Lehigh reveals honorary degree recipients to be recognized at 147th commencement ceremony


Lehigh University has announced its recipients of this year’s honorary degrees, which will be honored at the university’s 147th commencement ceremony on May 18.

Costel “Cos” Denson, ‘56; H.D., Hilda Doolittle; Eric Foner; and Nicole King will be receiving honorary degrees along with commencement speaker Walter Isaacson, according to an email from Lehigh administration to The Brown and White. Foner will be delivering the Baccalaureate address in Packer Chapel on May 17.

“Lehigh bestows honorary degrees to recognize exceptionally accomplished individuals who epitomize the integrity, intelligence and creativity of Lehigh degree recipients,” according to an email from the administration.

Costel “Cos” Denson

Costel “Cos” Denson

Denson, a Lehigh alumnus and the first African American student to graduate from Lehigh, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science.

Denson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Lehigh in 1956. He became captain of the fencing team during his time at the university and also competed on the Lehigh track and field team.

In 1960, Denson received his master’s degree in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and went on to earn his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Utah in 1965.

He returned to Lehigh from 1968 to 1969 as a visiting professor in chemical engineering, later creating a scholarship for chemical engineering students.

Denson later joined the faculty at the University of Delaware, serving as a professor of chemical engineering, interim dean of engineering and vice provost for research.



H.D., an American poet, memoirist and novelist, will receive a posthumous honorary Doctor of Letters.

She was the daughter of a Lehigh professor and drew inspiration from her Bethlehem and Lehigh experiences throughout her writing career.

She lived from 1886 to 1961 and her ashes reside in Bethlehem’s Nisky Hill Cemetery.

H.D., who was very open about her bisexualtiy, also became an activist and icon for the gay rights and feminist movements when her literature gained increased readership during the 1970s and 1980s.

In Fall 2015, her life and work will be the focus of an international conference as part of Lehigh’s 150th celebration.

Eric Foner

Eric Foner

Foner, the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

He has served as president of the three major professional organizations including the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association and the Society of American Historians.

Foner is also an accomplished writer, and has published an array of books regarding American race relations and political and social history.

Nicole King

Nicole King

King, an American biologist and faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science.

As the lead investigator for a research project funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), King has worked to determine how single-celled choanoflagellates differentiate and organize into colonies.

King received her B.S. in biology in 1992 from Indiana University, and continued her education with graduate work at Harvard. She then accepted the position of assistant professor of genetics and development at the University of California, Berkeley after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2003.

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