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Four to Receive UW Honorary Degrees May 7
April 6, 2011 — The University of Wyoming will confer its highest award, the honorary doctoral degree, upon four individuals who will be recognized during UW commencement ceremonies May 7.
They are historian and international scholar Robert Bonner; leading Alzheimer's disease researcher and caregiver Dr. Jeffrey Cummings; mathematician and entrepreneur Phil Lantz; and acclaimed geologist and educator Lord Ronald Oxburgh.
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.
Bonner, professor emeritus of history at Carleton College, Minnesota, is recognized as an outstanding national and international scholar in European history and historian of Wyoming and the United States West. He received a B.A. (1961) degree in history/American Studies from UW. He received an M.A. at Oregon in European history and his Ph.D., in English history at the University of Minnesota.
Raised in Powell, Bonner began his teaching duties at Carleton College in 1961, retiring in 2001. He has written four books, two were finalists for national book awards in 2008 -- the Western Writers of America's "Spur Award in Historical Non-Fiction" and the Society of Midland Authors "Award for Biography."
"Bonner's life and career reflect the culture of Wyoming at its very best," says William Moore, UW professor emeritus of history. "I am especially struck by his appreciation of learning; his passion for teaching; his quiet, personal integrity and his love of family and community."
Known as a key leader in research and understanding of Alzheimer's disease, Cummings has dedicated his life to improving the quality of life of both patients and caregivers.
A Wyoming native and 1970 UW graduate with a B.S. degree in zoology and physiology, Cummings has received numerous prestigious awards and has made outstanding accomplishments to society.
Currently the director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Las Vegas, Nev., and Cleveland, Ohio, he is author or co-author of more than 500 peer-reviewed papers and 30 books on Alzheimer's disease Cummings received the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry's 2010 Distinguished Scientist Award and National Alzheimer's Association Ronald and Nancy Regan Research Award in 2008.
In 2009 GQ magazine featured Cummings as one of the nation's "Rockstars of Science."
"There can be no denying Dr. Cummings' outstanding scientific and clinical accomplishments," Bill Flynn, director of the Graduate Neuroscience Program and National Institutes of Health Neuroscience Center at UW, wrote in Cummings' nomination letter. "He is committed to education, research and improving the human condition."
Robert F. Willard summed up the case for Lantz in four words: "Great man, great choice!"
A Laramie native who earned his M.A. in mathematics from UW in 1966, Lantz has led a personal life of service in commitment to education and a professional life of service in commitment to country. He used the leadership skills developed as a submarine office in the U.S. Navy to launch Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc., which began as a three-person operation and has grown into one of the country's premier security companies.
"He has proven himself to be a visionary and influential leader in every sense," Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, one of six Unified Combatant Commands of the U.S. Armed Force, wrote in his nomination letter. "I regard him as one of the great men to have affected the strengthening of our nation's modern military."
Oxburgh made significant contributions to the field of plate tectonics, including convection of the Earth's interior and the process of mountain building and devoted much of his career to university-level teaching and research. Oxburgh was mentor to some current UW geology faculty members who attended the University of Cambridge. His daughter Rachel earned her M.S. degree from UW's Department of Geology and Geophysics.
He served as chairman of a number of renewable energy firms. As the non-executive chairman the United Kingdom's arm of Shell, he was recognized internationally as an advocate for responsible use of fossil energy and development of new energy products.
"Professor Oxburgh is an eminent geologist and geophysicist and dedicated advocate in both academia and the business world for responsible use of renewable energy" wrote one of his former students, Carol Frost, vice president of special projects at UW.
The University of Wyoming honorary degree recipients for 2011 are Robert Bonner, Jeffrey Cummings, Phil Lantz and Ron Oxburgh.