Siddhartha Mukherjee

Photo credit: Deborah Feingold

Siddhartha MukherjeeHonorary Doctor of Sciences and 2024 Commencement Speaker

Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction, 2011
Oncologist and Associate Professor, Columbia University; author

Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, DPhil, is a physician, researcher, and author, who serves as Associate Professor of Medicine at Columbia University and as an oncologist at the university’s medical center. Dr. Mukherjee’s trilogy of books has made a vast contribution to the public discourse on human health, medicine, and science.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer earned the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, and The Gene: An Intimate History won international awards and was recognized by The Washington Post and The New York Times as one of the most influential books of 2016. Both books have been adapted into PBS documentaries by the renowned filmmaker Ken Burns. The Emperor of All Maladies was included among Time magazine’s 100 best nonfiction books of the past century.

As a medical scholar, Dr. Mukherjee has conducted groundbreaking innovative research that signals a paradigm shift in cancer pathology and has enabled the development of treatments that disrupt current pharmaceutical models toward new biological and cellular therapies. He was among the first to make cellular therapies available in India. His groundbreaking research is now being translated into a record number of concurrent clinical trials across the globe, spanning novel therapies for ovarian, breast and endometrial cancer, leukemias and lymphomas, and a variety of other diseases. Only a select few medical scholars have been able to translate their work into human trials of such depth and breadth. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Dr. Mukherjee writes for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. He has received numerous awards for his scientific work and has published his original research and opinions in journals such as Nature, Cell, and The New England Journal of Medicine.

A native of India, Dr. Mukherjee received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and was a Rhodes scholar at Magdalen College, University of Oxford.  After graduating from Harvard Medical School, he completed his internal medicine residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital and his hematology-oncology fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


Ingrid Daubechies

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Ingrid Daubechies, Honorary Doctor of Sciences

Physicist and mathematician, discoverer of “Daubechies wavelet”
James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Duke University

Ingrid Daubechies, PhD, is the James B. Duke Professor of Mathematics and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University. Dr. Daubechies’ academic work focuses on mathematical methods for the analysis of signals, images, and data.

Early in her career, she constructed particularly convenient families of wavelets, mathematical tools, that enable the compression of images without loss of the crisp detail; their use has become commonplace on today’s electronic screens. The New York Times called her the “Godmother of the digital image.” Over the years, Dr. Daubechies has expanded the application of wavelets. She frequently collaborates with experts in a wide range of fields, such as geophysics, neuroscience, biological morphology, medical imaging, and in art conservation.

Dr. Daubechies has received numerous awards. She was the first woman to receive the Wolf Prize, one of the most prestigious in mathematics. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Science, as well as a fellow of the American Mathematical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

An advocate for the field of mathematics, Dr. Daubechies recently collaborated on a mixed media art installation, titled “Mathemalchemy,” that celebrates the beauty, creativity, and fun of mathematics. The project is currently touring the United States.

A native of Belgium, Dr. Daubechies earned her PhD in theoretical physics from Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels).


Karl Deisseroth

Karl Deisseroth, Honorary Doctor of Sciences

Pioneer of optogenetics and CLARITY
D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, is the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Dr. Deisseroth is a practicing psychiatrist at Stanford with specialization in major depression and autism-spectrum disease, employing medications along with neural stimulation. His laboratory has developed groundbreaking technologies to better understand brain circuitry and improve mental health care, including optogenetics, which engineers individual brain cells to be controlled by light, and CLARITY, which allows for the investigation of intact biological systems.

Dr. Deisseroth received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and both his PhD from MD from Stanford. He also completed his postdoctoral training, medical internship, and adult psychiatry residency at Stanford, and he is board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

In 2021, he published his highly acclaimed first book, Projections: A Story of Human Emotions, a work of literary nonfiction in which he shares perspectives on his patients with psychiatric disorders.

Among many other honors, Dr. Deisseroth was the sole recipient for optogenetics of the Koetser Prize (2010), the Nakasone Prize (2010), the Alden Spencer Prize (2011), the Richard Lounsbery Prize (2013), the Dickson Prize in Science (2014), the Keio Prize (2015), the Lurie Prize (2015), the Albany Prize (2015), the Dickson Prize in Medicine (2015), the Redelsheimer Prize (2017), the Fresenius Prize (2017), the NOMIS Distinguished Scientist Award (2017), the Eisenberg Prize (2018), the Kyoto Prize (2018), the Heineken Prize in Medicine from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2020), and the Japan Prize (2023).

He was selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in 2013 and was elected to the US National Academy of Medicine in 2010, to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2012, and to the US National Academy of Engineering in 2019.


