Rensselaer to Honor Three Outstanding Americans

April 26, 2001

Rensselaer to Honor Three Outstanding Americans

Honorary Doctorates To Be Conferred on Vinton G. Cerf, the “Father of the Internet,” Entertainer Bill Cosby, and Sociologist William Julius Wilson

Troy, N.Y. — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will bestow honorary doctoral degrees on Vinton G. Cerf, known as the “Father of the Internet,” entertainer and educator Bill Cosby, and renowned sociologist William Julius Wilson.

The honors will be conferred at Rensselaer’s 195th commencement on May 12 at the Pepsi Arena in Albany. Wilson, the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University, will be made a Doctor of Law. Cerf will receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering.

At the same ceremony, Rensselaer will present an honorary doctorate in arts and humane letters to Bill Cosby, who will deliver the commencement address. This year, Rensselaer students are expected to receive 1,029 bachelor’s degrees, 572 master’s degrees, and 106 doctoral degrees.

Vinton G. Cerf
Cerf is senior vice president of Internet Architecture and Technology for WorldCom. His team of architects and engineers design advanced Internet frameworks for delivering a combination of data, information, voice, and video services for business and consumer use.

Often called the “Father of the Internet,” Cerf is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet. In December 1997, President Clinton presented the U.S. National Medal of Technology to Cerf and his partner, Robert E. Kahn, for founding and developing the Internet.

During his tenure with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, from 1976 to 1982, Cerf played a key role leading the development of Internet and Internet-related data packet and security technologies. As vice president of MCI Digital Information Services from 1982 to 1986, he led the engineering of MCI Mail, the first commercial e-mail service connected to the Internet.

Bill Cosby
Long after he had achieved success as an entertainer, Cosby, a graduate of Temple University, returned to college in the 1970s to obtain a master’s degree and a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Cosby was born in Philadelphia to William and Anna Cosby on July 12, 1937. After a successful career as a standup comedian in nightclubs and on records, Cosby landed a starring role on the television adventure series, “I Spy,” earning three Emmy Awards.

Cosby later starred in many films and in the long-running, highly popular comedy series, “The Cosby Show,” and became a best-selling author with such books as Fatherhood and Time Flies.
Cosby was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1992, and received the Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. He holds numerous Peoples Choice Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys, and Grammys.

William Julius Wilson
Wilson is a distinguished scholar and authority on the racial divide and the urban poor. He is one of only 18 University Professors, the highest professional distinction for a Harvard faculty member.

Wilson is the author of numerous books, including The Declining Significance of Race, The Truly Disadvantaged, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, and The Bridge Over the Racial Divide: Rising Inequality and Coalition Politics.

A MacArthur Prize Fellow from 1987 to 1992, Wilson has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Philosophical Society, and the Institute of Medicine.

For print-quality photographs of Cosby, Cerf, and Wilson, go to:
Photo Credit: Erinn
Photo Credit: Martha Stewart

Contact: Patrick Kurp
Phone: (518) 276-6531
E-mail: N/A


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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit