Four receiving honorary degrees from UWM at May 18 commencement

Four notable leaders in their fields – law, engineering, history, and business and public service – will receive honorary degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2014 Spring Commencement on Sunday, May 18, at the U.S. Cellular Arena, 400 W. Kilbourn Ave.

The honorees are:

  • John W. Daniels Jr., attorney, entrepreneur and community leader, who will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Business;
  • Ashwani Kumar Gupta, a distinguished professor at the University of Maryland and developer of innovative technologies to reduce environmentally hazardous emission gases, who will be awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Energy and Engineering Science;
  • Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, professor of history and African American Studies at Harvard University, who will be awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of History; and
  • Former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, businessman and public servant, who will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service and Education.

An estimated 2,421 bachelor’s, 758 master’s and 160 Ph.D. degree candidates have been invited to participate in the commencement ceremony.

Because of the number of graduates, there will be two commencement ceremonies, with attendance based on the school or college attended. The Black Ceremony will be at 9 a.m., and Kohl and Higginbotham have been invited to speak. The Gold Ceremony will be at 1:30 p.m., and Daniels and Gupta have been invited to speak.

May 2014 Honorary Degree Recipients


Honorary Doctor of Business from the Lubar School of Business

Daniels, who is chairman emeritus of the law firm Quarles & Brady LLP, is an outspoken champion of education and public service.

His work in the legal field is nationally and internationally known. He is past president of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers and was selected as one of the 50 most Influential Diverse Attorneys in the United States by the National Law Journal. The Milwaukee Bar Association honored him as Lawyer of the Year, and Lawdragon featured him in the article “100 Law Firm Managing Partners You Need to Know.”

Daniels has also served the community tirelessly as a board member and/or chair of leading civic and cultural organizations. While on the Greater Milwaukee Foundation board, he helped shape the foundation’s expanding role in the community, including investments in alleviating poverty.

Daniels has a particular interest in education, leading reform efforts for K-12 schools as chairman of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and its Milwaukee Succeeds program.


Honorary Doctor of Energy and Engineering Science from the College of Engineering & Applied Science

Gupta, a distinguished university professor at the University of Maryland, has developed many innovative technologies to reduce environmentally hazardous emission gases when burning fuels for automobiles, airplanes and power plants. His contributions help reduce such gases in the atmosphere, making engines and power plants more environmentally friendly. His research also includes newly developed waste management studies, allowing waste materials to be incinerated without emitting large amounts of hazardous gases.

He has given lectures and keynote speeches at major conferences in environmental and energy sciences, and seminars around the globe, including the United States, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America.

Gupta has also been a frequent guest speaker at UWM seminar series for students, faculty and staff members, and has provided advice to graduate and undergraduate students working on research projects in the areas of renewable energy and reducing hazardous emissions.


Honorary Doctor of History from the College of Letters & Science

Higginbotham is the Victor S. Thomas professor of history and African American studies at Harvard University. She served as chair of the Department of African and African American Studies from 2006-2013.

Higginbotham, a nationally recognized scholar in her field, started her career in Milwaukee teaching American history and serving as an eighth grade counselor at Parkman Junior High School. A pioneering figure in African American women’s history, her published work spans a range of topics, including women in African American religious history, race and gender theory, and civil rights.

She is the author of “Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church: 1880-1920.” She also updated and revised the late John Hope Franklin’s African American history survey “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans,” served as the editor-in-chief of “The Harvard Guide to African-American History” and was co-editor, with Henry Louis Gates Jr., of the expanded, 12-volume “The African American National Biography.”


Honorary Doctor of Public Service and Education from the School of Freshwater Sciences

Kohl served as the U.S. senator from Wisconsin from 1989 to 2013, and is currently a businessman, philanthropist and, since 1985, owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earning his Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School, Kohl embarked on a distinguished business and political career.

In 1985, Kohl purchased the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team to ensure the National Basketball Association franchise remained in Milwaukee.

In 1988, he was elected U.S. senator from Wisconsin, and he served the state for the next 24 years. Kohl is a longtime philanthropist and supporter of education.

In 1990, he founded the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation, which each year awards $1,000 scholarships to nearly 200 graduating high school seniors, many of whom might not otherwise be able to afford a university education. The foundation also supports teachers, awarding thousands of fellowships to teachers and their schools in recognition of their superior ability to inspire learning.