Pulitzer Prize Winner and American Historian Laureate Ron Chernow Announced as Commencement Speaker

Other individuals receiving honorary degrees will be Henry David Abraham, M.D. ’63, Donald Holder, and Dr. Carson D. Schneck, M.D., Ph.D. ’55

Thu, 24 Apr 2014 09:10:00 EDT

Ron Chernow, 2014 Commencement speakerRon Chernow, American Historian Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Washington: A Life, will speak at Muhlenberg College's 166th Commencement on May 18, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.  The ceremony will be held on the historic college green.  Chernow will also be awarded an honorary doctorate.  Other individuals receiving honorary degrees will be Henry David Abraham, M.D. ’63, Donald Holder, and Dr. Carson D. Schneck, M.D., Ph.D. ’55.   

Ron Chernow is one of the most distinguished commentators on politics, business and finance in America today. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has hailed him as “one of the pre-eminent biographers of his generation” and Fortune called him “America’s best business biographer.” His first book, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award as the best nonfiction book of 1990 and is considered a modern classic. The Modern Library Board voted it one of the 100 best nonfiction books published in the twentieth century. His second book, The Warburgs, won the prestigious George S. Eccles Prize for the best business book of 1993 and was cited by the American Library Association as one of the year’s ten best works. His 1998 biography of John D. Rockefeller, entitled Titan, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for biography and remained on The New York Times bestseller list for 16 weeks. Both the Times and Time magazine voted it one of the 10 best books of the year, while The Timesof London praised it as “one of the great American biographies.”

His biography of Alexander Hamilton was published in April 2004. Excerpted by Business Week and chosen as the main selection of both The Book-of-the-Month Club and the History Book Club, the book spent three months on the New York Times bestseller list and was the first recipient of the George Washington Book Prize for the year’s best book about the founding era. It was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in biography.Chernow’s long-awaited biography of George Washington was the main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club as well as the History and Military Book Clubs. Excerpted by the Smithsonian magazine, the book spent five weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. The Wall Street Journal named the book one of the year’s ten best and The New York Times included it among its notable books of 2010. It was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History. In March 2011, the New-York Historical Society gave the book the coveted American History Book Prize for the best book about American history published in 2010, endowing Chernow with the honorary title of American Historian Laureate. In May of that year, Washington was honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Biography, the highest honor reserved for a writer in that field.A frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Chernow is a familiar figure on national radio and television shows and has appeared in numerous documentaries. He has served as president of PEN American Center, the country’s pre-eminent organization of authors. He also sits on the executive board of the Society of American Historians and is a fellow of the New York Academy of History. He recently joined the board of trustees of Humanity in Action, a global human rights organization. Chernow resides in Brooklyn, N.Y


Henry David Abraham, M.D. graduated as valedictorian at the Muhlenberg College in 1963, attended the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and served as an intern and fellow in the Harriet Lane Program in Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.  He fulfilled his military obligation at the Communicable Disease Center as the medical advisor of the National Medical Audiovisual Center from 1969-71.  Following a year as a pediatrician at the University of Arizona, he completed a residency in psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in 1974.

Following training, he became Unit Chief of the Westboro State Hospital for two years.  In 1981 he was named the Director of Psychiatric Research at the St. Elizabeth's Hospital, and initiated a series of studies on the long-term effects of hallucinogenic drugs in humans.  In that year he served as a consultant to the National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Marijuana and Health for the Institute of Medicine, Washington, D.C.  Data from his research efforts contributed to the development of the Diagnostics and Statistical Manuals of the American Psychiatric Association.  In 1993 he was named Director of Substance Abuse Programs at the Tufts University School of Medicine and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry.  In 1995 he became the Chief of the Alcohol and Drug Treatment Services of the Butler Hospital, an affiliate of Brown University.  Currently he conducts a psychiatric practice and writes essays, non-fiction and fiction.

