Two honorary degrees will be awarded during the University's 152nd Annual Commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 19. Graduate degrees will be awarded at 3 p.m. in the Recreation and Convocation Center. Undergraduate ceremony begins at 10 a.m. at the Knickerbocker Arena.
In a special tribute this year, the University will bestow honorary Doctor of Letters degrees on two of its most well-known alumni, children's book author and illustrator Marcia Brown, '40, and Joseph Persico, '52, co-author of Colin Powell's memoirs. The two honorees are previous winners of the Distinguished Alumni Award, Brown in 1969 and Persico in 1982.
Internationally renowned, Marcia Brown is a three-time winner of the Caldecott Medal - awarded by the American Library Association for the most distinguished picture book of the year. She has written and illustrated more than 30 children's books over the last 50 years. Many of her titles have been produced in other languages, including German, Japanese and Spanish. Brown is known for her spare texts, strong images and the vitality of her experimentation with a variety of media ranging from her trademark woodcuts to pen and ink and gouache.
After graduation, Brown became a teacher, but left the profession in 1943 to become children's librarian with the New York Public Library. Her first four books, including The Little Carousel (1946) and Stone Soup (1947), were finished while she worked in the Library's Central Children's Room, where she gained valuable experience in storytelling and was exposed to extensive international and historical collections.
In 1993 Brown turned over the bulk of her life's work to the University. The collection, housed in the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, documents her work from 1942 and presents a complete picture of how an artist develops a children's book. In 1994, she made a special donation toward organizing, cataloguing and preserving her papers.
Long before he collaborated on the best-selling My American Journey with Powell, Persico was already a biographer and historian of national rank, with works on the Civil War's Battle of Gettysburg, World War II American espionage, Nelson Rockefeller, broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, former CIA Director William Casey , and the Nuremberg trials of 1946. Persico was also chief speech writer for Governor Nelson Rockefeller for eight years. In 1973, when Rockefeller asked him to compile a list of the governor's major accomplishments, Persico put the SUNY system at the top of the 15-page list.
"Now, whether it was at the top of the list because he believed it to be his greatest accomplishment, or because of my own prejudice in putting it there, I don't know. But the fact is, he didn't take it off the top," Persico told Albany magazine several years ago. He continued to work for Rockefeller when Rockefeller became U.S. Vice President in 1974. Persico is as popular a writer as he is versatile. His works are regularly chosen as Book of the Month Club selections.