After receiving approval from the Board of Trustees yesterday afternoon, Southern Utah University President Michael T. Benson has announced the individuals who will receive honorary doctorate degrees in the University’s 113th annual University Commencement on Friday, May 4, 2012.
The 2012 recipients include lifetime supporters of the University and Cedar City locals, Kent and Bessie Dover; longtime advocate for education and scientific research, Alice Gibson; and retiring chair of the Utah System of Higher Education, David Jordan.
Kent & Bessie Dover – Doctors of Humane Letters
Kent “Red” and Bessie Dover have been mainstays on the campus of SUU since Kent was just a child; his family home was located just west of the Branch Agricultural College, in what is now the Centrum parking lot. A member of the last graduating class of the BAC High School, Kent then attended the Branch Agricultural College (now SUU) before joining the Air Force in 1943. For his honorable and brave service, including a strike mission in which he was sprayed with shrapnel and glass, Kent received the Purple Heart and four oak leaf clusters, as well as the Silver Star, a Distinguished Flying Cross and two presidential citations.
After his honorable service to the Military, he and Bessie Peck, a University of Utah alumna and Salt Lake City native, were married and settled in to life in Cedar City with a commitment to the community and the college that has remained constant over the past 67 years.
To say that the Dovers have helped make this University what it is today is not hyperbole. When Bessie began working at the school in 1945, it was still the Branch Agricultural College. With a few years off to be at home with her children, Bessie continued her work on campus through the school’s days as the College of Southern Utah and, eventually, retired in 1988 from Southern Utah State College. She worked as everything from secretary to teacher. She was also an academic and career advisor, and finally helped lead student activities as a longtime staff member. She also helped build the Utah Shakespeare Festival, charged with marketing and public relations.
All the while, Kent, who returned to school at the BAC after the military, was a star of BAC Athletics, 1946 class president and, once he had graduated and settled into a profession in the insurance industry, served as a loyal friend to the university while supporting the couple’s family of four children.
The couple have rooted themselves in the heart of the University and the entire Cedar City Community, and SUU is proud to recognize their lives, spent in support of higher education and in service to their community and family.
When asked of their feelings when they learned they would be so honored this year, Bessie said, “The most happiness I can possibly feel is to share this award with my husband,” to which Kent replied, “That goes for me too!”
Alice Solvej Lind (Andersen) Gibson – Doctor of Education
Alice Gibson’s energy to learn and to grow dates back to her youth in Denmark, where she participated in gymnastics, ballet, competitive ballroom dancing, scouting, hiking, camping and mountain climbing. After earning a degree in mathematics and then another in general education, she moved to the United States with her U.S. born husband, Walter Maxwell Gibson. Together, the two endeavored to change the world in the name of science.
Today, far beyond advancing the sciences at SUU through generous support of scholarships and research, Alice Gibson and her late husband have amassed a lifetime as advocates to scientific advancement and education. Such efforts range in both scale and target, including everything from Alice’s work as a volunteer teacher, creating programs for gifted students and foreign language programs at the elementary level; to producing full scale musicals; and ultimately building a business and life around scientific research in Walter’s family-run company, X-Ray Optical Systems.
Alice continues her work within the field of education today and most recently completed the rigorous Montessori teacher-training program, certifying for the lower elementary level just last year. She plans to continue on with additional teacher certification in the fall once returning from a visit to Denmark.
For a lifetime spent, along with and in support of her husband, advancing scholarship, Alice Gibson will receive an honorary degree in education.
David Jordan – Doctor of Public Service
David Jordan has spent the past 15 years in service to the cause of higher education as member and, most recently, chair of the Utah System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents. Prior to his 1997 appointment to the Regents, Jordan served as chair of the Board of Trustees for Southern Utah University for a total of eight years between 1989 and 1997. This was a critical time for capable leaders in University history, as the Southern Utah State College became Southern Utah University, bringing forth an era of advancement.
Beyond higher education, Jordan has also served as advocate for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City; has worked with the juvenile justice system and against violence and substance abuse; and has cultivated a successful career as an attorney, specializing in commercial litigation. He is also the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah and has served as vice chair on the U.S. Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.
Jordan will be honored with an honorary degree in public service for a lifetime spent in service to higher education and social justice.