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UW to Confer Two Honorary Degrees

April 12, 2013
Woman and man
Nancy Gwinn, director of the Smithsonian Libraries, and Casper native Dr. Stephen Nicholas, a world-renowned pediatric AIDS specialist, will receive honorary degrees from the University of Wyoming.

The University of Wyoming will confer its highest award, the honorary doctoral degree, upon two individuals who are recognized internationally as leaders in their professions. 

They are Sheridan native Nancy Gwinn, director of the Smithsonian Libraries; and Casper native Dr. Stephen Nicholas, a world-renowned pediatric AIDS specialist. Both are UW alumni, and they will be recognized during UW Commencement Saturday, May 11.

Annually, UW alumni, current or former trustees and faculty are eligible to nominate, for honorary degrees, individuals who embody the university’s high ideals; exemplify the values of excellence, service and integrity; and have distinguished accomplishments in their professions or contributions to the sciences, arts, humanities, public service and service to humanity. Submissions are referred to a joint committee, headed by UW President Tom Buchanan, and nominees who receive votes from two-thirds of the committee are recommended for approval.

Gwinn received her Bachelor of Arts in English at UW in 1967. She advanced through increasingly responsible positions at libraries in California and Washington, D.C., and began work at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries starting in 1984. She was named the director in 1997.

Maggie Farrell, dean of libraries at UW, says Gwinn has led the Smithsonian Libraries through significant technological changes that increased the profile of the libraries within the Smithsonian as well as within the profession.

“Once viewed as a special library serving only Smithsonian staff, the Smithsonian Libraries are now considered an international leader in modern library methods, especially in the area of digitization,” Farrell says. “Through (Gwinn’s) efforts, the Smithsonian Libraries are contributing content to critical research projects, ensuring that the American public has access to the deep resources of the Smithsonian Institution.”

As a leader in librarianship, Gwinn has been active in the American Library Association (ALA) and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). Since 2003, Gwinn has held several leadership positions within IFLA, including the Publications Committee and serving on the Governing Board. 

Among her publications, two were awarded, respectively, the Waldo Gifford Leland prize of the Society of American Archivists and the American Library Association’s Blackwell North American Scholarship Award. Her most recent work has focused on aspects of the joint history of the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress.

Gwinn’s many contributions have advanced national and international librarianship -- she was a leader in preservation during a period when libraries transitioned from primarily print collections to a variety of print, micro and electronic collections. Her outstanding accomplishments have instructed librarians and assisted libraries worldwide in developing preservation and digital programs. 

“Her work within IFLA and with national libraries attests that she is a global citizen extending Smithsonian collections and assisting libraries around the world to improve access to rich collections that benefit humankind,” Farrell says.

Nicholas, who received an associate’s degree from Casper College and then graduated from UW with a bachelor’s degree in zoology/physiology in 1975, has forged a career of remarkable scholarship and service since receiving his medical degree from the University of Colorado in 1981.

He is the associate dean for admissions and a professor of clinical pediatrics and clinical population and family health at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. His research since the 1980s has influenced the way pediatric AIDS is treated and prevented, but his humanitarian efforts to fight the disease are particularly noteworthy.

Concerned about mother-to-child transmission of HIV, which was a significant problem in New York City during his early career at Columbia in the early 1990s, Nicholas has devoted himself to preventing and treating AIDS in children. He was a co-founder of the pediatric AIDS program at Harlem Hospital and the Incarnation Children’s Center in New York. He founded Columbia’s International Family AIDS Program in 1999 and introduced treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women in the Dominican Republic. He has developed programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in that nation as well as Haiti, Russia and South Africa.

“Dr. Nicholas is a shining example of the seemingly limitless potential of our alumni,” wrote Kem Krueger, associate dean for pharmaceutical sciences in UW’s College of Health Sciences. “His drive for excellence and compassion for humanity are quintessential Wyoming characteristics. I would love to send all of our students on clinical rotations with Dr. Nicholas not just for the clinical skills they would obtain, but to let them see that they can use their knowledge and skills (obtained at UW) to contribute to the betterment of humanity.”

“Dr. Nicholas is a truly exceptional role model for our students,” wrote Margaret Skinner, director of UW’s Ellbogen Center for Teaching and Learning. “His story illustrates just how much can be achieved when one human being puts his mind, his heart and his soul into the service of others.”

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