Two to Receive Honorary Degrees at 2021 Commencement

Noted economist Raj Chetty and groundbreaking theologian the Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas will be awarded honorary Doctor of Letters degrees at Ithaca College’s 126th Commencement ceremony. Based on nominations by Ithaca College’s Honorary Degree Committee and Faculty Governance Council, Chetty and Douglas are being recognized as leaders who use their talents, expertise, and platforms to give voice to important issues and demonstrate the values that the college seeks to exemplify.  

Raj Chetty

Raj Chetty

A leading scholar and teacher who has inspired policymakers and social scientists, Raj Chetty is the William A. Ackman Professor of Economics at Harvard University. He has been a pioneer in the use of large-scale data sets to study questions of economic opportunity and inequality and the use of data to influence policy. He serves as the director of the Opportunity Insights group, a nonpartisan research and policy institute whose central mission is to develop scalable policy solutions that empower families throughout the United States to rise out of poverty and achieve better life outcomes.

Chetty earned both his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from Harvard. Prior to joining the university as one of its youngest-ever tenured faculty members, he taught at the University of California-Berkeley and Stanford.

The author of research papers on topics ranging from the effects of tax cuts on corporate behavior to intergenerational mobility to factors that influence life expectancy, Chetty has been honored with a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, a Carnegie Foundation Great Immigrants Award, and the John Bates Clark Medal from the American Economic Association, which called him “arguably the best applied microeconomist of his generation.”

Kelly Brown Douglas

Kelly Brown Douglas

Photo by Ron Hester

The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas is Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union and the Bill and Judith Moyers Chair in Theology at the Union Theological Seminary. She also serves as the Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral and Theologian in Residence at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City.

Among the first Black women to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church, Douglas is considered a leader in the field of womanist theology, racial reconciliation, and sexuality and the Black church. Through her writing, preaching, teaching, and work in the public square, Douglas has been a tireless advocate for justice and dignity for every human being, particularly those who are marginalized because of their race, gender, or sexuality. In 2019, she spoke at Ithaca College as part of the Peggy Ryan Williams Difficult Dialogues Symposium.

Douglas’ books include “Sexuality in the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective,” “Black Bodies and the Black Church: A Blues Slant,” and “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God,” inspired by Trayvon Martin’s death. and the forthcoming “Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter.”

She served a parish in Washington, D.C., for over 20 years, and prior to joining the Episcopal Divinity School at Union in 2017, she taught at Goucher College, Howard University School of Divinity, and Edward Waters College.