Mitt Romney shakes Ron Daniel's hand at JHU Commencement.

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Commencement 2024

Six influential leaders, artists receive Johns Hopkins honorary degrees

University recognizes Renée Fleming, Maya Lin, Bill Miller, Mitt Romney, Janice Stein, and Stevie Wonder

A world-renowned soprano, a legendary investor and philanthropist, a devoted public servant and U.S. senator, a leading scholar of international conflict resolution, a groundbreaking and inspiring architect and artist, and a pop music icon who has graced America's airwaves with his prodigious talents for decades received honorary degrees during Johns Hopkins University's Commencement ceremony on Thursday.

Video credit: Johns Hopkins University

The event included a surprise performance by one of the honorary degree recipients, award-winning singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder, who took to the piano on stage and played a medley of his hits, including "The Secret Life of Plants," "You Are The Sunshine of My Life," "I Just Called To Say I Love You," and a brief but familiar chord from "Superstition."

The 2024 Johns Hopkins University honorary degree recipients are:

Renée Fleming

There are few vocalists as distinguished and celebrated as Renée Fleming, a soprano with exceptional range and flexibility who has been a mainstay of leading opera houses and concert halls around the world since she won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions at 29 years old. Ms. Fleming has lent her vocal talents to projects and events as varied as the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, and the Super Bowl. The New York Times dubbed her "the people's diva," a moniker reflective of her luminous stage presence and mass appeal. Ms. Fleming has used her platform to raise awareness and support for research at the intersection of creative arts, neuroscience, and health care. She received the National Medal of Arts in 2012, the nation's highest honor for an individual artist, and was recognized last fall with the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor.

Maya Lin

As a 21-year-old undergraduate architecture student at Yale, Maya Lin created an unconventional and thought-provoking design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., a concept ultimately selected from some 1,400 competing entries. In the decades since that career-launching project, Lin has honed what leading architecture critic Martin Filler described as a "genius for transforming profound personal loss into a force for social cohesion." Her subsequent memorials include the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, and what she has called her final memorial, What is Missing?, a multi-platform work that calls attention to the loss of biodiversity on our planet. Her creative career spans many forms and includes award-winning architecture, sculpture, and sweeping landscape installations. She is a past recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts.

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Bill Miller

Investor and philanthropist William H. "Bill" Miller III is a legend of Wall Street, his reputation cemented by an incredible and unprecedented run of success in which his investments as portfolio manager of the Legg Mason Value Trust outperformed the S&P 500 index for 15 years, from 1991-2005. Now CIO and chairman of Miller Value Partners, which he founded in 1999, he remains one of the most respected names in finance. Miller's transformational philanthropic endeavors at Johns Hopkins began with a $75 million gift in 2018 to JHU's Department of Philosophy, the largest amount ever given to a philosophy program, and also include a $50 million gift to the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Mitt Romney

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, JHU's 2024 Commencement speaker, has devoted his life and career to serving both the public and private sectors, with his faith and values serving as a compass throughout. The former Republican presidential candidate has spoken out against partisanship and vehemently defended democratic ideals, even when it placed him at odds with his own political party. In Congress, the former Massachusetts governor is a leading voice on foreign affairs and has been a linchpin on major bipartisan efforts including infrastructure modernization, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the Respect for Marriage Act, Electoral Count Act reforms, and COVID relief. He serves on the Foreign Relations; Budget; Health, Education, Labor & Pensions; and Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs committees.

Janice Stein

Janice Stein is one of North America's foremost political scientists who for more than four decades has helped shape our understanding of how leaders make decisions. Her work challenged conventional understandings of leaders as people who made rational choices most of the time and reshaped our understanding of strategy. She has been a member of the faculty at the University of Toronto since 1982, where she holds the title of University Professor, a title given to only 1% of the faculty. She is the founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. Under her leadership, the Munk School has become an internationally recognized center of learning and debate, connecting researchers across disciplines and educating the next generation of public policy leaders.

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder's virtuoso prowess on keyboards, harmonica, and drums, combined with his deft songwriting and soulful vocals, have made him one of America's most potent and beloved musical talents for more than half a century. He has earned 25 Grammys, including three for Album of the Year, the most of any male solo performer in history. His songbook is deep and varied: from the clavinet-powered funk of "Superstition," to the brassy Duke Ellington salute, "Sir Duke," to a passel of beautifully melodic love songs, such as "For Once in My Life," "Overjoyed," and "My Cherie Amour," that are beloved standards. Wonder has also used his fame for political activism—he was a driving force behind the campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday, and he has numerous performances and recordings aimed at ending apartheid and promoting Nelson Mandela. He has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an Academy Award, and the Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress, and he is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.