Justice Robert L. Brown, C’63, former associate justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court, will deliver the Founders’ Day address and receive an honorary Doctor of Civil Law during the Oct. 11 Convocation. The Founders’ Day ceremony will include the conferral of additional honorary degrees to Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. and the Rev. Becca Stevens, C’85, and the induction of new members into the Order of Gownsmen. The Convocation will be streamed live.
Justice Robert Brown (right) served as associate justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court for more than 20 years before stepping down in 2012. He is currently Of Counsel with Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP, Arkansas's largest law firm. Among Brown’s significant opinions during his time on the bench were those striking down term limits for U.S. senators and representatives, which was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court; holding Arkansas’ method of public school funding unconstitutional; and protecting the rights of privacy for couples adopting children. Brown’s 2010 book, Defining Moments: Historic Decisions by Arkansas Governors from McMath through Huckabee, has been praised for its unusual combination of historical research and personal familiarity. He received Sewanee’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2006 and was the first recipient, in 2010, of the Arkansas Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program Justice Robert L. Brown Community Support Award.
Honorary degrees will be awarded during this Convocation to three people whose life work will have substantial and lasting effects, and two of whom are already Sewanee alumni. The University will confer upon Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, and upon the Rev. Becca Stevens, Episcopal chaplain at Vanderbilt University and founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms, an honorary Doctor of Divinity.
Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. (left) is a world-renowned literary critic, educator, scholar, writer, and editor. He is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, as well as director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. He is also editor-in-chief of TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine focusing on issues of interest to the African American community and written from an African American perspective, and the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field of African American and Africana Studies. His books have won the 1989 American Book Award and a 2010 NAACP Image Award. He is the recipient of a 1981 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award,” and the 2008 Ralph Lowell Award, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s highest award.
The Rev. Becca Stevens, C’85, (right) has been the chaplain at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel at Vanderbilt University since 1995. In 1997 she founded Magdalene, a residential program serving women survivors of violence, prostitution and addiction. In 2001 she began Thistle Farms, a national bath and body care company run by the women of Magdalene. She is the author of nine books and opened her latest venture, the Thistle Stop Café, in June of this year. Thistle Farms, as a best practice model, has helped more than 20 cities across the country develop similar programs, and also has partnerships with four women’s cooperatives in Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana and Ecuador. Stevens has been featured on ABC, NPR, PBS, CNN, the Huffington Post and Christian Century; was named by the White House as one of 15 “Champions of Change;” was named “Tennessean of the Year” and Nashville’s 2011 Social Entrepreneur of the Year; and in 2010 was the youngest recipient of Sewanee’s Distinguished Alumnus award. She will be the Babson Center for Global Commerce’s Humphreys Entrepreneur in Residence this fall.