By Julia Ferrante
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Benjamin S. Carson Sr., a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon and philanthropist who has been recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his achievements performing high-risk operations and advancing education for all students, will deliver the commencement address during Bucknell University's 160th annual graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 23. || Related coverage: The Philadelphia Inquirer || Commencement preview
As a child living in a single-parent home in extreme poverty, Carson received poor grades and was plagued with a bad temper and low self-esteem — until his mother, Sonya Carson, who had only a third-grade education, challenged her sons to strive for more. Carson took on the challenge and rose to become a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He has directed pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center for nearly a quarter-century.
Carson is president and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, which recognizes youth of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments. The fund operates in 34 states and Washington, D.C., and has awarded more than $3.9 million to more than 3,900 scholars. He is co-founder of Angels of the O.R., which provides grants for medical expenses not covered by insurance.
"As a leader in medicine and science and as a humanitarian, Dr. Carson has demonstrated qualities that this University and the Bucknell community deeply respect and that we aim to encourage in our students," said Bucknell President Brian C. Mitchell. "We look forward to welcoming Dr. Carson as he shares the insights of his remarkable life with our students on this pivotal day in their own lives."
"Dr. Carson's compelling story of perseverance, achievement and caring as a physician and in service to others are an inspiration," said Class of 2010 President Langston Tingling-Clemmons. "He has shown that it is important to test the limits as we go out into the world to pursue our own careers and see what difference we can make."
In 1987, Carson performed the first successful separation of craniopagus twins joined at the back of the head. Ten years later, he conducted the first completely successful separation of type-2 vertical craniopagus twins in South Africa and the first successful placement of an intrauterine shunt for a hydrocephalic twin.
Although many cases he handles are unusual, Carson has said that each is noteworthy and should be given individual attention. In addition to his specialization in pediatric neurosurgery, he has an interest in trigeminal neuralgia, or severe facial pain in adults.
In May 2008, Carson became the inaugural recipient of a professorship dedicated in his name. He is now the Benjamin S. Carson Sr., M.D. and Dr. Evelyn Spiro, R.N. Professor of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. Carson holds more than 50 honorary doctorate degrees and is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, the Horatio Alger Society of Distinguished Americans and many other organizations and serves on boards of the Kellogg Company, Costco Wholesale Corporation and the governing body of Yale University.
In 2001, Carson was named by CNN and TIME Magazine as one of the nation's 20 foremost physicians and scientists. The same year, he was selected by the Library of Congress as one of 89 "Living Legends" on its 200th anniversary. He is also the recipient of the 2006 Spingarn Medal, which is the highest honor bestowed by the NAACP.
In June 2008, former President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the nation.
Carson was recognized in November 2008 by U.S. News & World Report and Harvard's Center for Public Leadership as one of "America's Best Leaders." In February 2009, the movie Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story premiered on TNT, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as Carson. The movie is based on Carson's memoir.
Carson's first three books, Gifted Hands, THINK BIG and The Big Picture, offer advice and insight for leading a successful life. His fourth book, Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk, was released in 2008.
Bucknell's commencement will be broadcast live online. Viewers from around the world may watch the ceremony and Carson's address by visiting a special link that will be provided on the University's website in the days leading up to the ceremony.
The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. and is expected to last until 1 p.m.
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