Joan H. Marks '51:
Honorary Degree Recipient

Introductory Remarks from
President Cristle Collins Judd

It is my pleasure to honor someone who is very special to Sarah Lawrence—a woman who has paved the road for an entire field of healthcare professionals. After earning her bachelor’s degree right here at Sarah Lawrence, Joan Marks went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from Simmons College in Boston. She then embarked on a career as a psychiatric social worker at several major New York hospitals. But the call of Sarah Lawrence could not be denied, and in 1972 she took the helm of what, at the time, was a three-year-old genetic counseling graduate program—the first in the nation.

She served as director for 26 years. And during that time the program grew to become the largest in the country, which it remains today.

Crafting curriculum, she focused on both the scientific principles of human genetics as well as the social and psychological skills the program’s graduates would need to help guide and advocate for their patients. In Sarah Lawrence fashion, she envisioned a world in which genetic counselors would have the scientific skills to know what a problem was, and the interpersonal awareness to work directly with a patient.

In 2003, Joan received the Award of Excellence from the American Society for Human Genetics—the first woman and first non-medical doctor to earn this accolade. In 2012, she received the Natalie Weissberger Paul Lifetime Achievement Award, the most distinguished honor given by the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

President Judd and Provost Singh conferring honorary degree upon Joan MarksJoan, I now ask you to join me at the podium.

Joan, you have fostered and sustained the creation of an entirely new field of study and endeavor in genetic counseling, benefitting millions of people across the globe, and contributing immeasurably to societal and individual understanding of the human genome.

In recognition of your ceaseless support of the College and its students, faculty, and staff, be it resolved that the Board of Trustees commend you on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Human Genetics Counseling Program, and do hereby grant to you, by authority of The Board of Regents of the State of New York, the Doctor of Science, honoris causa, with all of the rights and privileges thereunto appertaining.