At its 112th com­mence­ment exer­cises, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity will present hon­orary degrees to an accom­plished group of influ­en­tial leaders and scholars.

The recip­i­ents of hon­orary degrees at com­mence­ment are: LL COOL J, an award-​​winning enter­tain­ment icon who cur­rently stars in the CBS prime­time drama series NCIS: Los Angeles; Janet Napoli­tano, the former U.S. Sec­re­tary of Home­land Secu­rity who is now pres­i­dent of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­fornia; former NFL player Wade Davis II, who is cur­rently the exec­u­tive director of the You Can Play Project—an orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to ending dis­crim­i­na­tion, sexism, and homo­phobia in sports; Victor J. Dzau, the pres­i­dent and CEO of Duke Uni­ver­sity Health System and incoming pres­i­dent of the Insti­tute of Med­i­cine; and Donald G. Comb, founder and chairman of the board of New Eng­land Bio­labs and founder of the Ocean Genome Legacy.

We are delighted to wel­come these inspiring, inno­v­a­tive leaders to the North­eastern family,” said Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun. “From public ser­vice to sci­ence, human rights to the arts, this year’s hon­orary degree recip­i­ents demon­strate how indi­vid­uals can pro­foundly impact society for the better. They are impres­sive role models for our grad­u­ating stu­dents, and for the world.”

North­eastern announced in March that Napoli­tano would be the com­mence­ment speaker at the under­grad­uate cer­e­mony. She will deliver the 112th com­mence­ment address to some 20,000 under­grad­u­ates, family, friends, and uni­ver­sity leaders at TD Garden in Boston on May 2, 2014. LL COOL J, Napoli­tano, and Wade Davis II will receive their hon­orary degrees at the under­grad­uate ceremony.

Dzau will deliver the com­mence­ment address at Northeastern’s grad­uate cer­e­mony at Matthews Arena that same after­noon, when he and Comb will receive their hon­orary degrees.


Hon­orary Degree: Doctor of Arts


LL COOL J is an enter­tain­ment icon who has found great suc­cess crossing into mul­tiple mediums. He is a two-​​time Grammy Award winner, recording artist, actor, author, NAACP Image Award winner, entre­pre­neur, and philanthropist.

LL—whose real name is James Todd Smith—began in the nascent, bur­geoning rap and hip-​​hop scene of the 1980s, which devel­oped into the musical and cul­tural phe­nom­enon that is today’s hip-​​hop. More than 25 years since he first burst onto the scene, LL con­tinues his vibrant, trail­blazing career. First intro­duced to the world in 1984 as a Def Jam Records flag­ship artist, he is the first rap artist to amass 10 con­sec­u­tive platinum-​​plus selling albums. The multi-​​platinum artist is cur­rently tied for third place for most Bill­board chart debuts by a rapper.

As an actor, he cur­rently stars in the top-​​rated CBS prime­time drama series, NCIS: Los Angeles. His per­for­mance on the show gar­nered him an NAACP Image Award four years in a row (2011–2014); he pre­vi­ously won an NAACP Image Award for “Out­standing Male Artist” in 2003. Over the years, he has also appeared in more than 30 films and starred oppo­site many acclaimed actors.

As an author, his works include The New York Times best­seller LL COOL J’s Plat­inum Workout and LL COOL J’s Plat­inum 360 Diet and Lifestyle; And the Winner Is, a children’s book that tells the story of a young bas­ket­ball player who learns the impor­tance of win­ning and losing grace­fully, which was part of Scholastic’s series of books and CDs by rap artists called ‘Hip Kid Hop’; and his 1997 auto­bi­og­raphy, I Make My Own Rules.

Expanding into the dig­ital world, LL has also founded Boomdizzle Net­works (www​.boomdizzle​.com), which inte­grates patented col­lab­o­ra­tive tech­nology with inno­v­a­tive dig­ital mar­keting to change how music is recorded, dis­trib­uted, and shared all over the world.

An avid phil­an­thropist, he’s been involved in numerous causes, including lit­eracy for kids as well as music and arts pro­grams in schools. Cel­e­brating its eighth anniver­sary, his charity Jump & Ball—which takes place every August in his home­town of Queens, N.Y.—aims to give back to his local com­mu­nity by offering a five-​​week ath­letic and team building pro­gram ded­i­cated to bringing whole­some fun to young people. He is also a member of the Red Cross Celebrity Cab­inet, which raises funds and aware­ness for ini­tia­tives tied to the organization.

