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Honorary degrees celebrate exceptional leaders

A mayor who focused her administration on ethics and collaboration and two leaders who helped move Emory to greater prominence and achievement are among the honorary degree recipients at this year’s Commencement.

In addition to Commencement speaker Salman Rushdie, who will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree, three others will be honored:

Shirley Franklin

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree presented by the dean of Emory Law School, Robert Schapiro.

Franklin was elected the first African American female mayor of a major Southern city in 2001. Her eight-year mayoral tenure was marked by a collaborative approach, joining with many local and regional officials to address challenges of metro-regional planning, economic development and infrastructure replacement.

Accomplishments of her administration include launching the Atlanta BeltLine initiative; improving the city’s airport and water infrastructure; developing business and public sector partnerships and alliances, and creating the Atlanta Regional Commission on Homelessness. As mayor, Franklin also led the city in acquiring the papers of Martin Luther King Jr. now housed at Morehouse College.

Currently, Franklin serves as chair and chief executive officer of Purpose Built Communities and also president of management consultants Clarke-Franklin and Associates, Inc. She is chair of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and co-chair of the United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Regional Commission on Homelessness.

She is also the Barbara Jordan Visiting Professor of Ethics and Political Values at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs.

In 2005, TIME magazine named her one of the top five mayors in the country, and U.S. News & World Report listed her as one of “America’s Best Leaders.” She is a recipient of the 2005 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

Billy E. Frye 54G 56PhD

Past Provost and Chancellor Billy E. Frye will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree presented by the dean of the Laney Graduate School, Lisa Tedesco. Frye was Emory’s first provost, later becoming chancellor.

Frye returned to Emory in 1986 to become dean of the graduate school and vice president for research; two years later, he was named provost and vice president for academic affairs. He served as Emory’s interim president from 1993 to 1994.

As provost, maintaining a sense of community in the face of the university’s rapid expansion was a top priority for Frye. He set goals and guidelines for Emory to know itself and prepare for its future by devoting a large amount of time over several years to conversations with stakeholders in the Emory community. The result was a 1994 document titled “Choices and Responsibility” that served as a roadmap for a particular time in Emory’s history.

As a national spokesperson and leader in the preparation for a digital future, Frye raised public awareness of the imminent disintegration of millions of books and the need for libraries to address these losses through digitization. The Frye Institute, a joint 10-year program sponsored by Emory and the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Library and Information Resources, was named in his honor; its mission was to train academic administrators in the integration of libraries and information technology.

Among Frye’s many honors are Emory’s Thomas Jefferson Award and the Emory Medal. He was recognized as one of the175 Makers of History during Emory’s 175th anniversary celebration in 2011. 

R. Randall Rollins

Philanthropist R. Randall Rollins will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to be presented by the dean of the Rollins School of Public Health, James Curran.  

Rollins is one Emory’s most generous living donors. In addition to the Rollins School of Public Health, his philanthropy has included gifts to the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, the Emory School of Medicine, the Winship Cancer Institute, Yerkes National Primate Research Center and the Candler School of Theology.

He continues the mission of the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation, created in 1967, to support medical research and public health issues at colleges and universities. Family patriarch Wayne Rollins and his wife, Grace Rollins, founded a center for ministry in the Candler School of Theology and helped to establish the Rollins School of Public Health.

Rollins also has given time and service at the highest levels, as a member of the Emory University Board of Trustees from 1988 to 2001; the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Board 1988 to 2001, serving as vice chair from 1990 to 2001, on the finance committee from 1988 to 1994, and on the executive committee from 1991 to 1994, becoming emeritus trustee in 2001.

Rollins is chair of the board of global consumer and commercial services company Rollins, Inc. He is also chair of the board of oil and gas services company Marine Products Corporation and RPC, Inc.

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