Penn State to honor pioneers at commencement ceremonies

University Park, Pa. – Five pioneers in entertainment, business, science and education will receive honorary doctorate degrees from Penn State and will be commencement speakers on May 17-18 at the University Park campus.

The recipients and their college ceremonies are:

-- William Friedkin, Academy Award-winning movie and television director, producer and screenwriter, the doctor of fine arts degree, College of Communications;

-- Sherry Lansing, a major philanthropist in cancer research, health and education and a former movie studio executive, the doctor of humane letters, College of Health and Human Development;

-- Philip A. Sharp, an MIT scientist and a Nobel Prize winner for his work on the molecular biology of tumor viruses and the mechanisms of RNA splicing, the doctor of science degree, the Eberly College of Science;

-- Lee S. Shulman, president of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, who has made notable contributions to the study of teacher education, and the assessment of teaching, the doctor of humane letters, College of Education;

-- Fred Smith, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx Corporation and the "father of the overnight delivery business," the doctor of humane letters, the Smeal College of Business.

Biographical Information:

William Friedkin
A movie and television director, producer and screenwriter, Friedkin directed well-known films such as "The Exorcist," "The French Connection," "To Live and Die in L.A." and "The Hunted." He won an Academy Award for Best Director and a Director’s Guild of America Award for "The French Connection" and also was nominated for an Academy Award for "The Exorcist."

In filming "The French Connection," he introduced new and innovative techniques in cinematography, establishing a reputation in excellence for intelligent and visually innovative dramatic filmmaking. Friedkin was nominated for an Emmy Award for a television remake of the film "Twelve Angry Men," and won the Fipresci Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for the movie "Bug."

Friedkin has continued to make ground-breaking films that have influenced generations of audiences and filmmakers worldwide.

Sherry Lansing
Lansing is the former chairman of Paramount Pictures and the first woman to head a major studio. From 1992 to 2005, she oversaw the release of more than 200 films, including Academy Award winners "Forrest Gump" and "Titanic." She also was the first woman president of 20th Century Fox Productions.

She headed her own production company, Lansing Productions, and was a partner in Jaffee/Lansing Productions, which produced for Paramount the films "The Accused," "Fatal Attraction" and "School Ties."

Currently as founder and chair of The Sherry Lansing Foundation, she focuses on fund-raising for education, health care and cancer research. She also is on the executive committee of the boards of Friends of Cancer Research and the Lasker Foundation, a trustee of the American Association for Cancer Research, and is working actively on behalf of the American Red Cross, the Carter Center and Stop Cancer, a non-profit group she co-founded with the late industrialist Armand Hammer.

Lansing’s honors include the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Pioneer of the Year Award from the Foundation of the Motion Picture Pioneers, and the American Association of Cancer Research Public Service Award. She also is a regent of the University of California and a trustee of the University of Chicago.

Philip Sharp
A world leader of research in molecular biology and biochemistry, Dr. Sharp is Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

His research interests have centered on the molecular biology of gene expression relevant to cancer and the mechanisms of RNA splicing. His landmark achievement was the discovery of RNA splicing in 1977. This discovery, which fundamentally changed scientists' understanding of the structure of genes, earned Dr. Sharp the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

His lab has now turned its attention to understanding how RNA molecules act as switches to turn genes on and off (RNA interference). These newly discovered processes have revolutionized cell biology and could potentially generate a new class of therapeutics.

In 1978 Dr. Sharp co-founded Biogen (now Biogen Idec), in 2002, he co-founded Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, an early-stage therapeutics company, and in 2006, he co-founded Magen Biosciences Inc., a biotechnology company developing agents to promote the health of human skin. He serves on the boards of all three companies.

His awards include the Gairdner Foundation International Award, General Motors Research Foundation Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize for Cancer Research, the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the National Medal of Science and the inaugural Double Helix Medal from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He is elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

Lee Shulman
As the eighth president of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Shulman is renowned for his research on the quality of teaching and teacher education; knowledge growth among those learning to teach; the assessment of teaching; medical education; the psychology of instruction in science, mathematics and medicine; the logic of educational research; and the quality of teaching in higher education.

His most recent studies emphasize the central role of a "scholarship of teaching" in supporting needed changes in the cultures of higher education, and the function and features of signature pedagogies in professional education.

He is the first Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus and professor of psychology emeritus (by courtesy) at Stanford University. From 1963 to 1982, he served as professor of educational psychology and medical education at Michigan State University, where he founded and codirected the Institute for Research on Teaching (IRT).

Shulman is past president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and received its career award for Distinguished Contributions to Educational Research. He is a member of the National Academy of Education, having acted as both vice president and president. He is the recipient of the American Psychological Association’s 1995 E.L. Thorndike Award for Distinguished Psychological Contributions to Education, a fellow of both the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and has been awarded the 2006 Grawemeyer Prize in Education.

Fred Smith

As chairman, president and CEO of FedEx Corporation, Smith is responsible for providing strategic direction for all its operating companies, including FedEx Services, FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight and FedEx Kinko's. FedEx is a $37-billion global transportation, business services and logistics company, serving more than 220 countries and territories with operations that include 671 aircraft and over 75,000 vehicles.

While attending Yale University, he wrote a paper for an economics class, outlining overnight delivery service in a computer information age. He received a C for this paper, but it became the idea for FedEx.

FedEx Express was the first service company to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1990. FedEx has consistently been ranked on FORTUNE magazine’s industry lists, including "World’s Most Admired Companies," "America’s Most Admired Companies," "100 Best Companies to Work For" and is on FORTUNE’s "Blue Ribbon Companies List."

Smith has served on the boards of several large public companies and the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Mayo Foundation Boards. He was formerly chairman of the Board of Governors for the International Air Transport Association and the U.S. Air Transport Association.. In addition, Smith received the Circle of Honor Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation and was named 2006 Person of the Year by the French-American Chamber of Commerce

He is a member of the Aviation Hall of Fame, served as co-chairman of the U.S. World War II Memorial Project, and was named CHIEF EXECUTIVE magazine’s 2004 "CEO of the Year."

There are 12 individual commencement ceremonies at Penn State's University Park campus. A story with information about all Penn State commencement ceremonies and speakers University-wide is available at

Last Updated November 18, 2010