2022 honorary doctorates: the fragility of truth


2022 honorary doctorates UCLouvain

On Thursday 28 April 2022, UCLouvain has awarded its highest distinction, an honorary doctorate, to three outstanding individuals:


Our University always takes great pride in gathering the UCLouvain community around an inspiring meeting with individuals who have had and will have a lasting impact on our perception of the world.

The theme of this year’s edition was “The fragility of truth”. Through their actions, investigations and stories based on facts, our three honorary doctors help us to keep our eyes open at a time when the truth has never been so fragile.

Replay of the ceremony


The first pictures of the ceremony

Photos: Julien Pohl

The speeches

The personalities

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 44, is a Nigerian writer, racial justice activist and feminist. She left Nigeria at 19 to come to the United States to study communication and political science, creative writing and African studies. She lives between Lagos and Washington, D.C.

Her literary career took off with her 2003 novel Purple Hibiscus. Her 2013 novel Americanah is the story of a young Nigerian woman who emigrates to the United States and faces poverty, discrimination and racism. In 2014, Adichie published We Should All Be Feminists, and in 2017, Dear Ijeawele, or A Manifesto for a Feminist Education, two essays in which she advocates for a feminist education from the earliest possible age. Soon after, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the highest intellectual honours in the United States, and Fortune Magazine named her one of the world’s 50 greatest leaders.

In her fight against all forms of cliché and her refusal of a “single story”, Adichie demonstrates the complexity of “truth”.

Florence Aubenas

Florence Aubenas, 60, is a French journalist, writer and reporter. She joined the daily newspaper Libération in 1986 and worked there for more than 20 years before joining the Nouvel Observateur and then Le Monde, reporting on events in areas of conflict and violence including Algeria, Rwanda, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

She is the author of several books, which have received awards including an Académie Française Prix d’Académie and the Joseph Kessel Prize: En France (Olivier), a collection of her columns for Le Monde, Le Quai de Ouistreham, in which she posed as a job seeker and spent six months working alongside cleaning ladies on a ferry near Caen or La méprise. L’Affaire d’Outreau (published by Seuil).

In 2005, her name and her face changed: they became those of a hostage. While reporting on refugees in Fallujah, Iraq, she was kidnapped, along with her “fixer” Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi. They were both released after six months.

Born in Belgium in 1961, she returned there as soon as possible: it is the country of her childhood where she lived until the age of 18. The distinction that UCLouvain is giving her today is therefore of particular value to her.

Between in-depth reporting, field investigations and works of fiction, Aubenas is careful to tell the truth with rigour and accuracy.

Michael E. Mann

Michael E. Mann, 56, is an American climatologist and geophysicist and current director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. He specialises in methods for reconstructing climate change and was a lead author of the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report. He was named one of the 50 most influential people by Bloomberg News in 2013 and was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2020.

He has contributed to the scientific understanding of climate change through the development of techniques to better highlight significant trends in climate data and thus raise awareness of the temperature increase over the past few centuries. He is also a co-founder and contributor to the climate science blog RealClimate. In early 2019, he was awarded the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for the environment.

Mann is the author of more than 200 scientific publications and five books, including The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy (2016), co-authored with Tom Toles, and forthcoming in 2022 The Tantrum That Saved the World, a “carbon-neutral children’s book”.

Renowned for the excellence of his analyses and modelling, Mann defends the veracity of scientific facts against the manipulations of climate sceptics.