Drew Announces Honorary Degree Recipients, Commencement Speaker
Noted Shakespeare scholar will address graduates; Holocaust survivor, educator and leading religious intellectual will receive honorary doctorates.
MADISON, N.J.—On May 18 at Drew University’s 145th Commencement, graduates will hear from noted Shakespeare scholar Frank Occhiogrosso, a 43-year veteran of the school’s English faculty. Honorary doctorates will go to Holocaust survivor and educator Hedy Brasch, and Methodist intellectual and international social justice activist Edward Poitras G’66.
“This year’s commencement speaker and honorary degree candidates, all of whom have close ties to the life of our university, fully represent Drew’s distinguished history and contemporary excellence,” says University President Vivian A. Bull. “By honoring a revered teacher, a human rights activist, and a leader in the globalization of faith and social justice, we pay tribute to these individuals—and also to our own institutional values.”
Occhiogrosso is the author of four acclaimed books and more than 20 scholarly articles, many of which offer new insights into the works of Shakespeare. He has also published more than 60 book and theatre reviews. His frequent public presentations on literature—including his long-standing participation in Drew’s Minicourses program at the Madison Public Library—have led to his reputation as a local treasure. During his career at Drew, he has taught more than 35 undergraduate and graduate courses on topics that range from Elizabethan Drama to Shakespeare’s Comedies to Detective Fiction. He holds BA, MA and PhD degrees from Johns Hopkins University. Occhiogrosso will retire from the Drew faculty at the end of the spring 2013 term, making his Commencement address his last lecture.
Brasch, a Holocaust survivor and educator, is currently a member and benefactor of Drew’s Center for Holocaust/Genocide Study. She has appeared a number of times on campus to speak with students about her wartime experiences, which included internment at Auschwitz, one of the Nazi’s regime’s most feared concentration camps, at the age of 14. Brasch was also imprisoned in a slave labor camp in Bremin, Germany, before her liberation from Bergen Belsen. She arrived in the United States in 1947, where she became an occupational therapist. She currently resides in Springfield, N.J.
Poitras, who earned a PhD from Drew in 1966, spent the majority of his career at Seoul Methodist Theological Seminary, where he was credited with raising academic standards. During his 30 years in Korea, he became a national celebrity through his highly acclaimed newspaper column, published in one of Korea’s most popular periodicals, which offered observations about society and theology. Poitras was a close friend of two Korean Presidents, Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung, which made him a valuable source of counsel to U.S. government officials seeking advice on matters of foreign policy. He also served on the U.S.’s Korean Fulbright Committee. Upon his return to the U.S., he began a teaching career at the Perkins School of Theology, SMU. In retirement, Poitras has been instrumental in providing food aid to North Korean citizens, and is one of that country’s few foreign visitors who is allowed to travel outside the capital to smaller rural villages.
Drew University’s Commencement will begin at 10:30 a.m. on May 18, and will recognize graduates from its College of Liberal Arts, Caspersen School of Graduate Studies and Theological School.