Six individuals will receive honorary degrees from Temple University this week, the most recipients since 1986, for its 132nd Commencement ceremony on Thursday.
Honorees include boxer Bernard Hopkins, former men’s basketball coach Fran Dunphy and trustee Leonard Barrack, a 1968 law alumnus.
The Klein College of Media and Communication will honor Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward with its first-ever honorary degree, the Fox School of Business will recognize 1951 accounting alumnus Stanley Merves at ceremonies on Thursday. Stephen Sheller, the namesake of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice at the Beasley School of Law, will receive an honorary degree during the law school’s commencement on May 16.
“Their contributions to Temple, North Philadelphia and beyond make these individuals ideal choices to receive honorary degrees,” President Richard Englert wrote in a statement. “They will undoubtedly serve as inspirations to our many terrific graduates, who are bound for similarly remarkable futures.”
The Temple community and the University Committee on Honorary Degrees nominated recipients in November. The nominees were approved by the Board of Trustees based on their work, leadership and significant contributions to their industries, according to the university’s History and Traditions webpage. The university has awarded more than 900 honorary degrees since the school was founded.
Dunphy, who retired as coach of the men’s basketball team in March, led the team to the NCAA Tournament eight times during his 13-year career. His time at Temple was “all the honor [he’s] ever needed,” Dunphy told The Temple News.
Before Temple, Dunphy coached at Penn, making him the only person to lead two Big 5 teams. In his tenure, he guided the Owls to surprise victories against Villanova in 2009, Duke University in 2012 and unbeaten Southern Methodist in 2016. Off the court, he won the 2018 Dean Smith Award for charity and community service.
But Dunphy’s greatest service to the university was helping student-athletes “understand their full potential on the field, in class and in the community, and adopt the mantra that ‘it’s not about you,’” he said.
The Beasley School of Law named its Center for Social Justice after Sheller, who fought for civil rights in Philadelphia alongside fellow lawyer Cecil B. Moore. Sheller and Moore successfully represented members of the Black Panther Party, who were arrested in mass before a 1970 convention at the Church of the Advocate on Diamond Street near 18th.
“I was a witness to history in this period of time, a witness and a participant,” Sheller told The Temple News. “One of the points I make is that these are team efforts. I’m not some kind of magnificent knight. I’ve always done it with the help of others.”
The Sheller Center describes itself as a “hub for social justice inquiry and advocacy” designed to link students and faculty to others fighting for disadvantaged people, according to its website.
“In recognizing me, we are encouraging what lawyers can be doing for our society,” he said. “Not just representing a company or wealth, but doing things that can advance society’s best interests.”
Hopkins, who grew up in North Philadelphia, won 55 matches and world championships at two weight classes. He was the oldest boxer to win a major title at 48 years old, NBC Sports reported. He could not be reached for comment.
Merves, who worked in senior positions at PwC, an international accounting firm, and the Internal Revenue Service, donated to many university projects at the Tyler School of Art and the Jewish Studies Program. He endowed the Stanley Merves Chair of Accounting and Information Technology, according to a release from when Merves won Fox’s 1999 Musser Award for Alumni Achievement. He could not be reached for comment.
Woodward, who gained recognition for his coverage of the Watergate scandal, also could not be reached for comment. President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974 was seen as a result of Woodward and his colleague Carl Bernstein’s work, and the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for their reporting. He could not be reached for comment.
Barrack, who has been a university trustee since 2001, is a major anti-trust lawyer and founder of the law firm Barrack, Rodos & Bacine. He’s led many large-scale securities cases and is a former chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
A representative from Barrack’s law office said he greatly appreciates receiving an honorary degree.