LL COOL J, his wife, and family cur­rently reside in both New York and Los Angeles.

Janet Napoli­tano
Under­grad­uate com­mence­ment speaker
Hon­orary degree: Doctor of Public Service


Janet Napoli­tano is the 20th pres­i­dent of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­fornia, having taken office in Sep­tember 2013. She leads a uni­ver­sity system with 10 cam­puses, five med­ical cen­ters, three affil­i­ated national lab­o­ra­to­ries, and a statewide agri­cul­ture and nat­ural resources pro­gram. The UC system has more than 234,000 stu­dents, about 208,000 fac­ulty and staff, more than 1.6 mil­lion living alumni and an annual oper­ating budget of more than $24 billion.

Napoli­tano is a dis­tin­guished public ser­vant with a record of leading large, com­plex orga­ni­za­tions at the fed­eral and state levels. She served as Sec­re­tary of Home­land Secu­rity from 2009–13, as gov­ernor of Ari­zona from 2003-​​09, as attorney gen­eral of Ari­zona from 1998–2003, and as U.S. attorney for the Dis­trict of Ari­zona from 1993–97. She began her career in 1983 as a clerk for Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Cir­cuit and prac­ticed at the law firm of Lewis & Roca in Phoenix, where she became a partner in 1989.

As the nation’s third Sec­re­tary of Home­land Secu­rity, Napoli­tano headed a depart­ment com­prised of 22 agen­cies and direc­torates and whose mis­sions include coun­tert­er­rorism, border secu­rity, immi­gra­tion, cyber­se­cu­rity, and dis­aster response and recovery. The depart­ment sup­ports 12 Cen­ters of Excel­lence through a con­sor­tium of hun­dreds of uni­ver­si­ties gen­er­ating ideas for new secu­rity technologies.

As gov­ernor of Ari­zona, Napoli­tano focused on edu­ca­tion, from pre-​​kindergarten through public higher edu­ca­tion. She was the first woman to chair the National Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion and was named one of the nation’s top five gov­er­nors by Time mag­a­zine. Forbes mag­a­zine recently named her as one of the 10 most pow­erful women in the world.

The recip­ient of numerous awards and honors, Napoli­tano was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Ser­vice by the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars at the Smith­sonian Insti­tu­tion in 2006. In 2012, she received the Anti-​​Defamation League’s William and Naomi Gorowitz Insti­tute Ser­vice Award, which is given for out­standing achieve­ments in com­bating ter­rorism, extremism, and injustice.

A New York City native, Napoli­tano grew up in Pitts­burgh, Pa., and Albu­querque, N.M., where her father was dean of the Uni­ver­sity of New Mexico School of Med­i­cine. She earned a bach­elor of arts (summa cum laude in Polit­ical Sci­ence) in 1979 from Santa Clara Uni­ver­sity, where she was Phi Beta Kappa, a Truman Scholar, and the university’s first female vale­dic­to­rian. She received her juris doctor in 1983 from the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia School of Law. Napoli­tano holds hon­orary degrees from sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges, including Santa Clara Uni­ver­sity, Emory Uni­ver­sity, and Pomona Col­lege. In 2010, she was awarded the pres­ti­gious Thomas Jef­ferson Foun­da­tion Medal (Law), the Uni­ver­sity of Virginia’s highest external honor.

Wade Davis II
Hon­orary Degree: Doctor of Public Service


Wade Davis is an advo­cate, writer, speaker, and edu­cator. Davis is a former NFL player who played for the Ten­nessee Titans, Wash­ington Red­skins, and Seattle Sea­hawks, as well as two dif­ferent teams within the NFL Europe league. He’s cur­rently the exec­u­tive director of the You Can Play Project, an orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to ending dis­crim­i­na­tion, sexism, and homo­phobia in sports through the cre­ation of cur­riculum, pro­gram­ming, train­ings, and con­ver­sa­tions focused on inclu­sion and diver­sity. In 2013, he co-​​founded the You Belong Ini­tia­tive with Dar­nell L. Moore, an orga­ni­za­tion that offers LGBTQ and straight-​​allied youth a series of three-​​day com­pre­hen­sive sports instruc­tion and lead­er­ship devel­op­ment clinics, as well as the Speaker’s Col­lec­tive aimed at pro­viding sup­port, pro­mo­tion, and com­mu­nity for LGBTQA pro­fes­sionals of color.

