Three to Receive UW Honorary Degrees
April 8, 2010 — The University of Wyoming will confer its highest award, the honorary doctoral degree, upon successful businessman and entrepreneur Gus Fleischli of Cheyenne, Renaissance scholar Alvin Kernan and long-time state and federal public servant John Turner of Teton County. They will be recognized during UW commencement ceremonies May 8.
Annually, UW alumni, current or former trustees and faculty are eligible to nominate for honorary degrees individuals who make notable contributions to the health, education or general welfare of Wyoming residents. Submissions are referred to a joint committee, headed by UW President Tom Buchanan, and nominees who receive votes from two-thirds of the committee are recommended for approval.
Fleischli attended UW twice. The first was from 1943-1944 before serving 18 months in the U. S. Air Force. He returned to UW in 1947-1948, but left to assist in the family business. He has a reputation as an astute businessman.
He remains active in the petroleum industry with his long-standing relationship with Sinclair Oil Corp. He is president of Truck Terminals Inc. and Fleischli Oil Company Inc. He served three terms in the Wyoming House of Representatives and has been involved in local and national organizations.
In his nomination letter, Gov. Dave Freudenthal wrote, "Gus' business success is inextricably coupled with his contributions to the Cheyenne community and to Wyoming. Many have benefitted from his life's work -- from the countless employees provided with sustainable incomes to the numerous organizations he has advised and served."
Kernan followed an unusual path to prominence in the field of Renaissance studies. He grew up on a meager Wyoming homestead during the Great Depression before serving in the U.S. Navy and going on to teach at Yale and Princeton universities.
He has published on Renaissance and 18th century literature on theater and poetry, literary modes such as satire and literary criticism and theory. In his studies, Kernan has explored image patterns, historical contexts, theatrical effectiveness, political messages and the progress of individual careers over time.
In his nomination letter, Peter Parolin, head of the UW Department of English, wrote, "Awarding an honorary degree to Alvin Kernan would not only recognize an important career but would also be a way for the University of Wyoming to endorse the ongoing significance of the humanities in our academic milieu. Our association with this eminent scholar would bring us credit."
Now chairman of UW's Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), which he helped launch and where he has been a teacher and speaker, Turner served in the Wyoming State Legislature from 1971 to 1989. From 1989-1993 he was director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and as president of the Conservation Fund from 1993-2001 he led efforts to preserve millions of acres of agricultural and timberland.
In 2001, he was appointed assistant secretary of state for Oceans and International Scientific Affairs, where he led programs and activities involving infectious diseases, the environment, climate change and ocean affairs.
"He embodies Wyoming ideals and has taken his commonsense and Wyoming roots with him in each of his professional endeavors," wrote ENR Director Indy Burke. "Courteous and down-to-earth, he is capable of making people from all walks of life feel valued and appreciated."
Gus Fleischli, Alvin Kernan and John Turner will receive Honorary Degrees from the University of Wyoming.