At Wesleyan’s 189th launch on Wednesday, May 26, the University presented three honorary degrees to Reginald Dwayne Betts, Catherine Coleman Flowers and Scott Gottlieb ’94 for their significant contributions to the social, environmental and public health of the United States.
Reginald Dwayne Betts, who also delivered this year’s keynote address, was named an Honorary Doctor of Letters in recognition of his impact and influence as a poet, scholar and lawyer and for his “perseverance”. . . poetic sensibilities and adoption of education to empower life [and] using this empowerment and sensitivities to improve the lives of others. “
Award-winning author and memoirist, Betts is also the founder and director of the Million Book Project, a social justice initiative that seeks to expand meaningful and transformative access to books (on poetry, literature, history, social thought and d ‘other organized topics.) for incarcerated people throughout the prison system and to increase their engagement with the literary community.
Sentenced to nine years in maximum security himself at the age of 16, Betts has since earned a BA from the University of Maryland, an MA from Warren Wilson College, a JD from Yale Law School, and is currently pursuing a Juris Doctorate at Yale University. . He received an appointment from Governor Ned Lamont to the Connecticut Criminal Justice Commission, the state body that engages all state attorneys, and he continues to lecture on his formative experiences and the importance that courage, perseverance and literature played into its success, as well as the intersection between literature and advocacy.
Catherine Coleman Flowers is a teacher, researcher, author and activist renowned for her interest in environmental justice. By awarding him an honorary doctorate of science, Wesleyan recognized the flowers for helping “solve the problem of the failing water and waste infrastructure in rural communities and educat[ing] us on the environmental problems resulting from and contributing to structural inequalities. “
Originally from Lowndes County, Alabama, Flowers is the founding director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice. She is also rural development manager for Equal Justice Initiative, senior researcher at the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, and a board member of the Climate Reality Project and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Flowers was recently appointed to the Biden-Sanders Climate Change Task Force. See Flower’s opening speech here.
Scott Gottlieb ’94 was also awarded an honorary doctorate in science. Physician, public health and policy adviser and advocate, and special partner of venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, Dr Gottlieb served as the 23rd Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 2017 to 2019 and is currently resident. Member of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Public Policy Think Tank.
In presenting the honor, Provost Nicole Stanton commended Dr Gottlieb for his efforts in tackling some of the “most daunting health challenges of our time” and cited his accomplishments in tackling the opioid crisis, the epidemic use of e-cigarettes and drug prices, as well as his willingness to speak out and educate others about the nature of the COVID-19 virus.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wesleyan, Dr. Gottlieb received his MD from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He sits on the boards of directors of Pfizer, Illumina, Aetion and Tempus; previously was Senior Policy Advisor to the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; and frequently contributes to CNBC and CBS Face the nation. His comments and articles have been published in Health Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among many others. See Dr Gottlieb’s opening speech here.
A list of past honorary degree recipients and beginning speakers is available here. The President’s office welcomes suggestions for future honorary degree recipients. For more information contact [email protected].