Historical Fiction Novelist
Best-selling historical fiction novelist Tracy Chevalier always thought about being a writer in her youth, but it wasn’t until her 20s that she began to write seriously. Audiences are glad she did: Chevalier has published seven critically acclaimed novels, most notably Girl With a Pearl Earring (1999), a tour de force that was adapted into a film. Her latest novel, The Last Runaway (2013), imagines an English Quaker who emigrates to Ohio in 1850 and is drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad in Oberlin.
Chevalier received her bachelor’s in English at Oberlin in 1984. Soon after, she moved to London and began a career as a reference book editor. She went on to earn a master’s in creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. While she was studying, she began writing her first novel, The Virgin Blue, published in 1997. Read more »
Moderator, Religions for Peace USA
Tarunjit Singh Butalia is past secretary general of the World Sikh Council (America Region) and is moderator of Religions for Peace USA.
Butalia is secretary of the board of the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions and a member of the board of scholars and practitioners of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue. He is a past board member of the North American Interfaith Network and of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
In June 2005, Butalia presented at a conference entitled “A Critical Moment in Interreligious Dialogue,” organized by the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. In January 2006, he helped organize the first national gathering of religious leaders in Chicago presented by Religions for Peace. In August 2006, he participated in the 8th World Assembly of Religions for Peace in Kyoto, Japan. Read more »
Honorary Degree Recipients
Writer, Producer, Director
Starting out as a writer and producer with Roger Corman in 1971, Jonathan Demme has directed and produced more than 30 movies. His films, which have been nominated for 20 Academy Awards, include Philadelphia, Rachel Getting Married, The Manchurian Candidate, and Silence of the Lambs, for which he won the Oscar for Best Director in 1991.
He has an ongoing relationship with Oberlin College's Cinema Studies Program and is actively involved as an advisor to the Apollo Outreach Initiative, a community media literacy project housed in the cinema studies department. Read more »
Research Professor, Harvard University
Scientist, teacher, and researcher David Evans ’63 was born in Washington, DC, in 1941. He received his BA at Oberlin in 1963, focusing on organic and physical chemistry and working under the direction of Professor Norman Craig in the general area of vibrational spectroscopy.
Evans subsequently obtained his PhD at the California Institute of Technology in 1967, where he worked under the direction of Professor Robert E. Ireland in the general area of organic synthesis. That year he joined the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), becoming full professor in 1973 shortly before returning to work at Caltech. In 1983, Evans joined the faculty at Harvard University in the chemistry department, and in 1990 he was appointed the Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Chemistry. Read more »
Musicologist and Music Critic
Richard Taruskin is an American musicologist and music critic, best known for his thought-provoking essays on politics and music, censorship, and ethical issues in classical music. He is a professor of musicology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of the monumental six-volume The Oxford History of Western Music as well as many other books and articles. Taruskin also serves as a regular music critic for the New York Times and the New Republic.
Born in 1945 in New York to parents who were both musicians, Taruskin began studying music at the New York High School of Music and Art. He continued his education at Columbia University, where he studied Russian and music, earning a BA, MA, and PhD in historical musicology. Upon completing his degrees in 1976, Taruskin joined the Columbia faculty, where he remained until 1968, when he transferred to the University of California, Berkeley. He holds the Class of 1955 Chair in the department of musicology. Read more »
Norma Percy ’63 makes television histories that aim to bring viewers inside the room with presidents and prime ministers as crucial political decisions are made. Her most recent, a three-hour series The Iraq War, will be shown on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in June and on the National Geographic Channel later in the summer. Her previous series, Putin, Russia & the West (2012), just won a George Foster Peabody award.
A BBC policy document described Percy’s work with her colleague, Brian Lapping, as a “virtually new genre of documentary” that retells momentous events from the recent past with meticulous objectivity—and with the principal players recording their versions of what happened. Read more »
Professor of Psychiatry, University of California School of Medicine, San Diego
Larry R. Squire ’63 is distinguished professor of psychiatry, neurosciences, and psychology at the University of California School of Medicine, San Diego (UCSD), and research career scientist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Diego.
An award-winning research scientist, Squire investigates the organization and neurological foundations of memory. He is a pioneer in studying how memory traces are organized in the mammalian brain. His work involves the study of neurological patients and rodents and combines the traditions of cognitive science and neuroscience. His publications include more than 480 research articles and two books: Memory and Brain (Oxford Press, 1987) and Memory: From Mind to Molecules with Eric Kandel (Roberts & Co., 2009). He also is senior editor of the textbook Fundamental Neuroscience, now in its fourth edition, and editor-in-chief of The History of Neuroscience in Autobiography, now in seven volumes. Read more »
Award for Distinguished Service to the Community
Associate Professor Emeritus African American studies
Booker Carver Peek is in his 47th year of teaching, although he retired from the African American studies department in 2011. In his four decades as a scholar and educator at Oberlin College, Peek has guided, mentored, and helped to transform countless students inside the classroom and beyond. His dedication to the development of young minds is best reflected in the impact and legacy of the Words are Very Empowering (WAVE) program for Oberlin youth, which he founded in 1971, as well as the generations of Oberlin students, faculty, and community members who look to him as professor, advisor, mentor, and friend.
Peek began teaching at Oberlin in 1970. He has offered courses in secondary education and for supervising student teachers. His signature course, Education in the Black Community, gave students the opportunity to present and defend papers on how they would solve the problems of racism, poverty, and related issues. Read more »
Civil Rights Litigator, Distinguished Professor of Law
An Oberlin native and 1959 graduate of Oberlin High School, William Robinson ’63 is a renowned civil rights litigator and founding dean of the District of Columbia School of Law and the University of the District of Columbia School of Law.
At Oberlin, Robinson served on the college’s Board of Trustees for 18 years. In 2003, he endowed the Grady J. and Trevesta P. Robinson Endowed Scholarship in honor of his parents. The scholarship provides financial aid to academically and financially deserving Oberlin College students. In 2011, an innovative program that offers full tuition for graduates of Oberlin High School became an endowed scholarship named in his honor. Read more »