People on a stage

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Commencement 2023

Eight pioneering figures receive Johns Hopkins honorary degrees

University recognizes Andreas C. Dracopoulos, Christine H. Fox, John Foley Guess Jr., Kay Redfield Jamison, Tak W. Mak, Michael John Trebilcock, Judy Woodruff, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy

A leading global philanthropist, a trailblazing national security analyst, a groundbreaking advocate for Black students at Hopkins, an international expert on mood disorders, a pioneering geneticist and immunologist, a renowned law and economics scholar, and a distinguished broadcast journalist received honorary degrees during Johns Hopkins University's Commencement ceremony on Thursday.

JHU President Ron Daniels also presented an honorary degree in absentia to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, who was the surprise Commencement speaker and addressed the university's graduates live from Ukraine.

The 2023 honorary degree recipients are:

Andreas C. Dracopoulos

In his role as co-president of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) and through his personal philanthropy, Andreas Dracopoulos has dedicated his life to work that helps enrich the lives of others and makes a lasting impact on the world. Under the leadership of Dracopoulos, SNF and Johns Hopkins University have forged an enduring partnership, advancing solutions to pressing challenges and launching bold initiatives to improve the health and well-being of society. This includes the creation of the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins, a forum dedicated to developing and promoting solutions to the challenges facing contemporary democracies, and furthering the work of the university's Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Christine H. Fox

Christine Fox is a trailblazing analyst who has studied both military operations and the role of technology during a long and accomplished career devoted to national security. She has often been the first woman to serve in male-dominated roles and environments throughout her career, including at the Department of Defense, where in December 2013 she was appointed to the department's No. 2 role, acting deputy secretary of defense, making her, at the time, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the Pentagon. She officially retired from the Pentagon in 2014 and joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory as assistant director for policy and analysis. She is now a senior fellow at APL. Fox began her career as a maritime air superiority specialist and defense analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses—a role that inspired a character in the 1986 film Top Gun.

John Foley Guess Jr.

Businessman and noted arts patron John Guess emerged as a fierce and unflinching advocate for civil rights in the late 1960s, when he played a central leadership role in establishing Johns Hopkins University's Black Student Union on the Homewood campus. He was the first Black Student Union chairman and the first Black president of the university's student council. In the years since, Mr. Guess has proved to be an instrumental partner of the university in helping generations of Black students thrive, as he did, at Hopkins. He is also an enthusiastic collector of contemporary, glass, and African American art and the driving force behind the resurgence of the Houston Museum of African American Culture, where he serves as CEO.

Kay Redfield Jamison

Kay Redfield Jamison is a global authority on mood disorders, especially bipolar illness. Fittingly for a disorder marked by duality, she has greatly expanded our understanding of this condition in two ways: as a clinical psychologist, professor, and researcher with a 36-year affiliation with Johns Hopkins who co-authored the standard medical textbook on bipolar illness, and as a best-selling author whose candid and intimate book, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, bravely recounts her own experiences with bipolar illness. Jamison is the Dalio Professor in Mood Disorders and professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and co–director of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center.

Tak W. Mak

Geneticist, immunologist, and biochemist Tak W. Mak has few peers in the world of cancer research, and his breakthrough accomplishments have reshaped the field. He's been called a "rock star" cancer fighter and a "Genome Giant." In 1984 he discovered an elusive cellular component so pivotal that it was dubbed the holy grail of immunology: the T-cell receptor. This form of white blood cell attacks antigens; understanding how they are triggered, and then cloning them, as Mak was able to do, opened the door to developing new immunotherapy drugs.

Michael John Trebilcock

Michael Trebilcock is an internationally distinguished and pioneering scholar of the law and economics movement. For 50 years, he held a tenured appointment at the University of Toronto, where he founded the university's prestigious law and economics program and was instrumental in helping it become a global leader in the interdisciplinary exploration of law and economics. He is prolific—the author or coauthor of 130 scholarly articles and 40 books spanning a wide array of subjects, including contract theory, economic and social regulation, competition law, international trade law, law and development, immigration law and policy, regulation, and consumer protection.

Judy Woodruff

Over the course of a trailblazing broadcast journalism career spanning five decades, Judy Woodruff has been a mainstay for reliable coverage of news and politics, earning the trust of viewers around the world. She has anchored coverage for some of America's leading TV news networks and reported on every U.S. presidential election and convention since 1976 with a measured and unbiased approach, respectful but relentless. She has filled prominent roles at NBC, CNN, and PBS, where she anchored PBS NewsHour until December 2022. Afterward she launched a new PBS series, America at a Crossroads, which aims to explore the deep divisions and distrust in the nation's politics.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Elected in 2019, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has emerged as a courageous and resolute champion for Ukraine and its people since the first days of Russia's invasion in February 2022. Faced with an urgent existential crisis—a multipronged invasion by a neighboring superpower whose military might far surpasses that of Ukraine—he has proven himself to be one of the great leaders of our time. He has summoned the fierce and proud spirit of the Ukrainian people, rallied millions around the world to support Ukraine in its fight for sovereignty, and become an international icon in the global struggle to preserve democracy and the principles that underpin it.