Two all stars from New York will receive honorary degrees this month at Stony Brook University’s 56th annual commencement ceremony.
Eric H. Holder Jr. and Soledad O’Brien were named this year’s honorary recipients for their contributions in their respective fields, the university said in a statement. Holder, the 82nd attorney general of the United States, will receive a doctor of law degree, while O’Brien, a Long Island native and award-winning journalist, will receive a doctor of letters.
Both recipients will address the Seawolves class of 2016 and sport academic regalia right alongside the nearly 6,000 other graduates at LaValle Stadium on May 20.
“This is a remarkable distinction for the class of 2016, to be joined by individuals who personify what Stony Brook embraces — the relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to make a real difference,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. “Eric Holder embodies the progress and values of our country through his strong leadership and legacy of justice and fortitude. Soledad O’Brien exemplifies the vision of our University as she is actively engaged in the critical issues of our time — initiating and exploring important national conversations. I am looking forward to officially welcoming Eric Holder and Soledad O’Brien as fellow Seawolves.”
Holder served as the attorney general of the United States under the leadership of U.S. President Barack Obama between 2009 and 2015. During his tenure, the president praised him for his “toughness and independence,” the university said in a statement.
Originally from the Bronx, Holder is the first African American to be the attorney general. While serving in that role, Holder announced and oversaw $1 billion in federal grants to law enforcement agencies in every state to support the hiring of police officers.
He also actively aided the war against terrorism, providing the names of the conspirators for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Holder previously served as a United States attorney for the District of Columbia for U.S. President Bill Clinton, a judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia appointed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the deputy attorney general under Janet Reno. Holder earned a Bachelor of Arts in American history from Columbia University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.
O’Brien is an American broadcast journalist, executive producer and philanthropist who has become a fixture in global news on major platforms, the university said. A former co-anchor of CNN’s “American Morning,” O’Brien is now chairman of the Starfish Media Group, reporting and producing stories that have appeared on CNN, HBO and Al Jazeera America. Before joining CNN, O’Brien anchored NBC’s “Weekend Today” and contributed reports for weekend editions of the “NBC Nightly News.”
O’Brien’s recent noteworthy documentaries include “Black in America: The New Promised Land-Silicon Valley.”
O’Brien has been recognized for numerous awards and honors, including two Emmy Awards, George Foster Peabody awards, an Alfred I. DuPont Award, an NAACP President’s Award, the CINE Golden Eagle Award and “Journalist of the Year” from the National Association of Black Journalists. She is a Harvard University graduate and the daughter of Edward O’Brien, a founding professor at Stony Brook.