Two scholars to receive honorary degrees at UChicago’s 2024 Convocation

The University of Chicago will present honorary degrees to distinguished scholars Randall Kennedy and Bernd Sturmfels at its Convocation ceremony in June 2024, in recognition of their significant contributions to the fields of law and mathematics, respectively.

Randall Kennedy, the Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School, will receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws.

Kennedy explores the intersection of race and law and is one of that field’s most distinctive and influential voices. The nation’s preeminent expert on race relations law, Kennedy has made transformative contributions to the fields of criminal, family, election, education, and constitutional law, as well as legal history. He has written about some of the most important questions of race in our society, including interracial marriage, affirmative action, and race and criminal law, and he has helped shape public debate around these complex issues.

Kennedy is the author of seven books, which each address complicated questions regarding how race in American life is shaped and misshaped by legal institutions. His book Race, Crime and the Law, which examined the longstanding failure of the justice system to protect blacks from criminals, was awarded the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

Kennedy has been a member of the Harvard Law School faculty since 1984. He is also a member of the bar of the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as the American Law Institute, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

Bernd Sturmfels, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences, will receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science.

A prolific mathematician whose distinguished academic career has spanned the realms of pure and applied mathematics, Sturmfels has been instrumental in building bridges with computer science and statistics. He has developed new areas of mathematics motivated by problems in science and engineering, and one of his most important contributions was his creation of applied algebraic geometry. Some high points of this new subject include algebraic biology, algebraic statistics, and convex algebraic geometry.

In addition to laying some of the most important foundations and cornerstones of applied algebraic geometry, Sturmfels has brought together colleagues through conferences and programs and has educated students and postdoctoral fellows around the world through a series of summer schools. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Activity Group on Applied Algebraic Geometry, and he founded the SIAM Journal on Applied Algebra and Geometry, serving as its first editor-in-chief. 

Sturmfels is the only living winner of both the George Birkhoff Prize, the highest award in applied mathematics from the American Mathematical Society; and the John von Neumann Prize, which is the highest honor awarded by SIAM. He is also one of the most highly cited mathematicians in his field. 

UChicago will celebrate its 538th Convocation—the annual “calling together” of the University community—on June 1, 2024. Learn more at the Convocation website.