2017 Honorary Degree Recipient

Honorary degrees have been a tradition in American higher education for more than 300 years.  They are conferred honoris causa, "for the sake of honor."  Honorary doctorate degrees are a distinction of high order, and Carleton College awards them sparingly and with great care.  The faculty and the Board of Trustees choose recipients 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 upon Kathy L. Hudson ’82 an honorary doctorate degree.

Kathy L. Hudson

Throughout her distinguished career, Kathy L. Hudson, has 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 bachelor’s degree in biology from Carleton College and a master’s degree in microbiology from the University of Chicago, Hudson obtained a PhD 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 D.C., 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 a historic agreement between the public and private human genome projects, which was announced in 2000 by President Bill Clinton.

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 Johns Hopkins, Hudson was an associate professor in the Institute of Bioethics and the Institute of Genetic Medicine.  Hudson 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 deputy director for science, outreach, and policy.  In that capacity helped found 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 (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) 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 has served as a strong and tireless advocate for women in science. She 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 began 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.