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Former Reagan Aide Drew Lewis Declines Haverford Degree

May 20, 1986

HAVERFORD, Pa. (AP) _ Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis, granted an honorary degree at Haverford College’s commencement, took off the academic hood and declined the degree because of protests from the faculty.

Lewis, a 1953 Haverford graduate, told the crowd Sunday he was acting out of respect for the college’s Quaker principle of consensus, acting President Ronald F. Thiemann said Monday. Haverford was founded by Quakers.

″I had to do it,″ Lewis said Monday. ″I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances.

″From a practical standpoint, when you’re brought up in a Quaker background, you adhere to consensus,″ said Lewis, now chairman and chief executive officer of Union Pacific Railroad Co. in Omaha.

The 1,000 people in the audience reacted initially with shocked silence, then many stood and applauded, the president said.

Thiemann said 28 of the faculty’s approximately 90 members, citing Lewis’ role in the 1981 air-traffic controllers’ strike, had signed a letter protesting the Haverford board’s decision to award Lewis a doctor of laws degree.

The Reagan administration in August 1981 fired more than 11,000 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization for violating their no- strike oath and breaking the law. Lewis, transportation secretary from 1981 to 1983, was the administration’s chief representative in the dispute.

Thiemann called Lewis’ decision ″an act of great courage and integrity.″

″It was done for principles that I think are important to this educational community,″ Thiemann said. Decisions at the Quaker-affiliated, liberal arts college are made by consensus.

Lewis, chairman and chief executive officer of Union Pacific Railroad Co., said he was not aware of the faculty protests until he arrived on campus Sunday morning. Had he known of the sentiment, Lewis said he would have tried to resolve the differences.

″I have no animosity toward the college at all,″ Lewis said. ″If you’re going to protest, it’s an honorable role.″

The 54-year-old businessman, who maintains a home in Schwenksville, Pa., is a former Haverford board member and a major contributor.

Thiemann said there is ″no deep rift″ because of the incident.

″It’s a kind of family squabble,″ Thiemann said. ″Drew Lewis comes from a long line of Haverfordians, as we call them. He is still a member of the Haverford family.″

Before returning the hood at the 153rd commencement exercises for about 230 graduates, Lewis addressed the crowd, defending his role in the PATCO dispute, Thiemann said.

On Monday in Newton, Mass., Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Manila, spoke at the 110th commencement of Boston College. He said he was accepting an honorary doctor of sacred theology degree ″in the name of the people of the Philippines.″

Sin, chief speaker at graduation ceremonies for 2,500 students, said the people of the Philippines were the real heroes in the change of power that made Corazon Aquino president.

″We changed the structure of our government peacefully, without bloodshed,″ he said. ″We did it with prayer, with laughter, with love.″

Sin’s address came one day after a similar speech at the commencement of Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass., at which he defended the church’s role in the revolution saying, ″There was no one else people could turn to″ after a year of increasing national crisis.

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