Kenneth Gamble

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Kenneth Gamble, Honorary Doctor of Music

Singer, songwriter, music producer, entrepreneur
Co-Founder, Philadelphia International Records and the “Sound of Philadelphia”

Born in Philadelphia, Kenneth Gamble grew up surrounded by music, and spent much of his youth working in the music industry. He cut his first records at local penny arcade recording booths, brought coffee to WDAS morning radio personalities Georgie Woods and Jimmy Bishop, and operated his own record store in South Philadelphia.

In the mid-1960s, Mr. Gamble met Camden native and pianist Leon Huff and the two quickly discovered their shared love of songwriting and composing. After some early successes with their own homemade labels, Mr. Gamble and Mr. Huff created "Philadelphia International Records" (PIR) in 1971, giving birth to what would become widely known as “The Philly Sound.” Through then-CBS Records president Clive Davis, PIR secured a distribution deal through America's largest record label. Within a year of PIR opening its doors, the O'Jays had #1 R&B and pop hits, including "Backstabbers" and "Love Train;” Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes were riding high with "If You Don't Know Me By Now;” and Billy Paul earned the label's first Grammy with "Me and Mrs. Jones."

During the early 1970s, PIR was a dominant force in the R&B and pop music industries. Two years after its creation, PIR was the second largest African American-owned music company in the United States, just behind Motown. CBS Records was now distributing more soul music than at any time in the company's history.

In 2008, forty-five years after the duo's first collaborations, Mr. Gamble and Mr. Huff were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the inaugural Ahmet Ertegun Award, one of many honors they have received over the years. In 2015, Mr. Gamble and Mr. Huff served as the first African American Chairmen for the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Currently, Mr. Gamble serves as an honorary member of the Board of Directors with the Songwriters Hall of Fame which honors the legacies and accomplishments of songwriters globally. He also continues to advise local singers, producers, and musicians on building their music careers. 


Leon Huff

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Leon Huff, Honorary Doctor of Music

Pianist, songwriter, music producer, entrepreneur
Co-Founder, Philadelphia International Records and the “Sound of Philadelphia”

Born in Camden, New Jersey, Leon Huff was first exposed to music through his mother, who taught her son the basics on the family’s piano, the only one on the block. He went on to receive formal training and as a young man, performed as a session musician with his musical idols, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, and many others.

When Mr. Huff met fellow musician Kenneth Gamble in the mid-1960s, the duo discovered they had a common interest in songwriting and production. They began a songwriting partnership that exists to this day. Along with Mr. Gamble, Mr. Huff has written or co-written more than 3,500 songs over 60 years, including R&B #1 hits, pop #1 hits, gold and platinum records, Grammy winners, and more.

By 1971, Mr. Huff and Mr. Gamble had formed their own label, Philadelphia International Records (PIR), and secured a distribution deal with CBS. With a stable core of artists – the O'Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, and others, PIR generated hit after hit almost from day one.

Mr. Huff and Mr. Gamble have received countless honors, including their 1995 induction into the National Academy of Songwriters' Hall of Fame. They received the 1999 Trustees Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, as well as induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2010, they were honored by the City of Philadelphia in a special ceremony to rename the block of South Broad Street they made famous to “people all over the world” as “Gamble & Huff Walk.”

Today, Mr. Huff continues to produce and write songs, and is never far from a piano or keyboard when the inspiration arises.


Maya Lin

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Maya Lin, Honorary Doctor of Arts

Artist, designer, environmentalist
Creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, and the new home of the Museum of Chinese in America in New York City

Artist, designer, and environmentalist Maya Lin interprets the natural world through science, history, and culture to create works that have a profound impact on how we view our history and how we relate to the natural world. Since her very first work, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, Ms. Lin has gone on to a remarkable and highly acclaimed career in both art and architecture, while still being committed to memory works that focus on some of the critical historical issues of our time.

Ms. Lin has been recognized around the world for her distinct aesthetic vision with groundbreaking site-specific art installations such as the recent Madison Square Park installation, Ghost Forest, and the recently completed Decoding the Tree of Life for Penn Medicine’s Pavilion. Celebrated architectural projects range from the Nielsen Library for Smith College to Novartis’ campus headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with buildings in progress for a performing arts lab space at Bard College, to the new design for the Museum of Chinese in America in downtown Manhattan. She is deeply committed to sustainable and site sensitive design methods in all her projects.

Ms. Lin is a member of the Bloomberg Foundation, the What is Missing? Foundation, and she is a National Geographic Explorer-at-Large. She has been profiled in TIME magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker, among others. In 2009, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Ms. Lin the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, praising her for a celebrated career in both art and architecture, and for creating a sacred place of healing in our nation’s capital.

Ms. Lin earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at Yale University.


Nominating an Honorary Degree Recipient

The Office of the University Secretary manages the honorary degrees process at Penn. All members of the University community are welcome to submit nominations. For information about qualifications and nominating honorary degree candidates, visit the University Secretary's Honorary Degrees webpage.

Past Penn's Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients

Address & Phone

1 College Hall, Room 211
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-7006