2019 Commencement Speaker & Honorary Degree Recipients

Jocelyn Bell BurnellJocelyn Bell Burnell

Honorary Doctor of Science & 2019 Commencement Speaker

Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland who, as a postgraduate student, co-discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967, which is noted as "one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century". The discovery was recognized by the award of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics, but even though she was the first to observe the pulsars, Bell was excluded from the recipients of the prize. The paper announcing the discovery of pulsars had five authors. Bell's thesis supervisor, Antony Hewish, was listed first, Bell second. Hewish was awarded the Nobel Prize, along with the astronomer Martin Ryle. Many prominent astronomers criticized Bell's omission.

Subsequent to her discovery, Bell Burnell taught at the University of Southampton (1970–73) before becoming a professor at University College London (1974–82). She also taught at the Open University (1973–87) and worked at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh (1982–91), before serving as professor of physics at the Open University (1991–2001). Bell Burnell was then appointed dean of science at the University of Bath (2001–04), after which she accepted a post as visiting professor at Oxford.

In September 2018, Bell Burnell was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. Bell Burnell is donating the entire $3 million prize money to the U.K.'s Institute of Physics to support refugees, minorities, and women in the field, to fight "unconscious bias."

She has become an advocate for women and diversity in science. She became the first female president of the Institute of Physics (IoP) in 2008 and went on to become the first female president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2014. In 2012, she chaired a working group for the Royal Society of Edinburgh whose goal was to increase the number of women in science, technology, and mathematics in Scotland. And as of 2016, the IoP’s Very Early Career Female Physicist Award was renamed the Jocelyn Bell Burnell prize in her honor.

Punit Renjen MM ‘86Punit Renjen MM ‘86

Honorary Doctor of Business Administration

Renjen is in his 31st year with the Deloitte organization and became CEO of Deloitte Global in June 2015. Deloitte operates in 150 countries, with more than 263,900 professionals. Punit is also a member of the Deloitte Global Board of Directors.

Renjen most recently served as Chairman, Deloitte LLP (US member firm) from 2011-2015. As chairman, Punit led the board in providing governance and oversight on priority matters such as firm strategy, operations, risk mitigation, and talent development.

Outside of Deloitte, Renjen is a member of the boards of directors at United Way Worldwide (chairman), U.S.-India Business Council (vice chairman), and Japan Society; and is a founding member of the Lincoln Center India Advisory Council. He was named an honoree to the 2012, 2013 and 2014 National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) “Directorship 100.” Punit often comments on the attributes of exceptional organizations, including the importance of a well-articulated and lived culture of purpose, and the role of business as a steward of public trust.

Renjen has held several leadership roles within Deloitte, including CEO of Deloitte Consulting LLP. During his tenure as US Consulting CEO, the consulting practice experienced tremendous growth despite an ongoing recession, helping Deloitte Consulting LLP become one of the largest consulting organizations according to leading analysts’ rankings. Along with his partners and directors, he guided Deloitte Consulting LLP to be recognized as one of the “2010 Best Firms to Work For” by Consulting magazine and as one of the top firms in Vault’s Guide to the Top 50 Management and Strategy Consulting Firms.

Throughout Renjen’s career, he has helped clients address a range of issues, including M&A, strategy, and operations improvement. His clients have included large multinational organizations spanning the energy, utilities, and technology industries.

Renjen was born and raised in India. He moved to the United States after receiving a Rotary Foundation Scholarship to Willamette University, where he earned a master’s degree in management. He now serves on the board of trustees of Willamette University and was named among the 100 most influential business leaders who have graduated from schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International.

In March 2018, Renjen and his wife, Heather, cut the ribbon on the Renjen Center, the home of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Student Center for Equity and Empowerment. 

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