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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 18, 2008

Brokaw, Hass, Hultin and Voxman to receive honorary UI degrees

The University of Iowa will award honorary doctorate degrees to four individuals for extraordinary and sustained achievements in their respective fields: television journalist and author Tom Brokaw, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, noted pathologist and medical researcher Johan Hultin, and clarinet legend and former UI School of Music director Himie Voxman.

The Board of Regents, State of Iowa approved the university's request to grant honorary degrees at its Sept. 18 meeting in Iowa City.

Voxman will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during UI winter commencement exercises in December. Brokaw and Hass will receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees, and Hultin will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science degree, during spring commencement ceremonies in May 2009.

"It is with pleasure and great pride that we bestow honorary doctorate degrees on these four remarkable individuals," said UI Executive Vice President and Provost Wallace Loh. "This distinction celebrates extraordinary achievement over an entire career, and these recipients personify lifelong commitment to research, learning, creativity and public service."

The UI reinstated the process of granting honorary degrees in 2006. They are awarded to individuals with distinguished careers in research, scholarship, education, artistic creation, social activism, human rights, humanitarian outreach or other endeavors consistent with the values and mission of higher education and the UI. Nominations may come from colleges or from individual faculty members and are reviewed by a faculty selection committee and the Provost's Office. The committee's recommendations must be approved by the Board of Regents.

Following are biographical sketches of each of the honorary degree recipients:

Tom Brokaw

Brokaw began his college education at the UI (1958-59) and graduated from the University of South Dakota with a major in political science. He began working for NBC within four years of his college graduation and remained there for his entire professional career, receiving many of the highest honors in his profession, including the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award and the Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Brokaw is an influential and iconic figure in broadcast journalism, familiar to hundreds of millions of television viewers. During his four-decade career, he served as host of the "Today Show" and anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News."

Brokaw reported on numerous historic events, including the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings, and the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. He continues to produce documentaries on issues such as the war in Iraq, undocumented immigrants, religion in the United States, and race and poverty. In the past decade, he has become a widely read author of contemporary history books, including "The Greatest Generation" (1998), which depicts Americans who came of age during the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and built post-war America.

Robert Hass

Hass, who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the 2007 National Book Award for "Time and Materials," was a visiting faculty member in the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1995 when he was selected U.S. Poet Laureate, a post he held from 1995 to 1997. He returned to the UI to teach in 2002-03, 2004 and 2006-07.

He has won the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and the William Carlos Williams Award, and he has twice received the National Book Critics Circle Award. His first book, "Field Guide," earned the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1973.

Hass's other collections of poetry include "Praise," "Human Wishes" and "Sun Under Wood." He also wrote "Twentieth-Century Pleasures," a book of essays on poetry. He has translated many of the works of Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz and is the editor of Thomas Transtromer's "Selected Poems: 1954-1986" and "The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa." He was co-editor of "The Best American Poetry 2001."

A professor of English at the University of California-Berkeley since 1989, Hass was named Educator of the Year in 1997 by the North American Association on Environmental Education. He is a chancellor of the Academic of American Poets.

Johan Hultin

Hultin, who received a medical degree at the UI in 1953, gained international recognition for his efforts to decipher the causes of the "Spanish flu" epidemic of 1918-19, a project he began in the early 1950s as a UI graduate student in microbiology by attempting to isolate the virus from the bodies of Eskimos buried in the permafrost in Alaska.

After a 30-year career as a pathologist in the San Francisco area, Hultin continued his investigations into what made the "Spanish flu" so virulent. In the mid-1990s, he returned to the same Alaskan village to obtain tissue samples from bodies exhumed from the permafrost and, through advanced scientific techniques, was able to characterize the genome of the virus. His research was published in 1999, and investigators have now established a connection between the 1918-19 virus and avian influenza. Hultin's work has given scientists a better understanding of the virus, which allows for the development of vaccines should a pandemic related to "Spanish flu" arise.

Hultin also was a lead investigator in the 1960s in the development of the automobile seat belt. More recently, at age 80 and in collaboration with researchers in Germany, he identified the "einkorn," the grass from which humans derived the first wheat, after an expedition in Turkish Kurdistan.

Himie Voxman

Voxman studied clarinet as a youth in Centerville, Iowa, and in New York with legendary clarinet teacher Gustave Langenus. He earned a bachelor's degree from the UI with high distinction in chemical engineering in 1933 and a received a master's degree in 1934 in the psychology of music, studying with pioneering researcher Carl Seashore.

He taught woodwinds in nearby public schools, and in 1939 became a full-time UI faculty member. In 1954 he succeeded Philip Greeley Clapp as director of the UI School of Music, a position he held for 26 years until his retirement in 1980. Voxman's numerous method books and editions of music for wind instruments have been used around the world for many years.

Voxman has received numerous professional awards and honors during his career, including the 1983 Edwin Franko Goldman Citation of the American Bandmaster's Association. He received the UI's Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement in 1992, and in 1995 the Iowa Board of Regents approved the request to name the Music Building after him. In 2000 the International Clarinet Association chose him as only its third member, and first American, to receive its Lifetime Achievement Award, citing his "outstanding research, teaching, publication and service to the world of clarinet."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032,