began her career at Wal-Mart in 1983 as an hourly associate in the pets department, and then moved up the ranks to become a regional vice president and then divisional merchandise manager. She also found time to earn her Executive MBA. Over the next 26 years, she would become one of Walmart’s most visible and respected leaders and the first woman ever to serve as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the company’s $300 billion US operations. Curran is credited with transforming Walmart’s organizational structure, strengthening its community involvement, and advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives. She also implemented an aggressive profit-building program and brought uniformity to performance standards. In her final role, as Executive Vice President of Human Resources, she was the architect of a new strategy to attract and retain top talent to a company with 1.2 million employees.
For her exceptional leadership, Curran was featured in the Peabody Award-winning CNBC documentary The Age of Wal-Mart: Inside America’s Most Powerful Company and named one of Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. In 2003, she was promoted to senior vice president of Wal-Mart store operations for the mid-Atlantic and Southeast areas. 
In 2009, Curran shocked the business world when she concluded her career at Walmart and returned to her original dream of nursing school. After earning an associate degree from NorthWest Arkansas Community College and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Arkansas, she joined Mercy, a health system founded by the Sisters of Mercy, as a registered nurse caring for patients in the cardiac critical care unit.
Today, Curran remains dedicated to fostering positive social change in a wide range of professional and volunteer capacities. She continues to serve Mercy patients and people across Northwest Arkansas as a volunteer registered nurse with Mercy’s Community Outreach program and in their newborn nursery. A champion of lifelong learning, she is a member of the NorthWest Arkansas Community College President’s Circle and previously served on the board of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council. Curran has also played active roles in the Network of Executive Women, Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas, and Circle of Life Hospice.

Graduate-Level Ceremony

Deirdre Bair 
Acclaimed Author of Five Award-Winning Biographies
Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD)
Pace’s graduate commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient is internationally acclaimed biographer Deirdre Bair. Bair is the author of five award winning biographies; Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir, Anais Nin, C. G. Jung, and Saul Steinberg. Her current project is a cultural study/biography of Al Capone. She is also the author of the cultural study, “Calling it Quits: Late-Life Divorce and Starting Over.”
Her biographies of Beauvoir, Nin, and Steinberg were chosen by The New York Times as “Best Books of the Year,” and Jung won the Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis as the best biography of the year.
Bair earned her PhD in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and was a tenured professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. As a teacher, mentor, fellow, and guest lecturer, Bair has inspired generations of students who share her passion for knowing more.  She has lectured and taught at various writer’s conferences in Europe, the Americas, and Australia and New Zealand.  She has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. She is also a literary journalist who writes and reviews frequently for magazines and newspapers about travel, feminist issues, and cultural life.
An active advisor and volunteer, Bair serves on Pace University’s MS in Publishing Advisory Board and was the 2005 Eliot Schein Guest Lecturer. She is also an advisory board member of the Simone de Beauvoir Society and Biographers International Organization, and is a member of the Authors Guild. In 1990, as a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities, she co-founded the Women Writing Women’s Lives Seminar, which now resides at the City University of New York.