Nobel Laureate, Mariachi Among Four to Receive Honorary Degrees

The University of Arizona will confer honorary degrees upon Robert K. Barkley, Nicolaas Bloembergen, Lin Xu and Alfredo R. Valenzuela during its 138th commencement ceremony.
May 1, 2008
Nicolaas Bloembergen
Nicolaas Bloembergen
Lin Xu
Lin Xu
Robert K. Barkley
Robert K. Barkley
Alfredo R. Valenzuela
Alfredo R. Valenzuela

The University of Arizona will confer honorary degrees upon a businessman, a Nobel laureate, a Chinese educational leader and a mariachi during the 138th Spring Commencement ceremony on May 17.

The UA confers honorary degrees in order to recognize significant achievements within the academic environment and in the world at large. These degrees provide the University with an opportunity to honor individuals for their contribution to the UA, the state, the nation or the world.

Robert K. Barkley

Barkley will be presented with an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Eugene G. Sander, vice provost and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Barkley is president and CEO of Barkley Ag Enterprises LLP, which provides administration and oversight to affiliates Barkley Company of Arizona, a family-owned company that farms several thousand acres of vegetables, cotton and grain annually, and Barkley Seed Inc., which conducts research and breeding of new varieties of small grains as well as production and merchandising. Both are based in Yuma, Ariz.

Barkley is passionate about progress in the Yuma-area communities where his family has farmed and lived in for over 75 years, promoting education and employment opportunities.

Barkley recognizes the importance of science and technological advances and the need for education in the industry. He has been vital in establishing and continuing a multi-institutional education and industry team, which includes the UA and Arizona Western College, whose mission is to promote education, provide scholarships, and mentor students from high school through university and graduation.

Barkley also has been instrumental in securing private funding, in addition to his own, for the UA Yuma Agricultural Station and the new Glen Curtis Building, the Agriculture Science Complex at Arizona Western College that will be shared by the UA, Northern Arizona University and Arizona Western College. He has been instrumental in developing the unique Yuma County Ag Producers Scholarship, which will support students through AWC and UA, along with other community philanthropic endeavors.

Barkley supports progressive development in agricultural biogenetics by providing his leadership and resources. He actively works with federal and state legislative and regulatory bodies to guide agriculture policy. He has served as president, chairman or board member in many organizations, including the UA's BIO5 Institute, the UA Institute for Collaborative Bioresearch, the UA Ag ‘100’ Council, the Arizona Cotton Growers Association and the Supima Association of America.

In 2005, Barkley received the UA Honorary Alumnus Award in recognition of his many ongoing activities in support of the University and its programs.

Nicolaas Bloembergen

Bloembergen will be presented with an honorary degree of doctor of science by James C. Wyant, dean of the College of Optical Sciences.

Bloembergen, who was born in the Netherlands, obtained graduate and doctoral degrees in physics from the University of Utrecht. In 1946, Bloembergen came to the United States and worked with E.M. Purcell at Harvard University on nuclear magnetic relaxation, the subject of his doctoral thesis at the University of Leiden in 1948.

He returned to Harvard University in 1949 as a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows, became associate professor of applied physics in 1951, Gordon McKay Professor in 1957, Rumford Professor of Physics in 1974 and Gerhard Gade University Professor in 1981. He became professor emeritus at Harvard in 1990. He has been a professor of optical sciences at the UA since 1999.

Bloembergen's research has delved into nuclear and electron paramagnetic resonance, microwave masers and lasers, nonlinear optics and spectroscopy. Together with his co-workers, he developed a rigorous theory that led to the extension of the laws of reflection and refraction.

He has supervised 57 doctoral theses and is the author or co-author of over 300 scientific papers published in professional journals. He has written two monographs, “Nuclear Magnetic Relaxation,” (Benjamin, 1961) and “Nonlinear Optics” (Benjamin, 1965).

Bloembergen won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1981, the Lorentz Medal of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences in 1978 and the National Medal of Science, awarded by the president of the United States, in 1974.

He is a member of the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Engineering as well as several other academies in the United States and abroad. He has served on numerous advisory committees for U.S. Government agencies, industrial and academic institutions and on several editorial boards of scientific publications. In 1991 he was president of the American Physical Society.

Lin Xu

Xu will be presented an honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities by Charles M. Tatum, dean of the College of Humanities.

Xu obtained a bachelor degree in science in chemistry from Fudan University in Shanghai and a master in arts in economics from Beijing Normal University. She subsequently served as assistant director in general and deputy director in general of the Finance Department of the Ministry of Education, head of the loan office of Foreign Capital (in the Ministry of Education), president of the service center for Chinese Overseas Scholars in New York, and educational counsel of the Chinese Consulate General in Vancouver, Canada. She has also served as director general of the Office of Chinese Language Council International, known as Hanban), and has been chief executive of the Confucius Institute Headquarters since 2004.

Xu is known for her effectiveness in promoting global communication, cultural exchanges and world peace. She helped establish 226 Confucius Institutes in 66 countries and regions, and helped train and send more than 5,000 volunteer teachers from China to more than 104 countries to teach Chinese and promote Chinese culture. She also helped develop three major international standards for teaching and learning Chinese.

Under her leadership as director general, Hanban donated more than 1.5 million books to Confucius Institutes, schools and agencies in more than 100 countries over the last three years; promoted multilingualism and multiculturalism through exchange programs with more than 15 countries; and received approximately 10,000 visitors interested in learning and promoting Chinese language and culture from outside China.

Most recently, Xu was instrumental in helping expedite the rapid approval of the UA’s application to host one of the 30 Confucius Institutes at U.S. universities.

Alfredo R. Valenzuela

Valenzuela will be presented with an honorary degree of Doctor of Music by Ronald W. Marx, dean of the College of Education.

Valenzuela is a self-taught mariachi musician and a quintessential example of how a university education and a life of teaching and community engagement can fuse the power of education and the arts to serve children, youth, families and communities.

Growing up in Arizona, Valenzuela, known as "Mr. V" to his students, worked as a ranch hand, groundskeeper, and truck driver. After attending Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, he served in the U.S. Army. Valenzuela earned a bachelor of arts in education at the UA.

His life work demonstrates his close ties to the University, local schools and community.

In his nearly 30 years of teaching music in Tucson, Valenzuela has introduced students to the broader world through reading and study and building new understanding on a foundation rooted deeply in family, community and local culture.

New generations of Tucson mariachis begin with Valenzuela. Through classroom and after-school music education, he transforms beginning students into confident and competent musicians. He established and directs Los Aguilitas, the performing mariachi group at Davis Bilingual Magnet School in Tucson.

Valenzuela’s participation and leadership in education has built a musical bridge across traditions that span geography and culture. Through nearly two decades as extended day director at the award-winning Davis, he has worked with other teachers to build quality bilingual education and has earned many honors for outstanding teaching, service to local communities and commitment to education.