Dana King, an alumna of Ferris State University who gained fame as a communicator in national media and fine art, will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters during the Saturday, May 7 commencement ceremony for the College of Business.
A resident of Oakland, California, King recently visited the Ferris campus and the Jim Crow Museum and agreed to serve on the cabinet overseeing the campaign to develop a 31K-square-foot stand-alone facility for those exhibits and displays. She also has started her service on The Ferris Foundation Board of Directors.
During her onboarding process for The Ferris Foundation, King said Ferris President David Eisler reached out to her in a text message.
“He only indicated that he would love to talk to me, an open-ended request,” King said. “With no idea what was coming, we talked for a long time, sharing stories. Then, he asked if I would accept an honorary doctorate. I was so surprised. I started to cry. This is such an honor.”
King was a student in Big Rapids Public Schools before enrolling at Ferris, where she would earn a Bachelor of Science in Marketing in 1982. While working in broadcast sales in Los Angeles, she was convinced to come out before the camera and moved into a role anchoring network news programs. She spent 25 years in national and major market media, earning five Emmy and two Edward R.Murrow awards. She then worked toward a Master of Fine Art degree and transitioned to sculpture. In 2021, King earned the Artadia Award for her public monuments of Black bodies in bronze, representing the stories of African descendants as they relate to American history. She was also named a 2021-2022 Fellow by the California Arts Council.
“I want to represent Ferris, and I do, but clearly, I am far away from campus these days,” she said. “I have not been back very often, though I want to be a great representative of Ferris and women in general. As I consider my honorary doctorate, I really feel unworthy. There are others who have done great things in their lives, but I will do my best to deserve and represent my alma mater well with this honor.”
As for addressing College of Business graduates during their commencement, King admits a bit of trepidation.
“It is keeping me awake at night,” she said. “I realize first and foremost that this is their day, so I want to honor them and offer one nugget that came to me later in life. I have had a very interesting life far from over, God willing. They need to understand graduating from Ferris is not an ending but is an important beginning for their adult lives. I hope their paths are storied, driven by their passions. I know how I got to where I am, so I would be honored to leave those graduates with a takeaway that has value for them.”
Two other Ferris alumni will receive honorary doctorates, as pharmacist, business innovator and philanthropist Phil Hagerman is recognized on Friday, May 6, and a distinguished teacher and distinguished alumnus Dick Shaw accepts his tribute on Saturday, May 7.
Approximately 2,100 students are expected to graduate this spring, with about 1,600 expected to participate in commencement ceremonies on May 6-7. These commencement ceremonies will be the last with President David Eisler presiding as he prepares for retirement at the end of June.