Student Allison Witham and Tony Kushner
One of the great figures of American theater and literature, playwright Tony Kushner, received a University of Minnesota Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree this spring. The degree is the highest honor conferred by the University.
He was nominated by faculty members from the English and American studies departments and the Center for Jewish Studies.
"Kushner's work is a call to struggle for justice, for responsibility, and for love," said Riv-Ellen Prell, former chair of the University's Department of American Studies and an affiliate faculty member in Jewish studies. "In his work devoted to the experiences of gay men and lesbians, Jews, outsiders, men and women of color, and those without power . . . Tony Kushner changed American theater and became one of the great voices of the citizen-artist of our century."
Dean Jim Parente called Kushner "a man who represents the soul of the liberal arts—or, we might say, the liberating arts," because he "holds a mirror to our human experience."
In 1993 Kushner received a Pulitzer Prize for his play, Angels in America. He was in the Twin Cities this spring for the world premiere of his work, The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, at the Guthrie Theater.
In its history, the University has awarded only 47 other honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. Recipients include Frank Gehry, Dominick Argento, Yanni, Merce Cunningham, Thomas Friedman, Gwendolyn and Jacob Lawrence, James Rosenquist, Charles Schulz, Robert Penn Warren, and August Wilson.