U Board of Trustees Announces 2022 Honorary Degree Recipients

The University of Utah Board of Trustees announced that Karen Haight Huntsman, Jacqueline Thompson, and Ruth V. Watkins will receive honorary doctorates from the university this year.

Huntsman is the co-founder of the Huntsman Foundation and leads one of Utah’s most prominent families in philanthropy, healthcare, business and politics. Thompson, a longtime public educator and leader of statewide multicultural and diversity initiatives, is the assistant superintendent of the Davis School District. Watkins is the former president and senior vice president of academic affairs at the University of Utah and president of Strada Impact, a higher education think tank.

All three women will be honored at the General Opening Ceremony, scheduled for Thursday, May 5 at 6 p.m. at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

“Our honorary degree recipients have exemplified courage, compassion, service and generosity during their professional careers,” said Kim Brunisholz, Chair of the Board Honors Committee. “They truly represent the best aspirations and values ​​of our university community. It should also be noted that for the first time in our history, we have a cohort of three strong and exceptional women leaders to honor this year.

Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals who have distinguished themselves in academics, the arts, professions, business, government, civics, or service to the university. The Honors Committee, which includes representatives from the faculty, student body, and board of trustees, reviews nominations and then consults with an advisory group of faculty, staff, and administrators for additional information. Finalists are presented to the president of the university, who then selects the winners.

Here is an overview of this year’s winners.

Karen Haight Hunterphilanthropist and businesswoman, has led the family’s healthcare and education initiatives since her husband’s death in 2018.

Huntsman attended high school in Palo Alto, California, where she was a student leader. She later enrolled at the University of Utah and was a member of the Chi Omega sorority and active in student affairs. During her freshman year, she left college to marry Jon M. Huntsman, a young naval officer and recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance. Together they created the Huntsman Foundation, which supports cancer research; mental health treatment and research; public and higher education; and the underserved.

Huntsman’s impact transformed cancer care and mental health at the University of Utah. In 1995, the Huntsman family donated $100 million to establish the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), Utah’s official cancer center. HCI is home to more than 200 research teams studying all aspects of cancer. Between 150 and 200 clinical trials are open for registration at any given time. In addition, more genes for hereditary cancers – including melanoma, breast, ovarian, colon, and head and neck cancers – have been discovered at HCI than at any other cancer center in the world. In 2017, Forbes estimated that the Huntsman family spent at least $400 million on the cancer institute.

The impact of the family has also extended to mental health care. In 2019, the Huntsman family committed $150 million to create the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, which improves mental health resources for students and employees on campus and throughout the community, including rural areas of the USA. State. At the same time, the institute advances research into mental health treatments. Two other major gifts were named the Huntsman Center, the university’s indoor arena, in 1987, and the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Training Facility in 2015.

Huntsman has served on several local boards and received numerous awards, including two other honorary doctorates, but she considers her greatest achievement to be her nine children, 56 grandchildren and 49 great-grandchildren.

Jacqueline Thompson draws on a lifetime of experience and service as a public school teacher and civil rights advocate in her role as the Davis School District’s Deputy Superintendent.

Thompson began her career as an elementary school teacher in Idaho and California. In 1984, she accepted a job at Hill Air Force Base as an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist. Three years later, she launched the grassroots African-American community outreach program, which visits schools and community groups to motivate young people to stay in school, identify positive role models and reject drugs. alcohol and violence. In 1993, Thompson joined the Utah State Office of Education, working as an Education and Gender Equity Specialist. In 2000, she was hired by the Davis School District and later served as the district’s Education Equity Director, where she worked until her initial retirement in 2017. In December 2021, the Superintendent of Davis school district, Reid Newey, named Thompson as assistant superintendent. In her new role, she will work on diversity and equity issues as well as work that will take place as a result of the district’s recent settlement with the Department of Justice.

Throughout her career, Thompson has received numerous awards and honors for her work on civil rights and gender equity, including the Spirit of the American Woman Award for Public Education and the Utah Woman’s Achievement Award from the Governor’s Commission. for Women and Families. She was chosen as Ms. Utah in 1999. In 2012, Utah Governor Gary Herbert appointed Thompson to the state’s Multicultural Commission. Thompson has received the Martin Luther King Award from the Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP, the Drum Major Award from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Commission of the State of Utah, and the annual award from the legacy of the Black Student Union university. Thompson received the Professional Achievement Award from the Idaho State University Alumni Association in 2015. More recently, she received the Women in History Award from the Utah State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Thompson earned a bachelor’s degree from Idaho State University, a master’s degree from Weber State University, and a doctorate from Utah State University, all in education.

Thompson and her husband, Edward, have two sons and four grandchildren.

Ruth V. Watkins was the 16th and first female president to lead the University of Utah in its 168-year history. Watkins came to the university in 2013 as senior vice president of academic affairs. During her eight years of leadership at the university, she insisted that the focus be on student access, success and completion. At the same time, it unified the two campuses of the university and stimulated interdisciplinary research efforts.

During his tenure, the university’s six-year graduation rate reached nearly 70%. Watkins has overseen record enrollment and significant changes in student body composition, including new students from first-generation families and underrepresented groups. Watkins established a new “One U” mindset across campus, unifying health sciences and major campuses and faculties. The university also made significant investments in mental health and interpersonal violence interventions during his tenure, establishing both the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention. Under his leadership, the university was admitted to the prestigious Association of American Universities.

Before joining the U, Watkins began her career at the University of Texas at Dallas and later at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was named dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Vice Rector.

Watkins received his bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology from the University of Northern Iowa, as well as a master’s and doctorate in child language from the University of Kansas. In 2003, she was named a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Watkins is married to Bob Young and they have one daughter.

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