Since retiring from the NFL, he’s owned a media busi­ness through a part­ner­ship with The New York Times called InMo­tion Media. Wade worked as the former assis­tant director of aca­d­emic enrich­ment and work readi­ness for the Het­rick Martin Insti­tute, where he taught at-​​promise LGBT youth how to define suc­cess for them­selves. While working as an advo­cate, his writ­ings and inter­views have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Advo­cate, The Huff­in­gton Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, and other media out­lets including Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s White House blog. He has appeared on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, CNN, ESPN, and BET.

During the 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Davis worked as an offi­cial LGBT Sur­ro­gate for Pres­i­dent Obama. He has served as an adjunct pro­fessor at the School of Public Affairs and Admin­is­tra­tion at Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity and is working with national orga­ni­za­tions such as the Minority AIDS Insti­tute to combat dif­ferent inter­sec­tional issues including sexism, racism, clas­sism, HIV/​AIDS, mass incar­cer­a­tion, poverty, and youth home­less­ness. He has lec­tured on the inter­sec­tions of race, sex­u­ality, gender, and sports at uni­ver­si­ties nation­ally and inter­na­tion­ally. Recently, Davis spoke at the 2014 NFL owners meeting and is helping to chart at course for the NFL and other sports leagues on how to effec­tively address issues of diver­sity and inclusion.

Victor J. Dzau
Grad­uate cer­e­mony com­mence­ment speaker
Hon­orary Degree: Doctor of Science

Medtronic--Dr. Dzau--arranged by Cynthia Hotvedt

Victor J. Dzau is the chan­cellor for health affairs and James B. Duke Pro­fessor of Med­i­cine at Duke Uni­ver­sity and the pres­i­dent and CEO of Duke Uni­ver­sity Health System. Dzau was the Hersey Pro­fessor of Theory and Prac­tice of Med­i­cine and chairman of med­i­cine at Har­vard Med­ical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hos­pital and pre­vi­ously the chairman of Depart­ment of Med­i­cine at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity. He is the incoming pres­i­dent of the Insti­tute of Med­i­cine, a six-​​year term set to begin July 1, 2014.

Dzau has made a sig­nif­i­cant impact on med­i­cine through his sem­inal research in car­dio­vas­cular med­i­cine and genetics, his pio­neering work in the dis­ci­pline of vas­cular med­i­cine, and recently his lead­er­ship in health­care inno­va­tion. His impor­tant work on the renin angiotensin system paved the way for the con­tem­po­rary under­standing of RAS in car­dio­vas­cular dis­ease and the devel­op­ment of RAS inhibitors as ther­a­peu­tics. Dzau also pio­neered gene therapy for vas­cular dis­ease and his recent work on stem cell “paracrine mech­a­nism” and the use of microRNA in direct repro­gram­ming pro­vide novel insight into stem cell biology and regen­er­a­tive medicine.

In his role as a leader in health­care, Dzau has led efforts in health­care inno­va­tion. His vision is for aca­d­emic health sci­ences cen­ters to lead the trans­for­ma­tion of med­i­cine through inno­va­tion, trans­la­tion, and glob­al­iza­tion. Leading this vision at Duke, he and col­leagues devel­oped the Duke Trans­la­tional Med­i­cine Insti­tute, the Duke Global Health Insti­tute, the Duke-​​National Uni­ver­sity of Sin­ga­pore Grad­uate Med­ical School, and strategic alliances with other pri­vate and public part­ners. Their efforts have been aimed at cre­ating a seam­less con­tinuum from dis­covery sci­ence to clin­ical care. Recently, he has launched the Duke Insti­tute for Health Inno­va­tion to pro­mote trans­for­ma­tive inno­va­tion in health and health­care through high-​​impact research, new models of care delivery, lead­er­ship devel­op­ment, edu­ca­tion inno­va­tion, and cul­ti­va­tion of a com­mu­nity of entrepreneurs.

