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Undergraduate Honorees

Honorary Degree of Fine Arts - James Turrell

James Turrell obtained a pilot's license when he was 16 years old. He subsequently flew supplies to remote mine sites and worked as an aerial cartographer. He received a BA degree from Pomona College in perceptual psychology in 1965 and also studied mathematics, geology and astronomy there. Turrell enrolled in the graduate Studio Art program at the University of California, Irvine in 1966, where he began making work using light projections. In 1973 he received an MA degree in art from Claremont Graduate University.

In 1966, he began experimenting with light in his Santa Monica studio, the Mendota Hotel - at a time when the so-called Light and Space group of artists in Los Angeles we coming into prominence - by covering the windows and only allowing prescribed amounts of light from the street outside to come through the openings. Turrell is also known for his light tunnels and light projections that create shapes that seem to have mass and weight, though they are created with only light. In the 1970s, Turrell began his series of "skyspaces". A Skyspace is an enclosed room large enough for 15 where viewers sit on benches along the edge to of the room to view the sky through an opening in the roof. James has constructed Skyspaces outside the United States in Austria, England, and Spain

James is perhaps best known for his work in progress, Roden Crater. He acquired the crater located outside Flagstaff, Arizona in 1979. Turrell is turning this natural cinder volcanic crater into a massive naked-eye observatory, designed specifically for the viewing of celestial phenomena.

Honorary Degree of Fine Arts - Betty Cooke '46 & Bill Steinmetz '50

Betty Cooke attended MICA/JHU from 1942 to 1946, earning her BFA in education. Upon graduating, she taught Design and Materials at MICA to returning World War II veterans - her tenure lasted 22 years. In addition to teaching, Betty built her prestigious jewelry design business and partnered with her husband to run an architectural design and consulting firm. She met her husband at MICA and they married in 1955.

She was a pioneer in this field and today is an icon. She is widely recognized and has won many prizes for her work, including the 1979 and 1981 De Beers' Diamond Today Awards. She exhibited at the 1951 "Alumni Exhibition, Textiles, Ceramics, Metalwork" at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, 1955 and 1959 at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and she was given a retrospective at MICA in 1995. Articles throughout the decades describe Betty's designs as "responsive to natural materials" - she works with pebbles, wood, glass, diamonds, pearls, gold, and silver. She has devoted her life to turning these materials into wearable art.

Betty's volunteerism at MICA is extensive. From serving as a captain for Phonathons in the 80's, to being awarded the 1987 Alumni Medal of Honor, to her status as Emeritus Alumni Council Member, Betty exemplifies an active alumna.

William O. Steinmetz '50 has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 1991 and serves on the Academic Affairs and Student Affairs Committees.

A native Baltimorean, Bill's connection with MICA began in 1940 when he started taking courses in Saturday School thanks in part to a four-year scholarship from the Carnegie Foundation. After serving in the US Army from 1945 to 1947, Bill enrolled at the Maryland Institute; he received the Frances Burns Harvey Scholarship from 1948-50 graduating with a major in General Design. (Concurrently, he attended McCoy College at Johns Hopkins University in the evening.) Bill became a member of the faculty at MICA in 1950-a position he held until 1969. During this period he taught Basic Design and chaired the Foundation and Industrial Design departments.

Bill has been active at MICA in numerous capacities including: Founding Member of National Alumni Association (1968). He was a member of the Alumni Council (which replaced the Board in 1989) for many years-chairing the Council from 1991 to 1996. He received the Alumni Award in 1991, co-chaired (with Betty) the first Artafare Benefit in 1993, and chaired the Annual Fund from 2000 to 2002.

In 1954, he and Betty Cooke formed Cooke Steinmetz Designer and Consultants, which specialized in retail, architectural, display, exhibition, interior and installation design. Architectural firms, corporations and clients include: Mark Beck, Alex Cochran, The Rouse Company, Fair Lanes, Inc., Designed exhibitions for State Department Traveling show and AIA 100th Anniversary exhibition in National Gallery of Art, Washington DC and numerous other clients. In addition Bill and Betty received many commissions for painting and sculpture installations.

In 1965 Bill and Betty established THE STORE LTD in the Village of Cross Keys, Baltimore which features Betty Cooke Jewelry and a wide range of other well designed products. THE STORE LTD celebrates its 50th year in 2015. Bill continues to create his personal artwork in addition to his design projects.

In April 2009, the William O. Steinmetz '50 Design Residency was initiated, thanks to the endowment Betty Cooke established in his honor.

Honorary Degree of Humane Letters - Congressman Elijah Cummings

The Honorable Elijah Cummings obtained his Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Howard University, serving as Student Government President and graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and then graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law. Congressman Cummings has dedicated his life of service to uplifting and empowering the people he is sworn to represent. He began his career of public service in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served for 14 years and became the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tem. Since 1996, Congressman Cummings has proudly represented Maryland's 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressman Cummings currently serves as the Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Congressman Cummings is also a senior member of the Joint Economic Committee and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, serving on both the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation and the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

Congressman Cummings serves on numerous boards and commissions. He is Maritime Industries Academy Chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Foundation Board in Baltimore. He also serves on the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors, the Morgan State University Board of Regents, the University of Maryland Law School Board of Advisors, the SEED School of Maryland, and the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors.

Congressman Cummings is an active member of New Psalmist Baptist Church and is married to Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.