2017 Honorary Degree Recipient

Honorary degrees have been a tradition in American higher education for over 300 years. They are conferred honoris causa, "for the sake of honor." A distinction of high order, Carleton has always awarded honorary doctorate degrees sparingly and selects its recipients with great care and with the assent of both the faculty and Board of Trustees, seeking to honor those who have achieved eminence in their own profession or who have rendered distinguished service to society.  We are very proud that at this year’s Commencement ceremony Carleton College will confer an honorary doctorate degree upon Kathy L. Hudson. 

Kathy L. Hudson

Throughout her distinguished career, Kathy L. Hudson, Ph.D., served the public by ensuring that advances in genomics and other rapidly moving areas of medical research are paired with wise and effective public policies.

After earning a B.A. in biology from Carleton College and a M.S. in microbiology from the University of Chicago, Hudson obtained her Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of California, Berkeley. Although she trained for a career in research, Hudson discovered that her real passion was science policy. As an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow in Washington DC, she worked for the U.S. House of Representatives and then the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.

After a stint in the office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, Hudson joined the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) as assistant director. While there she made a compelling case to scientists, public policy experts, and lawmakers about the need for federal legislation to guard against genetic discrimination. She also helped to broker an historic agreement between the public and private human genome projects, which was announced by President Bill Clinton in the White House in 2000.

In 2002, Hudson left NHGRI to found and direct the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University. She became a leader in educating and advising about science and policy issues in genetics. Also at Hopkins, Hudson was an Associate Professor in the Institute of Bioethics and the Institute of Genetic Medicine. It was Hudson who did much of the work to assemble the talented and dedicated team that, in 2008 after years of effort, achieved passage of the landmark Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

In 2009, Hudson returned to the National Institutes of Health, becoming the Deputy Director for Science, Outreach, and Policy. In that capacity helped found and launch the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. She also had a major hand in the design and launch of three national scientific projects – the BRAIN Initiative, the Precision Medicine Initiative, and the Cancer Moonshot. In addition, she led efforts to revise the rules that govern participation of human subjects in research, modernize clinical trial reporting, expand scientific data sharing, and develop appropriate oversight for rapidly moving areas of medical research, including stem cells and gene editing.

On top of her many duties and responsibilities, Hudson made time to serve as a strong and tireless advocate for the role of women in science. She personally mentored a group of young women who are now moving into key leadership roles with a wide range of innovative biomedical research and policy initiatives.

Earlier this year Hudson left government service, and is working as an advisor to companies and research institutes as they forge new directions at the forefront of biomedical research.

Kathy L. Hudson will be awarded the degree Doctor of Science, honoris causa. 


The honorary degree criteria and process are described here.