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Trustees Approve Honorary Doctorate Recipients

Ferris State University’s Board of Trustees approved honorary doctoral degrees for alumna Teresa McKay, director of the Department of Defense Finance and Accounting Service; Alex Gorsky, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Johnson & Johnson; and Robert and Ellen Thompson, of The Thompson Foundation, among other items, at its regular meeting on Friday, Feb. 16 in Big Rapids.

McKay, a 1982 College of Business alumna who earned a Bachelor of Science in Teresa McKayBusiness/Accounting, will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Business and Industry. Gorsky will be presented an Honorary Doctorate of Health Professions. The Thompsons will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

McKay directs a workforce of 12,000 employees and manages disbursements in excess of half a trillion dollars. A certified public accountant, certified government financial manager and certified management accountant, she earned a Master of Business Administration from Auburn University at Montgomery. She has served on the College of Business Accountancy Advisory Board the last 13 years. During that time, she has counseled students, supported the hiring of College of Business interns within her agency, and promoted the hiring of many Ferris graduates.

Alex GorskyGorsky, chairman of the board and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, was the keynote speaker at the university’s inaugural Spathelf Lecture Series in 2013 and returned to the Series in 2017 to share his global perspectives on healthcare with students and faculty. He has been named one of the “100 Most Inspiring Leaders” by Pharma Voice and recently received the Joseph Wharton Leadership Award and the CADCA Humanitarian of the Year Award. Gorsky earned a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy, at West Point, N.Y., and spent six years in the U.S. Army before he finished his military career holding the rank of captain. He earned a Master of Business Administration from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, in 1996.

The Thompsons have made a profound impact on Michigan. Robert built his company, Thompson-Robert and Ellen ThompsonMcCully, into Michigan’s largest asphalt paving company. In his 40 years in the industry, he helped lead the paving business, serving as chairman of the National Asphalt Paving Foundation, president of the Michigan Road Builders Association and other leadership roles. Ellen began her career as an elementary school teacher and has a passion for teaching, education and students. Together they created the Thompson Foundation which established the Robert and Ellen Thompson Scholarship Program for Working Families at Ferris. This began at Ferris in 2016 with 10 students receiving scholarship support. A second cohort of 30 freshmen and 15 transfer students was added in 2017. The Thompsons plan to increase these numbers each year, so that by 2019 they will support 144 Thompson Scholars with their scholarship support.

“Teresa McKay, Alex Gorsky, and Robert and Ellen Thompson are wonderful examples of great professional success and active engagement at Ferris State University,” said President David L. Eisler. “We very much look forward to honoring them at our May commencement ceremonies.”

Main-campus commencement ceremonies are scheduled for May 4-5, in Big Rapids.

Trustees also approved the administration’s housing facility improvement plan. This plan includes maintenance and facility-improvement projects in existing residence halls, including Clark, Hallisy, North/South Bond, Pickell and Vandercook, in addition to wireless technology upgrades. Trustees further approved the expansion of Lot 36 near the College of Business building, the Interdisciplinary Resource Center and Top Taggart Field. This project, which requires approval from the city of Big Rapids, will improve traffic flow around the football stadium and add approximately 47 additional parking spaces for commuter students. The board also approved the administration’s request to move forward with fiscal-year 2019 and fiscal-year 2020 portions of the Capital Renewal Deferred Maintenance Phase III five-year plan, initially approved in May 2017. Included in the plan is the university’s capital renewal and maintenance commitments to some of its older facilities.

Board Vice Chair Lori Gwizdala, on behalf of fellow trustees, read a statement affirming the university’s unwavering stance against all forms of sexual violence as well as its commitment to support of survivors of sexual assault and the university community’s ongoing education related to sexual assault. Click the link to read the board’s statement in its entirety.

Trustees also approved the following:

  • Eleven sabbatical leave requests, as recommended by the provost and president, after submission by the All-University Sabbatical Review Committee.
  • Sixteen reappointments to the boards of directors of FSU-authorized charter school academies.
  • Reauthorization of the Joy Preparatory Academy, in Detroit, through June 2021; Lighthouse Academy, in Kentwood, through June 2025; and Muskegon Montessori Academy for Environmental Change, in Norton Shores, through June 2023.
  • A one-year charter school contract extension with New Bedford Academy, of Lambertville, through 2019.

The trustees are comprised of chair Paul E. Boyer, of Ada; vice chair Lori A. Gwizdala, of Bay City; secretary Ana L. Ramirez-Saenz, of Grand Rapids; immediate past chair Gary L. Granger, of Byron Center; Robert J. Hegbloom, of Clarkston; Amna P. Seibold, of East Grand Rapids; Rupesh K. Srivastava, of Wixom; and LaShanda R. Thomas, of Grosse Pointe.

The next regular meeting of the Board is Friday, May 4, in Big Rapids. Committee meetings begin at 12:30 p.m. followed by the 1:30 p.m. full board meeting.

PHOTO CAPTIONS: Top is Teresa McKay, middle is Alex Gorsky and bottom is Robert and Ellen Thompson.