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Conferring of the Honorary Degree of
Doctor of Humane Letters

Conferred upon
Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry
State University of New York
Health Science Center


Dr. Hoke L. Smith, President,
Towson University
134th Commencement Exercises
May 23, 1999
Towson, Maryland

Dr. Thomas Szasz, you have served a long and distinguished career as a professor of psychiatry at the SUNY Health Science Center in Syracuse, N.Y. In your career you have pointed out--and led to the correction of-- abuses of psychiatric practices. You are a major figure in American and international debates on freedom, cited by friends and foes alike. Your intrepid support of the values of human autonomy and authenticity, coupled with your emphasis on individual responsibility, have made you an enduring symbol of free expression in the United States.

Your seemingly inexhaustible list of honors has well reflected your talents as well as the values you have supported in your 24 books and over 700 articles and reviews. Among your awards are the Meyer Memorial Lecturer from the University of Queensland Medical School in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, the H.L. Mencken Award from the Free Press Association, the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship and Writing from the Drug Policy Foundation, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute for Public Service, and the Rollo May Award from the American Psychological Association. The establishment of the award named for you, The Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, also speaks eloquently to your values.

Your focus on the persuasive uses of language distinguishes your writing and lecturers. Your focus on the importance of what philosopher and rhetorician Richard Weaver called the "true," as opposed to the "base," rhetorician has been critical to your ethical arguments. Base rhetoric ends with exploitation. Weaver defined rhetoric at its truest that which "seeks to perfect men [and women] by showing them better versions of themselves," and your work points out that rhetoric at its finest leaves it to people to reach that pinnacle on their own through individual effort.

Dr. Szasz, as you approach your 80th birthday in the year 2000, a life representative of the values of hard work, dedication to freedom and responsibility, and exemplifying decency and courage in facing those who disagree with you, it is my privilege to bestow upon you the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Thomas S. Szasz Cybercenter for Liberty and Responsibility:
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