Seven new honorary doctorates at Radboud University

In honour of its centenary, Radboud University will award seven honorary doctorates in 2023. The recipients are Michael Sandel, Mary Beckman, Geert Corstens, Fabiola Gianotti, Stella Nkomo, Marc Van Ranst and Sandra Graham. Six honorary doctorates will be awarded during the annual Dies Natalis celebration on 17 October 2023 and Michael Sandel will receive his honorary doctorate on 9 May.

Normally, Radboud University awards one or more honorary doctorates its annual Dies Natalis anniversary celebration. However, with the university celebrating its centenary in 2023, each of the seven faculties will have the opportunity to issue its own honorary doctorate.

The recipients were chosen with an eye towards the university’s anniversary theme of making a difference. Each of the honorary doctorates have made efforts to improve their field and make the world a better place. In doing so, they serve as important role models for others within and outside their fields.

Michael Sandel, professor of Political Philosophy at Harvard University

Michael Sandel is one of the most famous philosophers of our time. He is a vehement defender of morality and civic virtues in political life and his academic writings on justice, democracy, bioethics and the moral limits of markets have been translated into 27 languages. He has also reached millions of viewers and listeners through online and public lectures, his BBC Radio 4 series and his television appearances, earning him the title of the ‘rock star philosopher’. With his signature soft-spoken, Socratic style of dialogue, Sandel succeeds in transforming complex ethical research into tools for addressing current issues, such as: should the rich bear the cost of climate change? Are there limits to free speech? What has the pandemic taught us about the contribution of unskilled, low-paid work to the common good?

In 2021 Sandel spoke at Radboud Reflects about his most recent book, The Tyranny of Merit. In it, he takes a stand against what he sees as the destructive 'success ethic' of our time, which makes people at the top believe they have earned their place, while those at the bottom of the social ladder are held responsible for their own failures.

Mary Beckman, professor of Linguistics at Ohio State University

Mary Beckman fundamentally changed the study of speech. Traditionally, the physical properties of speech and formal theories about the organisation of sounds, syllables and words have been investigated independently. Beckman, however, has shown that the two actually have a major influence on each other and cannot be studied separately.

She developed an annotation system that is used worldwide. She has also conducted extensive research on how children learn languages, thereby revealing the crucial role played by the physics of speech. Beckman's contributions to speech research stem from her ability to unite people from different fields. She also devotes an admirable amount of time and energy to training young researchers.

Geert Corstens, professor of Criminal Law and former president of the Supreme Court

As president of the Supreme Court, Geert Corstens strongly advocated for the rule of law and access to justice for all. He has authored a large number of impressive academic publications and is still regarded as an authority in the field of criminal law due to his widely used book Het Nederlandse Strafprocesrecht. Corstens still makes regular scientific contributions on threats to and the protection of the rule of law and is committed to making complex ethical themes widely discussable in both a Dutch and European context.

Corstens was a professor of Criminal and Criminal Procedure at Radboud University from 1982 to 1995, during which he demonstrated a keen interest in the social aspects of criminal law. He gave important impetus to the further development of due process law. Corstens is nuanced and knows how to be accountable. For instance, he commissioned research into the role of the Supreme Court in the Second World War and ensured that such themes as 'moral compass’ and 'reconciliation’ were added to the programme commemorating the Battle of Arnhem. Corstens holds lectures at home and abroad, speaking at large venues and small neighbourhood halls.

Fabiola Gianotti, Director-General of CERN

Since 2009, Fabiola Gianotti has served as project leader and spokesperson of the ATLAS experiment on the LHC particle accelerator at CERN – a collaboration of more than two thousand scientists. In 2012, the Higgs boson was discovered under her leadership as part of this experiment. This discovery led to Higgs and Englert being awarded the Nobel Prize for their 1964 theory predicting the particle's existence.

Gianotti has been widely regarded as the figurehead of particle physics since her appointment as Director-General of CERN in 2016. She was the first female director of CERN and also the first to be re-elected for a full second term. Gianotti strives to remove barriers for women scientists in a field traditionally dominated by men. Specifically, she wants to offer more support to women after they have children – something she says she received little of during her own career.

Stella Nkomo, professor of Human Resource Management at the University of Pretoria

Nkomo has dedicated her professional life to combating racism and gender inequality in the context of management and organisations. Her plea for a new paradigm for diversity and inclusion aligns perfectly with Radboud University's 'Significant Impact' strategy. She draws attention to the exclusion of marginalised groups within the dominant currents of management and organisational studies. Nkomo is an inspiring author and an eloquent speaker on sensitive topics such as racial justice and the impact of a colonial past on today's workplace.

She is considered an authority on issues of race, racism, gender and class in management and organisations. For decades, her work on leadership, HRM, organisational change, diversity, colonial relations and racism has found its way into leading journals on management and organisational studies.

Marc Van Ranst, professor of Virology at KU Leuven

Marc Van Ranst gained international prominence as one of Belgian's key advisors during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to his scientific work, he tirelessly interprets current events on social media, television, radio and newspapers. 

Van Ranst deserves the honorary doctorate for his courageous role in promoting science-based advice and views during the pandemic. This makes him a prime example of a dedicated scientist making a significant impact. As a figurehead for science, Van Ranst has shown determination, fortitude and perseverance, even in the face of threats and fierce criticism from COVID-19 deniers.

Sandra Graham, professor of Education at the University of California

Sandra Graham is a leading researcher on ethnicity and diversity in education and its impact on the motivation and social development of children and adolescents. Her work transcends the boundaries of educational research, developmental psychology and social psychology. Graham contributes to the public debate on diversity in education, school integration, and children and young adults from migrant backgrounds. This debate has historical significance in the United States and is gaining increasing relevance throughout Europe. Graham carried out much of her work in high-diversity schools in Los Angeles, as well as other parts of the country with the help of the former PhD students she helped to train.


Contact information

For further information, please contact team Science communication via +31 24 361 6000 or media [at] (media[at]ru[dot]nl). 

Organizational unit
Faculty of Law, Faculty of Arts