As one of the world’s pre­em­i­nent aca­d­emic health leaders, Dzau advises gov­ern­ments, cor­po­ra­tions, and uni­ver­si­ties world­wide, serving on advi­sory coun­cils and boards of direc­tors. He has served as a member of the Council of the Insti­tute of Med­i­cine and the Advi­sory Com­mittee to the director of the National Insti­tutes of Health and as chair of the NIH Car­dio­vas­cular Dis­ease Advi­sory Com­mittee and of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Aca­d­emic Health Cen­ters. Cur­rently he is a member of the board of direc­tors of the Sin­ga­pore Health System, gov­erning board of Duke-​​National Uni­ver­sity Sin­ga­pore Med­ical School, and Senior Health Policy Advisor to Her High­ness Sheikha Moza (the chair of the Qatar Foun­da­tion and vice chair of the Supreme Council of Health). He is also on the board of health gov­er­nors of the World Eco­nomic Forum and is chair of its Global Agenda Council on Per­son­al­ized and Pre­ci­sion Med­i­cine. In 2011, he led a part­ner­ship between Duke Uni­ver­sity, World Eco­nomic Forum, and McK­insey, and he founded the non­profit orga­ni­za­tion Inter­na­tional Part­ner­ship for Inno­v­a­tive Health­care Delivery and chairs its board of directors.

Among his honors and recog­ni­tions are the Gustav Nylin Medal from the Swedish Royal Col­lege of Med­i­cine; the Max Del­bruck Medal from Hum­boldt Uni­ver­sity, Charite, and the Max Planck Insti­tute; the Com­mem­o­ra­tive Gold Medal from the Ludwig Max­imil­lian Uni­ver­sity of Munich; the Inau­gural Hatter Award from the Med­ical Research Council of South Africa; the Polzer Prize from the Euro­pean Academy of Sci­ences and Arts; the Novartis Award for Hyper­ten­sion Research; and the Dis­tin­guished Sci­en­tist Award from the Amer­ican Heart Asso­ci­a­tion and the 2010 AHA Research Achieve­ment Award for his con­tri­bu­tions to car­dio­vas­cular biology and med­i­cine. He has received six hon­orary doctorates.

Donald G. Comb
Hon­orary degree: Doctor of Science


Donald G. Comb is the founder and chairman of the board of New Eng­land Bio­labs, Inc.

Prior to taking a posi­tion at Har­vard Med­ical School, he attended the Uni­ver­sity of Michigan, where he earned a doc­torate in epi­demi­ology. Comb’s com­mit­ment to sci­ence led to its incep­tion in 1974 and his sci­en­tific vision shaped the New Eng­land Bio­labs as a world leader in the dis­covery, devel­op­ment, and com­mer­cial­iza­tion of recom­bi­nant and native enzymes for genomic research.

Comb’s pas­sion for sci­ence, art, and the envi­ron­ment also led to the cre­ation of the New Eng­land Bio­labs Foun­da­tion, a pro­gram that pro­motes envi­ron­mental aware­ness and social change, as well as the Ocean Genome Legacy Pro­gram, which he believes will help to pre­vent the extinc­tion of endan­gered sea life. Founded by Comb in 2001, the Ocean Genome Legacy is a public biorepos­i­tory of rare and remark­able ocean crea­tures; OGL recently found its new home at North­eastern University’s Marine Sci­ence Center.

Comb’s com­mit­ment to the envi­ron­ment is evi­dent on the New Eng­land Bio­labs campus, from the LEED-​​certified lab­o­ra­tory designed to min­i­mize its impact on the sur­rounding land­scape to the Solar Aquatics System designed to treat the campus’ waste­water. Comb’s beliefs are deeply woven into the cor­po­rate phi­los­ophy. As a result, New Eng­land Bio­labs has had the honor of being lauded with the “2009 Recy­cling Busi­ness Award” and the “2010 Best Places to Work” award by The Sci­en­tist magazine.

Although Comb has stepped down from his posi­tion as CEO, he con­tinues to serve on the board of direc­tors. He also main­tains an active research lab­o­ra­tory at New Eng­land Bio­labs. His inter­ests include par­a­sitology, epi­ge­netics, and the devel­op­ment of bio­fuels; his cur­rent research focus involves the iso­la­tion and bio­chem­ical char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of novel cellulases.