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Stony Brook University to give Michael J. Fox honorary degree

Michael J. Fox, award-winning actor, activist, philanthropist and

Michael J. Fox, award-winning actor, activist, philanthropist and producer, is among the five people Stony Brook University has selected to receive an honorary degree at commencement on May 19, the school's officials announced on Monday, April 3, 2017. Credit: Mark Seliger

Michael J. Fox, the award-winning actor, activist, philanthropist and producer, is among the five people Stony Brook University has selected to receive an honorary degree at commencement on May 19.

Fox, 55, will receive a doctor of fine arts, recognizing a career that has brought international acclaim with many honors and establishment of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, officials announced Monday.

“Michael has spoken frequently about his predisposition to view challenges, including his own Parkinson’s, through a lens of optimism and humor, so it is highly appropriate for Stony Brook University to recognize his many contributions as they continue to transform the lives of so many, just as our graduates are empowered by their Stony Brook degree to make an equally positive impact on the world,” Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., the university’s president, said in a statement.

Stony Brook’s research into Parkinson’s disease is in conjunction with the Thomas Hartman Center for Parkinson’s Research. The center is located within the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior and named in honor of the late Emmy Award-winning television and radio personality who was the Catholic half of “The God Squad.”

Hartman, who died in February 2016, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2004. He established a foundation to raise funds to support research into the disease, which donated money for creation of the Hartman Center.

Fox’s is one of five honorary degrees, including two to alumni, to be given at the university’s 57th commencement. The ceremony is held in Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on the Stony Brook campus, where about 6,000 students are expected to receive their degrees. The 25,700-student university is one of the largest in the state’s public higher education system.

Conservationist and anthropologist Prince Emmanuel de Merode will receive a doctor of humane letters for his service as director and chief warden of Virunga National Park, located between the Uganda and Rwanda, the war-torn area of Africa also known for its biodiversity and the endangered mountain gorilla.

De Merode, 46, worked on the front lines of conservation during periods of conflict as well as bringing in significant funding, local enterprise and tourism development. He is the son-in-law of paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey, co-founder of the university’s Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya.

Astrophysicist, astronomer, professor and author Frank Shu will receive a doctor of science for his pioneering theoretical work in astrophysics. Shu, 73, is known for theoretical work in the origin of meteorites, the birth and early evolution of stars and the structure of spiral galaxies. One of his most highly cited works is a 1977 paper describing the collapse of a dense giant molecular cloud core which forms a star.

Arthur “Art” Kramer,, 62, psychology and neuroscience researcher, also will receive a doctor of science for his research and leadership in the areas of cognitive neuroscience and psychology, the aging mind, brain plasticity and human factors.

He recently accepted a position as senior vice provost for research and graduate education and a professor of psychology and engineering at Northeastern University. Kramer earned his bachelor of science degree in psychology from Stony Brook.

Jonathan Oringer, who also holds a SBU undergraduate degree, will receive a doctor of science for his contribution to the tech industry for the invention of one of the web’s first pop-up blockers and launching Shutterstock, the global technology company.

Oringer, 42, a programmer, photographer and entrepreneur, founded Shutterstock in 2003 to provide micro-stock photography. He was named New York Technology Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 2012, and the following year was recognized as one of Crain’s New York 40 Under 40. He graduated from SBU in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics.

“He started his career right here at Stony Brook University while a student back in the 1990s, which led to his success with Shutterstock and an inspired career,” Stanley said. “Jonathan embodies the pursuit of big ideas, curiosity and passion we see in so many of our students.”

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