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Princess presented with honorary degree

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 11:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand is escorted into Altgeld Hall by Northern Illinois University President Douglas Baker (left) upon her arrival on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was granted the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
Caption
(Dana Herra – dherra@shawmedia.)
These papier mache masks represent the good characters from the Ramakien, the Thai retelling of the Hindu epic the Ramayana. They were part of an exhibit of Southeast Asian artifacts that coincided with the visit of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand.
Caption
(Dana Herra – dherra@shawmedia.)
Carved elephant tusks dating from the 19th century arch over an offering bowl of popcorn in an exhibit at Northern Illinois University of Southeast Asian artifacts that coincided with the visit of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand. Ceremonial food offerings are a common practice in Buddhism.
Caption
(Photo provided)
These papier mache masks represent the wicked characters from the Ramakien, the Thai retelling of the Hindu epic the Ramayana. They are easily distinguished from the good characters by their tusk-like teeth. They were part of an exhibit of Southeast Asian artifacts that coincided with the visit of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand.

DeKALB — Altgeld Hall is often referred to as Northern Illinois University’s “castle,” but it’s not every day a real princess sets foot inside.

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the university in a special ceremony at Altgeld.

The princess was presented with the degree because of her humanitarian work in Thailand and her reputation as a scholar. In Thailand, she is often known as the “princess of technology” for her interest in helping people through science.

“She has placed great importance on science education knowing that applications of science will drive her country’s development,” NIU President Douglas Baker said. 

Sirindhorn, 58, is the second eldest daughter of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is part of the Chakri Dynasty that was founded in 1782. She has earned advanced degrees in history, Oriental epigraphy and development education. She has taught at several Thai universities.

“The purpose of studying education is to try to provide every child ... the opportunity to have good education to the highest level and the fullest of the child’s capacity,” she said. 

An exhibit of Thai and Burmese artifacts from the university’s collection was displayed in Altgeld Sept. 18 and 19 to coincide with the princess’s visit. Professor Catherine Raymond, who curated the exhibit, said Sirindhorn told her how she had learned to work with lacquer, a natural plastic made from tree resin common in Southeast Asian artifacts. While admiring papier mache masks for the Ramakien, a Thai dance performance of the Hindu epic the Ramayana, the princess also told Raymond about playing for a performance of the dance in Chicago.

“She still plays music, and she played for more than two hours with this orchestra,” Raymond said. “She was very interesting.”

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