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More Than 1,700 Students Will Earn Degrees from Ferris This Spring

CommencementMore than 1,300 of 1,700 Ferris State University students who are candidates for degrees will participate in spring commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 4 and Saturday, May 5 in Big Rapids.

Students will hear commencement addresses from two Ferris alumni – one a university college of pharmacy dean and one a community college president – and a West Michigan entrepreneur who founded ArtPrize, all of whom will receive honorary doctorates. The three honorary doctorate recipients are alumna JoLaine Draugalis, dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center; alumnus Brent Knight, president of Lansing Community College; and social entrepreneur Rick DeVos.

Graduates will be honored during five ceremonies over two days in Big Rapids. Commencement exercises will begin at 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 4 for the College of Allied Health Sciences, followed by a 7 p.m. ceremony for the colleges of Arts, Sciences and Education, Pharmacy and Professional and Technological Studies. Saturday, May 5 ceremonies kick off at 9 a.m. with the Michigan College of Optometry and the College of Education and Human Services, followed at 12:30 p.m. by the College of Engineering Technology and at 4 p.m. by the College of Business.

Ceremonies for the ticketed events will be held in the Wink Arena in the Ewigleben Sports Complex. Doors will open one hour before ceremonies are scheduled to begin.

Ferris’ Kendall College of Art and Design will hold its commencement ceremonies at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 5 at Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids. Approximately 270 students will receive degrees.

During Friday’s 7 p.m. ceremony on the Big Rapids campus, Draugalis will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Business and Industry.

Draugalis, a Ferris alumna and a Battle Creek native, has served as dean since 2007 and holds the David Ross Boyd Professorship. Her research focuses on pharmaceutical education program design, administration and evaluation. Her research program is concerned with determining how resources, curricula and academic programs are administered in pharmaceutical education as well as pursuing the definition, evaluation and reward structures of the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Her many honors include the American Pharmaceutical Association’s Gloria Niemeyer Francke Leadership Mentor Award; the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s Distinguished Pharmacy Educator Award; the University of Arizona’s Henry and Phyllis Koffler Prize for Teaching; and the American Pharmacists Association’s Research Achievement Award in the Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Knight will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service during ceremonies at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Earlier in his career, Knight was named president of Triton College in River Grove, Ill., when he was 29 years old. The Bay City native also has served as president of Pierce College in Tacoma, Wash., and Morton College in Cicero, Ill., and was vice president of development at Meijer, Inc.

Since joining Lansing Community College in 2008, Knight has focused his efforts on student success, offering programs relevant to the 21st century workforce, ensuring access to education and being a good steward of public resources. He has been a staunch advocate of low tuition and responsible student loan debt.

Knight was a Mott Fellow while earning his doctorate from Western Michigan University and completed postdoctoral studies at the University of Michigan.

Among his many public service efforts, Knight has served the community as chairman of Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids during its inaugural year. 

During Saturday’s 4 p.m. ceremonies, DeVos will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Business and Industry. DeVos is best known for launching ArtPrize, the international art exhibition and competition that last year drew more than 200,000 visitors to Grand Rapids. The event, focused on expanding the conversation about art and spurring economic growth, carries the world’s largest art prize. The year 2012 will mark the fourth annual run of the popular competition.

Through several different projects, DeVos is helping to redefine the potential of civic events and entrepreneurial start-ups by redefining basic expectations that often limit possibilities. He has done much of this through Pomegranate Studios, a business development lab focused on Web-enabled business, social entrepreneurship and empowering individual voices through technology.

His work nurturing entrepreneurship includes establishment of Momentum, a business accelerator for companies focused on Web-based technologies, and “5x5 Night,” a pitch event that gives five presenters the opportunity to share ideas for a chance to receive a grant of up to $5,000. Also, in support of non-profit organizations, he started, an online network that helps connect volunteers to groups that are a match for their skills and interests.

DeVos is a native of Grand Rapids and one of West Michigan’s most indefatigable promoters.  In addition to his many ventures, he also is a board member of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and the Grand Rapids Art Museum.