Peter Dervan to Receive UW-Madison Honorary Degree in May

A research chemist, a pioneering second-generation conservationist and two leaders who combine business and technological innovation will be the recipients of honorary degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May.

Peter Dervan, who has helped develop novel pharmaceutical methods based on DNA sequencing; Estella Leopold, a groundbreaking paleoecologist who carries on her family's legacy of conservation; Bill Linton, founder and CEO of Madison's Promega and a leader in ethical management and citizenship; and Mike Splinter, CEO of solar pioneer Applied Materials will be honored.

The honorary degrees, as well as doctoral and some professional degrees, will be presented at the 5:30 p.m. commencement ceremony on Friday, May 15, at the Kohl Center.

Honorary degrees from UW-Madison recognize individuals with careers of extraordinary accomplishment. The Committee on Honorary Degrees looks to sustained and characteristic activity as its warrant: uncommonly meritorious activity exhibiting values that are esteemed by a great university.

Faculty legislation "give[s] preference in its nominations to persons who are connected in some significant way with the state or with the university," although a Wisconsin connection is not a prerequisite to an honorary degree.

Peter Dervan is the Bren Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology and scientific co-founder of Gilead Sciences Inc., a major producer of drugs used around the world to combat such diseases as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. He was a pioneer in devising means to control the decoding of DNA sequences and thereby unlocked a potent new approach to treating previously intractable illnesses.

Dervan has trained many of the country's leading younger research scientists, and with his spouse, the distinguished chemist Jackie Barton, he has championed the advancement of women in scientific careers.

"With a pioneering vision, Dervan remolded the scientific landscape over the course of his career," writes Robert McMahon, Helfaer Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry. "Dervan's receipt of the National Medal of Science in 2006 is a reflection of both his impact on the basic science community and his remarkable ability to support translation of fundamental progress into tangible societal gains."

Susannah Brooks, University Communications