Honorary Degree Recipients
Doctor of Humane Letters
Annette Gordon-Reed is an author and scholar whose research is situated at the intersections of history, politics, law, race, and culture. The Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard University, Gordon-Reed has won 16 book prizes over the course of her career, including the National Book Award in 2008 and the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2009 for “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” which tells the story of four generations of the Hemings family who were enslaved by Thomas Jefferson; Jefferson was also the father of Sally Hemings’ children. Gordon-Reed has been recognized with a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship in the humanities, and the National Humanities Medal, bestowed upon her by President Barack Obama. Her latest book is “On Juneteenth,” which, through the weaving together of American history, family chronicle, and memoir, provides a historian’s view of the country’s long road to, first, the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, and later, to the establishment of Juneteenth as a national holiday.
Doctor of Science
Katalin Karikó is a biochemist known for her research in mRNA technologies. Together with former colleague and fellow honorary degree recipient Drew Weissman ’81, GSAS MA’81, P’15, she conducted research on the modification of nucleic acids for RNA therapeutics and vaccines, which led to the development of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for COVID-19. Karikó co-founded and was the CEO of RNARx from 2006-13, and was senior vice president at BioNTech SE from 2013-22. She is an adjunct professor of neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where she has worked for 24 years. Karikó has been honored previously by Brandeis, receiving the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research in 2020. She was named to Time magazine’s Heroes of the Year list in 2021, and with Weissman, she has received many awards, including the Japan Prize, Paul Janssen Award, Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, Benjamin Franklin Medal, and the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.
Donald “Don” M. Soffer ’54
Doctor of Humane Letters
As a leader in the real estate development industry, Donald “Don” Soffer ’54 has been influential in the field for more than 50 years. In 1967, he purchased 785 acres of swampland in North Miami Beach, Florida, developing this area into a new city, which is now known as Aventura, Florida. In 1977, he founded his company Turnberry Associates, Inc., which has gone on to build major shopping centers and malls, hotels, and other business developments in cities across the country. In addition to his business ventures, Soffer has demonstrated tremendous philanthropic support for a variety of causes — including secondary and higher education — and he has been a major supporter of Brandeis, championing the school’s mission through scholarships for students, endowed fellowships in the sciences, and by updating athletic, business school, and science facilities. A 1954 graduate of Brandeis, he excelled in economics and as a member of the university’s early football team while a student here. For his accomplishments, Soffer was inducted into the Brandeis Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009 and was given the Alumni Achievement Award in 2019. He has been a member of the Brandeis Board of Fellows since 1974.
Drew Weissman ’81, GSAS MA’81, P’15
Doctor of Science
Drew Weissman ’81, GSAS MA’81, P’15, is a prominent physician-scientist who, together with fellow honorary degree recipient Katalin Karikó, conducted research on the modification of nucleic acids for RNA therapeutics and vaccines, which ultimately led to the development of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for COVID-19. He is the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, the director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovation, and the director of Vaccine Research in the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Pennsylvania, and he continues to work on finding vaccines and therapies for conditions from the flu to HIV to cancer. Named one of Time magazine’s Heroes of the Year in 2021, he was recently elected into the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Weissman is a proud alumnus of Brandeis, receiving both a BA and MA in biochemistry and enzymology in 1981. Later, he went on to receive an MD and PhD from Boston University. He has been honored previously by Brandeis as well, receiving the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research in 2020, and the Alumni Achievement Award in 2021.