UNCG Announces 2017 Honorary Degree Recipients

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Internationally-recognized cancer researcher and visual artist to receive highest award

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) today announced that honorary degrees will be conferred to Mansukh C. Wani, Ph.D., Doctor of Science, and William (Bill) Mangum, Jr., Doctor of Humane Letters. Presented during the spring commencement ceremony to the university’s 2017 graduating class on Friday, May 12, the awards recognize pioneers in their respective fields of study and represent the breadth of scholarship at UNCG – from breakthrough scientific research to innovation and entrepreneurship through the visual arts.

Recognized internationally for his ground-breaking work in both synthetic and natural products chemistries, Dr. Wani is perhaps best known as a pioneer in the field of cancer research. Among his seminal contributions to the field, he is most recognized for the co-discovery of taxol and camptothecin, compounds that inhibit cancer cell growth via novel mechanisms of action. Prior to their discovery, neither were known to be effective ways to circumvent the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. Today, at least one-third of the global market of anti-cancer agents could be ascribed to the discoveries of taxol and camptothecin. His work has saved millions of lives.

According to UNCG Chemistry Professor Nicholas H. Oberlies, Ph.D., who nominated Dr. Wani for the honorary degree, Dr. Wani “is nothing short of a hero.” Oberlies has worked with Dr. Wani since 1998, and describes him as a spectacular scientist and consummate gentleman.

“He is a mentor to me and a role model for the next generation of scientists – discovering not one, but two, life-saving pharmaceuticals. A truly historic achievement. Perhaps just as important, he is a shining example of how hard work and passion always pay off.”

Mangum is an artist, entrepreneur, author, a philanthropist and two-time UNCG graduate. He earned his bachelor of fine arts in art education and master of fine arts in studio arts from UNCG. A North Carolina native, over 50,000 of Mangum’s works have been purchased for private and corporate collections. In 2005, Mangum was selected as the official artist for the U.S. Open Golf Tournament. As a philanthropist, Mangum has raised millions of dollars for non-profit agencies throughout the United States. One hundred percent of the proceeds from his annual holiday honor card – $4.5 million to date – go directly to help people across North Carolina who are experiencing homelessness.

“We are proud to have Bill as an alumnus, as a dedicated supporter of UNCG and as a friend,” said Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Jan Zink, who nominated Mangum for the honorary degree. “Bill has chosen to use his profession as a gateway to affecting positive change in the community; and his philanthropic efforts have directly aided countless social causes throughout the Triad and the state of North Carolina. Service is a cornerstone of UNCG’s mission. We could not be more thrilled to honor him for all he has accomplished.”

Margot Lee Shetterly, best-selling author of the book “Hidden Figures,” will present the commencement address to the university’s 2017 graduating class. “Hidden Figures” was made into a major motion picture nominated for multiple Oscars and Golden Globe awards.

UNCG Commencement takes place at the Greensboro Coliseum on Friday, May 12, at 10 a.m. For more information about the ceremony, visit: reg.uncg.edu/commencement-central.

About The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, located in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, is a high-research activity university as classified by the Carnegie Foundation. Founded in 1891 and one of the original three UNC system institutions, UNCG is one of the most diverse universities in the state with more than 19,600 students and 2,500 faculty and staff members representing more than 90 nationalities. With 86 undergraduate degrees in over 100 areas of study, as well as 52 master’s and 28 doctoral programs, UNCG is consistently recognized nationally among the top universities for academic excellence and value, with noted strengths in education, health and wellness, the performing arts, business and the arts and sciences, among others. For additional information, please visit uncg.edu and follow UNCG on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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University Communications

Eden Bloss

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Headshot of Dr. Mansukh C. WaniHeadshot of Bill Mangum