Ithaca College to Award Honorary Degrees to Three at Commencement Ceremony

By David Maley, April 12, 2016

Ithaca College to Award Honorary Degrees to Three at Commencement Ceremony

Three individuals will be recognized for distinguished service and accomplishments in their respective fields by being awarded honorary degrees from Ithaca College: New York Times correspondent Adam B. Ellick, Fisher House Foundation chair and chief executive officer Kenneth Fisher '80 and Young People’s Chorus of New York City founder and artistic director Francisco J. Núñez.

The trio will be presented with their degrees as part of the college’s Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 22.

Adam Ellick, Doctor of Letters

An award-winning journalist whose reporting first brought Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai to the attention of the world, Adam Ellick will also deliver the main Commencement address. His 2009 documentary on Malala, reported over the course of six months, told her brave story of defying the Taliban by advocating for the education of girls. Malala was shot and seriously wounded by a gunman in 2012, and in 2014 became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ellick’s stories tend to document human rights abuses and to give a voice to the voiceless. His work for the New York Times has taken him from Luxembourg to Mongolia and from Tanzania to Columbia, writing, editing, shooting and producing web videos. Last July he was named a deputy editor, serving as part of a team overseeing 50 staffers and rethinking the strategic vision for the newspaper’s video coverage.

His honors include the 2010 Daniel Pearl Award for outstanding reporting about South Asia, two Overseas Press Club awards and the Justice Award from the Cinema for Peace Foundation. A 1999 journalism graduate of Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communications, he was presented with the Humanitarian Alumni Award in 2015.

Kenneth Fisher, Doctor of Commercial Science

A businessman and philanthropist, Kenneth Fisher leads an organization that provides housing where families of hospitalized military personnel and veterans can be near their loved ones. The Fisher House Foundation also provides scholarships for veterans and their spouses and children, and in partnership with Newman’s Own and the Military Times supports grant funding for efforts to improve the quality of life for members of the military.

Fisher, who attended Ithaca College from 1976 to 1980, serves as a senior partner at Fisher Brothers real estate firm, where he oversees the leasing, management and marketing of commercial space in Midtown Manhattan and Washington, D.C. His other community activities have included serving on the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, as co-chair of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and on the board of directors of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

For his many humanitarian efforts, Fisher has been honored with the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the nation’s highest non-combat military award; the U.S. Army’s George C. Marshall Medal and Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service, and the Public Awareness Award from the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Francisco J. Núñez, Doctor of Music

Since founding the Young People’s Chorus (YPC) of New York City in 1988, Francisco J. Núñez, a MacArthur Fellow, has dramatically heightened an awareness of the ability of children of any cultural or economic background to rise to unforeseen levels of artistry. YPC’s program seeks to harness the power of music to fulfill the potential of thousands of children musically, academically and socially. In addition to bettering the condition of their lives, Núñez has created a model of artistic excellence that serves to enrich the broader community.

Núñez has also been revolutionary in expanding and invigorating the repertoire for young voices by commissioning over 100 pieces of new music for YPC from many of today’s most distinguished composers — 80 alone through its Transient Glory and Radio Radiance series. YPC receives invitations to represent the U.S. from countries on four continents, from Japan in 2005 to Finland in 2017. Most recently, YPC returned from Munich after becoming the first American youth chorus in the 54-year history of the Euroradio International Choral Competition to win first prize, and was invited to sing for Pope Francis at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. In 2011, YPC received the nation’s highest honor for youth programs, a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

Núñez also leads the University Glee Club of New York City, its fifth conductor since the all-men’s chorus was established in 1894, and is sought after nationwide as a guest conductor by professional orchestras and choirs. He composes countless compositions and arrangements in all musical formats and styles for choirs, orchestras and solo instruments, and as a result has received an ASCAP Victor Herbert Award and the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award from the NYU Steinhardt School of Music. Through his Núñez Initiative for Social Change, he is working to bring children and communities together through a program of musical excellence, community and educational efforts.

Nominees for an honorary degree from Ithaca College must possess a record of outstanding achievement, community services, philanthropic endeavors and interest in education and/or humanitarian programs; be known for outstanding scholarly contributions and/or demonstration of some other significant service of benefit to humanity or Ithaca College; and have made outstanding contributions to society in ways that harmonize with the heritage, character and mission of the college.

Previous recipients include playwright Tony Kushner, “ABC World News Tonight” anchor David Muir ’95, actress CCH Pounder ’75, civil rights pioneer Dorothy Cotton, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner and conductor Frank Battisti ’53, M.S. ’64.

For more information on the Ithaca College Commencement ceremony, visit