At long last, teen hero Marty McFly will go degree-for-degree with his partner in time, Dr. Emmett Brown: Stony Brook University will confer an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree upon Canadian-American actor Michael J. Fox during its 2017 commencement ceremony.
Fox – whose award-winning, three-decade entertainment career also includes stints as a producer, author and voice performer – is a respected advocate for several important causes, and one in particular: With the exception, perhaps, of the late Muhammed Ali, he is the world’s most famous victim of Parkinson’s disease and the founder of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which is dedicated to funding research and finding a cure.
The actor/advocate’s commitment to his craft and “unbound, resolute advocacy for Parkinson’s disease research” – a focus mirrored in the Thomas Hartman Center for Parkinson’s Research Center, part of SBU’s Department of Neurobiology and Behavior – make him “an outstanding candidate for this honorary degree,” according to university President Samuel Stanley Jr.
“Michael has spoken frequently about his predisposition to view challenges, including his own Parkinson’s, through a lens of optimism and humor,” Stanley said in a statement. “So, it is highly appropriate for Stony Brook University to recognize his many contributions, as they continue to transform the lives of so many, just as our graduates are empowered by their Stony Brook degree to make an equally positive impact on the world.”
Best known for his role as McFly, the time-traveling adventurer in the “Back to the Future” movies, Fox collected a closetful of Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for his work on the popular television shows “Family Ties” and “Spin City.” In 1991, he was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease – a diagnosis he did not reveal publicly until 1998 – and his since become a leading advocate for research into the progressive disorder of the nervous system.
Fox is one of five individuals who will receive honorary doctorates from SBU this spring. At the commencement ceremony, SBU will also confer honorary degrees upon conservationist and anthropologist Prince Emmanuel de Merode, who is receiving a Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his service as director and chief warden of Virunga National Park in the Republic of the Congo, and SBU alum and Shutterstock founder Jonathan Oringer, who is receiving a Doctor of Science degree for his contributions to the global technology scene.
And at the university’s May 18 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony, two distinguished scholars will add honorary Doctor of Science degrees to their actual diplomas: Arthur Kramer (SBU Class of ’75), who will be honored for his leadership in the areas of cognitive neuroscience and psychology, and astronomy professor Frank Shu, a former SBU instructor known best for his work in theoretical astrophysics.
“To be joined in their celebration by such highly accomplished individuals is a remarkable distinction for the Class of 2017,” Stanley noted. “It demonstrates to our newest alumnae how much can be achieved with vision, dedication and the relentless pursuit of big ideas that Stony Brook embraces.”
Stony Brook University’s 57th annual commencement ceremony – which will confer non-honorary degrees upon nearly 6,000 graduates – is scheduled for May 19 at the university’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. More information on the ceremony is available here.