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Three to Receive UW Honorary Degrees

April 9, 2012
Karl Allen, Donna Diers, and Pete Williams
Longtime Thermopolis teacher and civic leader Karl Allen; Sheridan native Donna Diers, a national leader in nursing education, research and health policy; and Casper native and network news correspondent Pete Williams will receive honorary degrees from the University of Wyoming.

The University of Wyoming will confer its highest award, the honorary doctoral degree, upon three individuals who will be recognized during UW commencement ceremonies May 5.

They are longtime Thermopolis teacher and civic leader Karl Allen; Sheridan native Donna Diers, a national leader in nursing education, research and health policy; and Casper native and network news correspondent Pete Williams.

Annually, UW faculty, alumni and current or former trustees 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.

Former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, state Supreme Court Justice Barton Voigt and a number of other Wyoming judicial and government officials credit Allen with instilling in them an understanding of their rights and obligations as citizens of the state and nation.

Allen taught civics, American history, contemporary problems and other courses as a teacher at Hot Springs County High School for 36 years after graduating from the University of Montana. He was named Wyoming Teacher of the Year in 1969 and the Horatio Alger National Educator of the Year in 1992.

"I am but one example of how Mr. Allen, in a relatively brief time period, had a positive impact on a teenager that has endured well beyond the few years that I spent in high school," wrote Sweetwater County Circuit Judge Daniel Forgey, a UW College of Law and political science graduate. "I am confident that, if you surveyed Mr. Allen's former students and constituents, you would hear many similar anecdotes. Mr. Allen's yeoman-like efforts in this regard cultivated a multitude of successful and productive citizens, and his efforts will continue to manifest themselves in Wyoming, and elsewhere, for generations to come."

Allen practiced what he preached, serving as a member of the Wyoming National Guard for 23 years, in numerous civic organizations, as mayor and town council member in Thermopolis, and as a Hot Springs County commissioner.

Diers is widely recognized as a leader in nursing practice, education, research, and national and international health policy. Following her undergraduate education at the University of Denver, she started an immensely successful career in the School of Nursing at Yale University, starting as an instructor in 1964 and serving as dean for 13 years.

In 1979, Diers wrote "Research in Nursing Practice," the first book on clinical nursing research, and is credited with more than 120 publications. Her publications over the last decade have focused predominantly on helping nurses use information technology and administrative data to enhance nursing services.

Diers has received some of the most prestigious awards and honors in nursing, including the American Academy of Nursing's highest honor, the Living Legends designation. She joined a select group of about 75 nursing leaders who have had a tremendous influence on health care.

Mary Burman, dean of UW's Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, met Diers while a graduate student at the University of Michigan. She describes Diers' book as "one of the best textbooks on clinical nursing research."

"It gave me great pride in my home state to have a national nursing leader such as Dr. Diers, who also grew up in Wyoming," Burman says. "I was in awe when I met her. She took a personal interest in me and has been a source of inspiration for what folks from Wyoming can accomplish."

Williams, NBC News' senior justice correspondent at the U.S. Supreme Court, is known as a fierce defender of press freedom.

He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1986 to join the staff of Congressman Dick Cheney as a legislative assistant and press secretary. In 1989, when Cheney was named Secretary of Defense, Williams was appointed assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. He later served as Pentagon spokesman during the Persian Gulf War.

Williams has covered the Justice Department and the U.S. Supreme Court for NBC News since 1993. He has covered major news stories such as the Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen spy cases; the Unabomber investigation; the Oklahoma City and Summer Olympics bombings; the Bill Clinton impeachment hearings; the legal wrangling over the 2000 Florida election results; and the U.S. government's hearing on the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"Mr. Williams is known and trusted by Americans as a highly respected journalist, a tireless champion of the First Amendment, and the face of reporting on some of the most difficult and complicated justice and national security cases in the past two decades," says Anne Alexander, UW International Programs director.

Williams  graduated from Stanford University (1974) and worked until 1985 as a reporter. He later worked as news director at KTWO Radio and Television.

He is a three-time Emmy award nominee, has received a national news Emmy award and is a recipient of an Edward R. Murrow Award.

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