Lexington, Virginia • May 24, 2010
Washington and Lee University gave two honorary degrees at its 223rd commencement on Thursday, May 27, to Dr. Robert M. Sinskey, an alumnus of W&L and a pioneering ophthalmologist, and to Pauline Yu, a distinguished scholar of East Asian language and culture and an advocate of the liberal arts.
Robert M. Sinskey received a doctor of science, honoris causa, from the university. A 1945 graduate of Washington and Lee, he earned an M.D. from Duke University in 1948. As a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy after World War II, he studied the effects of radiation on the eyes of atomic bomb victims, work that has informed treatment of cancers around the eye.
Sinskey pioneered the use of intraocular lens implants and was the first surgeon to perform the procedure on infants and children in the U.S. He designed several innovative surgical instruments and patented the Sinskey Hook, which is used in laser procedures and eye surgery. He also developed a procedure to treat a condition called nystagmus.
He served as a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. The author of more than 30 journal and textbook chapters, he co-authored the Manual of Cataract Surgery and serves on the editorial boards of several professional journals.
Sinskey founded the Robert M. Sinskey Foundation, which supports the environment, natural resources, eye research, higher education and human services. He helped start the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery's pediatric eye-care clinic in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was later re-named the Robert M. Sinskey Clinic.
A member of the Ophthalmology Hall of Fame, Sinskey has received the Duke University Humanitarian Award and an honorary doctorate from the University of South Carolina.
Pauline Yu received a doctor of humane letters, honoris causa, from W&L. She is president of the American Council of Learned Societies, a national coalition of professional academic organizations. She also is an adjunct senior research scholar and visiting professor in East Asian languages and cultures at Columbia University.
Yu received her B.A. from Harvard University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. She has taught Chinese language and culture at the University of Minnesota, Columbia University, the University of California, Irvine (where she was founding chair of the department of East Asian languages and literature) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
She has written books about imagery in the Chinese poetic tradition and the poems of Wang Wei. One of her edited volumes, Ways with Words, deals with the challenges of writing about the reading of early Chinese texts. Through her scholarship and teaching, she has used poetry to build bridges between East and West, between past and present, and between the mysteries of the Chinese historical experience and the cultural complexities of contemporary America.
Yu's administrative posts have included the deanship of humanities in the College of Letters and Science at UCLA. Past and present board service includes the board of overseers at Harvard; the senate of the Phi Beta Kappa Society; as a trustee for the Asian Cultural Council; the board of directors of the Teagle Foundation; and the Scholar's Council of the Library of Congress.
Yu has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an elected member of the American Philosophical Society and Committee of 100.