Professor R.H. Helmholz to Receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Washington University in St. Louis

Six to receive honorary degrees from Washington University

Washington University in St. Louis will award six honorary degrees during the university’s Commencement ceremonies, May 20-21.

The university also will bestow academic degrees on approximately 3,200 members of the Class of 2021 during its 160th Commencement.

National Basketball Association great and social justice advocate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will deliver the Commencement address and receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree.

The other honorary degree recipients and their degrees are:

  • Christopher S. “Kit” Bond, the former U.S. senator who earned a reputation over his 40 years of distinguished public service as a skilled statesman able to build coalitions and effectively work across party lines, doctor of laws;
  • Richard H. Helmholz, the Ruth Wyatt Rosenson Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, a distinguished legal and history scholar with an expertise in medieval and early modern law, doctor of laws;
  • Gerda Weissmann Klein, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and Holocaust survivor who has dedicated her life to fighting racism and intolerance and promoting Holocaust education and human rights, doctor of humanities;
  • Stuart A. Kornfeld, MD, the David C. and Betty Farrell Professor of Medicine at Washington University’s School of Medicine, a renowned physician-scientist, doctor of science; and
  • Shannon Watts, founder of the nation’s largest grassroots group fighting against gun violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, doctor of humanities.


Helmholz was a professor of history and law at Washington University’s School of Law and in Arts & Sciences from 1970 to 1982 before moving to the University of Chicago as professor of law. He also was a visiting professor at Washington University’s law school in 2007-08 and in 2019.

He has kept engaged with WashU, serving on its School of Law National Council, now known as Board of Advisors, since 1995 and as a supporter of student scholarships. He also served on the University Libraries National Council from 1986-1994.

An author or editor of more than two dozen books that have appeared in French, German, Italian and Spanish, as well as English, and dozens of journal articles, Helmholz is widely known for his research on the influence of canon law on the common law.

His teaching interests have been centered in the law of property and in various aspects of natural resources law. He teaches courses on property, European legal history and the law of oil and gas.

His research interests are concentrated in legal history, where his principal contribution has been to show the relevance of the Roman and canon laws to the development of the common law.

Read more at Washington University in St. Louis

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