UW News

April 23, 2024

Author Daniel James Brown and MIT atmospheric chemist Susan Solomon to receive honorary degrees at UW’s 2024 Commencement

head shot of a man and a woman

Best-selling author Daniel James Brown and MIT atmospheric chemist Susan Solomon will receive honorary degrees at the 2024 UW Commencement.University of Washington

The University of Washington 149th Commencement is scheduled for Saturday, June 8, at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. This year, the UW will recognize best-selling author Daniel James Brown and Susan Solomon, a professor of environmental science and chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both will receive honorary degrees for their contributions to the humanities and sciences.

Daniel James Brown

Best-selling author Daniel James Brown will receive an honorary degree for his impact on the humanities. His book “Boys in the Boat” tells the story of the University of Washington men’s rowing team’s path to victory at the 1936 Olympic games; Brown also will deliver the Commencement address.

Brown’s books focus on pivotal moments in history that have often been overlooked. He told the story of Japanese American heroes of World War II in “Facing the Mountain.” In “The Indifferent Stars Above,” he chronicled a Donner party bride’s 32-day trek through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. And in the pages of “Under the Flaming Sky,” he revealed the social, economic and environmental causes of the Great Hinkley Firestorm of 1894.

“Boys in the Boat,” the tale of the UW crew team that overcame seemingly impossible obstacles, has been translated into more than a dozen languages and is the recipient of several awards including the American Library Association’s Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. The story brings to life Seattle in the 1930s, following the men’s rowing team to Olympic gold. Pivotal to the team’s success was the way people in the community contributed hard-earned funds to send the team to Berlin. This epic narrative of innovation, collaboration and shared success continues to endure, largely because those same values unite the UW and the Pacific Northwest today.

Susan Solomon

The UW will also recognize Susan Solomon, an MIT atmospheric chemist whose research has left an indelible mark on the fields of atmospheric science and climate research, significantly advancing the understanding of ozone depletion and the chemistry of the Earth’s stratosphere.

Her groundbreaking research played a crucial role in identifying and elucidating the mechanisms behind the Antarctic ozone hole, leading to the historic Montreal Protocol — an international treaty that successfully curtailed the use of ozone-depleting substances and helped protect the Earth’s fragile ozone layer. Her contributions have deepened scientific knowledge and led to tangible policy actions that have safeguarded the environment and the health of future generations.

In 2007, Solomon, as co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group One, was among those honored by the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Vice President Al Gore. She is a recipient of more than 20 honorary degrees, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and was awarded the U.S. National Medal of Science in 2000. She received a bachelor’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and her master’s and doctoral degrees from University of California, Berkeley.

Solomon spent sabbaticals in 2008 and 2019 collaborating and teaching graduate students at the UW’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences. In 2019, Solomon was the Robert Fleagle Endowed Lecturer.