Posted: May 20th, 2009 | By: Lisa Snedeker
Wake Forest University awarded eight honorary degrees during its commencement ceremony on May 18, including a posthumous award to the late broadcast journalist Tim Russert. The morning ceremony featured a speech by Vice President Joe Biden, the first sitting vice president to deliver the university’s commencement address.
"This really is your moment," he said. "History is yours to bend."
Following his address to approximately 1,500 Wake Forest graduates and an estimated 15,000 assembled guests, Biden was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Law School Professor Tim Davis conferred the hood on Biden.
Biden, 66, was elected vice president in 2008 after serving 36 years as the U.S. Senator from Delaware. Born in Pennsylvania, he moved as a child with his family to Delaware. Delaware voters elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1969, when he was 29 years old, making him one of the youngest people ever elected to the U.S. Senate.
He served as chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, and as chairman or ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 1997. Biden graduated from the University of Delaware and the Syracuse University College of Law.
In addition to Biden, three other honorary Doctor of Laws degrees were awarded during Wake Forest’s commencement ceremony.
Frank Brown Holding, executive vice chairman and director of First Citizens Bank and Trust Co. of South Carolina, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Holding has been a loyal supporter of Wake Forest for many years and established the Robert B. Holding Scholarship and the First Citizens South Carolina Scholarship. He was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009 and received his Bachelor of Science degree from Wake Forest in 1952.
Allen Joines, mayor of the City of Winston-Salem, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Joines has been mayor of Winston-Salem since November 2001. His focus has been on rebuilding the local economy through recruitment of new companies and bringing employment to the area. He has been committed to bringing about racial healing and fostering a unified community, and he has received numerous awards for his leadership successes in this area. Mayor Joines received his Bachelor of Science degree from Appalachian State University and his Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Georgia.
John Willard “Bill” Marriott Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Marriott International, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Through his entrepreneurship, diversity and hands-on management, Marriott has led Marriott and Marriott International to the highest level of success in business. Marriott International was named one of the Top 100 Best Places to work by Fortune Magazine in 2008. Marriott received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Utah, where he was a member of Sigma Chi.