Higdon and O’Neill to receive honorary doctorates

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Two BGSU alumnae who have had influential careers will receive honorary doctorates from the University during fall commencement ceremonies. The board of trustees approved the degrees at the Dec. 5 meeting.

Composer Jennifer Higdon ’86 and television executive Eileen O’Neill ’90 will give the commencement addresses, Higdon on Dec. 19 and O’Neill on Dec. 20. Both were named among BGSU’s 100 most prominent alumni during the University’s 2010 centennial celebration.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Higdon is one of America’s most acclaimed and most frequently performed living composers. She has become a major figure in contemporary classical music, with commissions in the orchestral, chamber, choral, vocal, and wind ensemble genres.

She holds doctoral and master’s degrees in music composition from the University of Pennsylvania, a bachelor’s degree in flute performance from BGSU, and an Artist Diploma in music composition from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she now holds the Milton L. Rock Chair in Composition Studies.

Her Percussion Concerto won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in January 2010. Higdon also received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto.

She has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters (two awards), the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Meet-the-Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, and ASCAP.

Most recently, Higdon has written an opera commissioned by Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and Minnesota Opera, based on the National Book Award winner “Cold Mountain,” by Charles Frazier. It will be premiered in Santa Fe on August 1, 2015.

O’Neill started at Discovery Communications as an unpaid intern while earning a graduate degree in popular culture from BGSU. She was hired by DCI’s networks operation department immediately upon graduation.

Today, she is the Global Group President of Discovery Studios, a newly created position and expanded role where she has oversight of all internal facilities and creative talent of Discovery Studios.

She has served as group president for The Learning Channel (TLC) and Discovery Fit and Health, and as president of Planet Green, launching in 12 months the first-ever network dedicated to green lifestyle programming.

After joining the TLC team in 2008, she launched such shows as “19 Kids And Counting” and “The Little Couple.” Top-rated shows developed under O’Neill included “Mystery Diagnosis” and “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” which broke cable ratings records in 2009.

Her many honors include being named a 2008 Wonder Woman by Multi-Channel News and among Hollywood Reporter’s Power 100 Women in Entertainment in 2009.

In 2012, O’Neill and her partner, Karen Stoddard, established the Stoddard and O’Neill Endowment for Studies in Popular Culture at BGSU.