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Larry MacIntyre
University Communications

Last modified: Thursday, December 9, 2010

IU to present honorary degrees to Thai princess and surgeon general of the Navy

Dec. 9, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University will confer honorary degrees to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand and Adam M. Robinson Jr., surgeon general of the U.S. Navy, during IU Bloomington's 2010 winter commencement ceremony on Dec. 18.

IU President Michael McRobbie will confer both with honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. Robinson also will serve as the commencement speaker.

Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

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"We are especially honored to confer degrees on Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn and Vice Admiral Robinson in recognition of their lifetimes of service," McRobbie said. "The positive impacts they've had on the lives of so many people have been immeasurable."

As a member of the Royal Family, Princess Sirindhorn is known throughout the world for her efforts to expand and improve public education all across Thailand, especially in remote and rural areas.

"Her leadership and long-standing devotion to the cause of extending quality education opportunities to all Thai citizens have brought about dramatic improvements in the lives of so many in her country," McRobbie added. "Here at IU, we take pride in the fact that since the days of Herman B Wells' presidency, several members of our faculty have lent their expertise and support to educational development in Thailand."

McRobbie said Admiral Robinson also provides an excellent example of how education can transform lives.

"He has taken the medical training he received at IU and used it to assist others during a long and distinguished career as a Naval officer and physician and through his contributions to disaster relief efforts worldwide," McRobbie said. "The Admiral's remarkable career should provide inspiration to us all."

The commencement ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. at Assembly Hall. The procession of students will begin at 9:15 a.m.

Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

For decades, IU has had a close relationship with Thailand. IU faculty members and experts have helped to develop modern Thailand by working to establish leading universities, contributing to the development of the K-12 educational system, supporting the growth of its modern health and dental care, and offering guidance as it developed governmental policies.

Many of these advances would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Thai royal family, particularly Princess Sirindhorn, said Charles R. Bantz, chancellor of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"As the member of the Royal Family most prominent for promoting education in her country, she has used her position to focus efforts on a commitment that will better the lives of the Thai people for generations to come," Bantz said.

Her efforts have focused on children, education, disaster relief and preservation of Thai culture. For example, she played a direct role in establishing libraries, schools and basic education programs in rural areas and Thai border regions. She personally worked with local officials, used her position to call attention to children's needs, mobilized public support, made investments through her own foundation and inspired others to give.

As a scholar, she has worked in historic preservation, development of traditional Thai music, and creation of an electronic corpus of the modern Thai language. She is so revered as a champion of scientific inquiry that Thai scientists have named 15 plant and animal species in her honor.

Her work has garnered many honors through the years, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1991 (whose past winners have included the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa), and the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development in 2004 (whose past winners include Mikhail Gorbachev, Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter).

In 2005, she was named a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Goodwill Ambassador.

"For a generation of students from Thailand and the surrounding countries, Princess Sirindhorn has been a model of effective public service," said Patrick O'Meara, IU vice president for international affairs. "Her efforts and successes with seemingly intractable problems deserve wider recognition and should stand as a model for students and educators all over the world."

Adam M. Robinson, Jr.

VADM Robinson

Vice Admiral Adam Robinson

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Robinson, a native of Louisville, Ky., earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science at IU Bloomington in 1972 and a medical degree from the IU School of Medicine in 1976. He also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of South Florida in 1995.

He was commissioned into naval service in 1977 after completing his surgical internship at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield.

The 36th surgeon general of the Navy and chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery since 2007, Robinson oversees medical operations and services for that branch of the armed services. It includes 60,000 employees and has an annual budget of $3 billion.

Over the past 33 years, Robinson has held numerous administrative medical positions with the Navy in Japan, Puerto Rico and the United States and with the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. He has served as ship's surgeon on the aircraft carriers USS Midway, USS John F. Kennedy and USS Coral Sea. From 2003 to 2007, he served as chief of the National Naval Hospital at Bethesda, Md., which also is known as "The President's Hospital."

He also has been head of the General Surgery Department, director of the General Surgery Residency Program and acting medical director of the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., and has been executive officer of Naval Hospital Jacksonville.

"Admiral Robinson's career is a study in dedication and commitment to public service," said John D. Graham, dean of the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. "Beyond simply overseeing a vast medical network, Admiral Robinson has helped formulate, develop and implement major military health policies for all the service branches. In addition, he coordinates much of U.S. military humanitarian assistance efforts around the world."

In January 1999, as Fleet Hospital Jacksonville commanding officer, Robinson commanded a detachment of the hospital as a medical contingent to Operation New Horizon/Uphold Democracy in Haiti. He returned to the Caribbean country this year during the aftermath of January's devastating earthquake with USNS Comfort and participated in relief efforts of the Navy there.

Robinson in 2000 was selected as the principal director of clinical and program policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, where he also served as the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, clinical and program policy.

The author of numerous presentations and publications, Robinson holds fellowships in the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgery. He is a member of the Le Societe Internationale de Chirurgie, the Society of Black Academic Surgeons and the National Business School Scholastic Society Beta Gamma Sigma. He holds certification as a Certified Physician Executive from the American College of Physician Executives.

His personal decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal (twice), Legion of Merit (also twice), Defense Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Navy Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and various service and campaign awards.

In 2008, the IU School of Medicine presented him with its Distinguished Alumni Award.

Russell L. Hanson, chair of the IU Department of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, said the honorary degree for Robinson "is fitting recognition for a life-long pursuit of higher education in support of a higher calling to serve and bind the wounds and ease the suffering of humanity."