Honors include the IRIS, Peabody and Emmy Awards for Best Public Television Programs in 1978, 1979 and 1982.  A founding member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Abraham was an author of the constitution of those organizations, and in 1985 shared at Oslo in the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2007 he was elected Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

Donald Holder has worked extensively in theatre, opera, dance, architectural and television lighting in the U.S. and abroad for over 25 years.  He has designed more than 40 Broadway productions, has been nominated for nine Tony awards, winning the Tony for Best Lighting Design for The Lion King and the 2008 revival of South Pacific.  His recent and upcoming Broadway productions include: Spiderman Turn Off The Dark, Bullets Over Broadway, The Bridges Of Madison County, The King and I (Lincoln Center Theatre), Golden Boy, Come Fly Away, Ragtime and Movin’ Out.

 Projects at the New York Metropolitan Opera include Julie Taymor’s production of The Magic Flute, this season’s Two Boys and the upcoming Otello in 2015.  He has worked at most of the nation’s leading resident theatres, including Baltimore’s Center Stage, Arena Stage, The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Repertory, La Jolla Playhouse, Huntington Theatre Company, South Coast Repertory and the Williamstown Theatre Festival.  Holder has designed over 100 Off-Broadway productions, including the premieres of Jitney, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Jeffrey, Sight Unseen, The American Plan, Spunk, Three Days of Rain, A Man of No Importance, The Last Letter, Pterodactyls and many others.  His television work includes the theatrical lighting for seasons one and two of ‘Smash’ (NBC- Dreamworks).

He was head of the lighting design program at the California Institute of the Arts from 2006-2010.  He has been on the Faculty of the Broadway Lighting Master Classes for many years and has an ongoing teaching/mentoring relationship with the Korean Arts Council (ARKO). Don served as Technical Director for the Muhlenberg College Department of Theatre from 1981- 1983 and was a lighting designer, production manager, technical director and bassist for the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Festival for 10 seasons.

He is a volunteer fireman and Vice President of the Chemical Engine Company in his community of Croton on Hudson, N.Y., where he resides with his wife Evan Yionoulis (Faculty- Yale School Of Drama), son Josh and daughter Sarah (freshman- Yale College).  He is a graduate of the University of Maine and the Yale School of Drama. 

Dr. Carson D. Schneck received a B.S. degree from Muhlenberg College in 1955 and M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Temple University in 1959 and 1965. He served on the faculty of Temple Medical School from 1960-2012 with joint appointments in the departments of anatomy and diagnostic imaging. He was elected to the AOA Honorary Medical Fraternity in his junior year in medical school.

As a faculty member, Schneck received 18 Golden Apple Teaching awards, four Medical Yearbook dedications, four Sowell Teaching awards and was selected by 28 medical classes to be a hooder at their graduations. In 1988, he received the Temple Great Teachers award in its inaugural year and the AOA-AAMC Distinguished Basic Science Teacher award as the first recipient of this national award. He also received the Temple Medical Alumni Achievement award and the Stauffer award for Distinguished Service to Temple University. The anatomy lab in the new Medical School Building was dedicated to and largely designed by Schneck. Upon his faculty appointment, in addition to teaching in first year anatomy courses, Schneck initiated PGME and CME clinical anatomy courses in essentially all of the clinical departments and senior medical student elective courses in all of the medical specialties

Even though medical basic courses were classically lecture/lab courses, because Schneck had been impressed by the Socratic dialogue style of teaching of philosophy Professor Russell Stine at Muhlenberg College, when he was appointed director of the gross anatomy course in 1969, the anatomy department decided to eliminate all lectures and replace them with clinical problem solving conferences that immediately followed the dissected anatomy. Schneck wrote anatomy notes containing considerable clinical applications of the anatomy. Actual clinical cases were selected from the Diagnostic Imaging library and scripted Power Point presentations of the history, physical, imaging and laboratory findings were shown and the students were all called on individually in problem-solving conference to use their just learned anatomy to solve real clinical problems at the very beginning of their medical education. Temple medical students have consistently evaluated the gross anatomy course as the best basic science course for the past 40 years.

In research, Schneck published 30 peer reviewed articles in clinical journals mostly involving MRI imaging of musculoskeletal pathology. He wrote 22 books, monographs and chapters on similar topics. He also produced 18 hours of videotape dissection directions and 20 hours of commercially marketed videotapes that correlated sectional anatomy of the entire body with CT and ultrasound images.