P. Hunter Peckham receives honorary degree from Clarkson University

P. Hunter Peckham is a decorated Case Western Reserve University emeritus faculty member. He’s known worldwide for his research that has restored hand and arm control in paralyzed individuals and is the recipient of some of the university’s most prestigious awards—Distinguished University Professor and the Frank and Dorothy Humel Hovorka Prize.

Over the weekend, his list of accolades grew once again when he received an honorary doctor of science degree from his undergraduate alma mater, Clarkson University.

The degree was awarded for “his lifelong commitment to innovative rehabilitation research that has greatly benefited civilians and veterans with spinal cord injuries, for his significant contributions to national rehabilitation research policy, and for his exceptional leadership of the biomedical and rehabilitation engineering community.”

In honor of the award, Peckham addressed the students during commencement ceremonies, providing insights and advice that come from his own experiences. He detailed the plans he had to pursue a PhD in fluid dynamics after graduating from Clarkson—plans that quickly changed after meeting a team in Cleveland that believed they could restore movement via electrical stimulation.

“Keep in mind, this was 1966,” he said to students. “The big news in tech was Hewlett Packard’s 2116a computer, which came with 4K of memory and, at 229 pounds, was considered ‘petite’ for its time. Cardiac pacemakers barely existed. This idea of using electrical current inside the body to move muscles in precise ways sounded more like science fiction than scholarship. No road map existed.”

Still to this day, the work Peckham changed his path for is helping people who have experienced loss of mobility or sensation to regain movement and touch. His early discoveries serve as a critical foundation for work that continues to expand and make meaningful change. 

His message encouraged students to embrace ambiguity, take chances and pursue a path that truly excites them. 

Read more about Peckham’s latest honor.