At its Summer 2010 graduation ceremony held in Scotland on June 28, the University of Edinburgh bestowed the degree Doctor honoris causa on Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York.

In awarding the degree, the University Laureator, Vice-Principal Young P. Dawkins said, "We honor one of the most acclaimed and powerful figures in the academic, literary and charitable worlds.  Dr. Vartan Gregorian is recognized internationally for his social consciousness and humanitarian work.  He is regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of this era in relation to philanthropy and the impact of education.”

In addition to Gregorian, other recipients of honorary degrees were Irene Zubaida Khan, Secretary-General of Amnesty International and the first woman and first Muslim to guide the world’s largest human rights organization; and Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and winner of the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.

Commenting on Dr. Gregorian’s early academic career following the awarding of a PhD from Stanford University, the Laureator Young Dawkins, said, “He is not only an inspirational leader—he is a transforming leader.  His work began with teaching posts at San Francisco State College, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the University of Texas at Austin.  In 1972, he joined the University of Pennsylvania where he was named the first Dean of the newly-created School of Arts and Sciences and in 1978, the University’s twenty-third Provost.”

"When he was appointed President of the New York Public Library in 1981, this world famous institution was on the verge of bankruptcy.  In the next eight years Dr. Gregorian worked tirelessly.  It was said that no-one who lived in the New York metropolitan area was safe from a knock on their door.  In total, he raised an incredible $327 million.  It was written that ‘he had seen the re-emergence of the New York Public Library as the intellectual, scholarly, and cultural repository of New York and the nation.”

Laureator Dawkins continued, ”In 1989, Vartan Gregorian was appointed President of Brown University in Rhode Island.  Once again he brought to his leadership role his vision, energy and determination.  By the time he stepped down, he had raised nearly $550 million, an achievement that almost tripled the University’s endowment.  The editor of the campus newspaper at the time recalls ‘Vartan Gregorian was the best thing ever to happen to Brown.’”

“In 1997, Dr. Gregorian was appointed to his current position as the twelfth President of Carnegie Corporation of New York, the grant-making institution founded in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie, one of Scotland’s most cherished sons.  Now in its Centenary year, the Corporation upholds Carnegie’s vision of doing ‘real and permanent good in this world.’  The work of the Carnegie Corporation remains focused in the two issues its founder considered of paramount importance—international peace and the advancement of education and knowledge.”

“Here in Scotland, Dr. Gregorian is a trustee of the Hunter Foundation, established by one of our leading philanthropists and businessmen, Sir Tom Hunter, whose humanitarian work was marked by the University of Edinburgh with a bestowal of a Doctor honoris causa last November.  Sir Tom says of Dr. Gregorian: “Vartan is the Godfather for philanthropy…  One of the few men ever to receive the National Humanities Medal from a Democrat President and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from a Republican President.  I count it as one of life’s true honours to know him as a friend, confidante and counsel…  Wrapped into a bundle of American humility, Vartan scales the heights of knowledge and applies it with a deft touch for the common good…’”

Honorary Graduates

Each year since 1695 the University of Edinburgh has awarded Honorary degrees to a select group of accomplished women and men including such notables as Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II), Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the Princess Royal, the Duke of Edinburgh, King Olav of Norway, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexander Graham Bell, Madame Curie, Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, Alexander Simpson, Sir Frank Whittle, Sir Robert Baden-Powell, General Dwight Eisenhower, Field Marshall Haig, Field Marshall Montgomery, Sir Winston Churchill, Gordon Brown, William Gladstone, Lloyd George, Benjamin Disraeli, Laurence Olivier,  Rudyard Kipling, John Buchan, Graham Green,  Lord Alfred Tennyson, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ian Rankin and J.K. Rowling, David Attenborough and Michael Palin.