|In the year of Lincoln's birth, Knox College will present a renowned Lincoln scholar with an honorary degree at its 2009 Commencement exercises on Saturday, June 6. Lincoln scholar Garry Wills will receive an honorary degree, along with noted biologist Bill Geer and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald will deliver the Commencement address.
In the recent years, Knox College Commencement addresses have been given by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former U.S. President Bill Clinton; political satirist Stephen Colbert; and U.S. President, then U.S. Senator, Barack Obama.
Wills is a renowned cultural historian whose books include the 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner, "Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America." His more than three-dozen books include books about George Washington, Richard Nixon, the Kennedy family, Ronald Reagan, and religion in America. Wills' most recent book is "What the Gospels Meant," published in 2008. He has twice won the National Book Critics Circle Award, including as a co-winner for nonfiction in 1978 for "Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence." Since 1973 he has written more than 200 articles for The New York Review of Books. Wills gave a talk, "Electioneering by Debate," and spoke on a panel of distinguished Lincoln scholars at the 23rd annual Lincoln Colloquium, held at Knox in October 2008. Wills earned a doctorate at Yale University in 1961. He is emeritus professor of history at Northwestern University and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American Philosophical Society. In 2008, Knox College awarded an honorary degree to another well-known Lincoln scholar, two-time Lincoln Prize winner Douglas Wilson.
Geer is a noted geneticist who taught biology at Knox College from 1963 until his retirement in 2000. Geer's "Fly Lab" at Knox is credited with important findings on metabolism, nutrition and reproduction in Drosophila melanogaster, the "fruit fly" -- one of the most important organisms in biological research. Geer has dozens of scientific papers to his credit, including a number co-authored with Knox students and colleagues, as well as others co-authored with collaborators from research facilities around the world. Geer's honors include induction into the Illinois Academy of Science, Alumni Citation from the University of California at Davis, Illinois Professor of the Year Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award, and a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship. A graduate of Northwest Missouri State University, Geer received his master's degree at the University of Nebraska and his Ph.D. at the University of California at Davis.
Fitzgerald has conducted nationally significant investigations into terrorism financing, public corruption, corporate fraud, and violent crime. His most recent work includes fighting corruption in the Illinois governor's office. In December, 2008, Fitzgerald announced the arrest of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich for allegedly plotting to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. He also supervised the public corruption investigation that resulted in sending former Illinois governor George Ryan to prison. He served as Special Counsel in the investigation of the leaked identity of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, and the subsequent prosecution of Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Fitzgerald has received the Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service, the Stimson Medal from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service.
(Gary Willis, speaking at Knox College in October, 2008)
(Bill Geer, from the Knox College archives.)
(Story and photos submitted by Knox College)