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Alumnus Gartner Named Recipient of 2014 Honorary Doctorate Degree

James GartnerJames Gartner, a Ferris State University alumnus, award-winning commercial and film director, will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Business and Industry in conjunction with the Spring 2014 commencement ceremonies.

Gartner will address College of Business graduates during the 12:30 p.m. ceremony on Saturday, May 10 in Wink Arena of the Ewigleben Sports Complex in Big Rapids.

“It’s an honor to receive an honorary doctorate,” he said. “What will I say during the commencement program? I think that I will say what I would have hoped someone might have said to me when I was that age. As a college graduate, I think you have to grow into learning the important stuff. Words alone simply won’t do.”

Gartner, now of Traverse City, is perhaps best known for directing “Glory Road,” a 2006 film based on the true story of Texas Western coach Don Haskins, played by Josh Lucas, who led the first all-black starting lineup for a college basketball team to the NCAA championship in 1966. The film, which opened at No. 1 at the box office, won the 2006 ESPY Award for Best Sports Movie.

Gartner has earned two Emmys and multiple Gold Lion awards at Cannes for his commercial work for global clients such as Visa, AT&T, Pepsi, FedEx and Coca-Cola. He is also a two-time recipient of the Director’s Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials.

His most recent work includes projects for The Ad Council, Allstate, Disney, Frito-Lay, Global Giving and Hallmark, according to his website: James Gartner.

As a Ferris student, Gartner worked for WFRS, the campus radio station. In a 2006 interview, he acknowledged that his college days were the best of his life, and that much of that good feeling revolved around his work with the radio station. After graduation, Gartner worked at radio station WBRN in Big Rapids, WLAV in Grand Rapids and WQXI in Atlanta. He later briefly worked in Los Angeles before he settled down in Salt Lake City, Utah for nearly 15 years.

Ferris’ Board of Trustees approved the honorary degree as a result of Gartner’s dedication to his profession, his great body of work and his passion for his alma mater and the success of its students.

In October 2013, Gartner returned to campus to give a presentation to Marketing students. The event was hosted by the Ferris chapters of the American Marketing Association and the Public Relations Student Society of America.

More than 1,500 of 1,850 Ferris students who are candidates for degrees will participate in spring commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 9 and Saturday, May 10 in Wink Arena of the Ewigleben Sports Complex.

Graduates will be honored during six total ceremonies. The five ceremonies in Big Rapids are: On Friday, May 9 at 3:30 p.m. for the College of Health Professions and at 7 p.m. for the colleges of Arts, Sciences and Education, Pharmacy and the Doctorate in Community College Leadership; and on Saturday, May 10 at 9 a.m. for the College of Engineering Technology, 12:30 p.m. for the College of Business and 4 p.m. for the College of Education and Human Services and the Michigan College of Optometry. KCAD’s commencement takes place on Saturday, May 10 beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Fountain Street Church on 24 Fountain Street NE in Grand Rapids.

Also receiving Honorary Doctorates will be Susan P. Wheatlake and Steven Kolb. Wheatlake is an effective advocate for cancer education and treatment. She has been instrumental in raising funds to establish and build cancer centers at both the Mecosta County Medical Center in Big Rapids and Reed City Hospital.  These facilities were named the Susan P. Wheatlake Cancer Center in her honor. Kolb, chief executive officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, oversees all operations and activities for the designer trade association and its affiliated charitable foundation. CFDA membership consists of more than 400 of America’s leading women’s wear, men’s wear, jewelry and accessory designers.