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Hassrick, Green Johnson to Receive UW Honorary Degrees

March 13, 2017
photos of Peter H. Hassrick and Paula Green Johnson

The University of Wyoming will confer its highest award, the honorary doctoral degree, upon two individuals who will be recognized during UW commencement ceremonies May 12-13.

They are Peter H. Hassrick, a writer and independent American art scholar, who focuses on the West; and Paula Green Johnson, an advocate and volunteer with numerous health and human services, arts, educational and governmental organizations.

UW alumni, current or former trustees and faculty members are eligible to nominate individuals who embody the university’s high ideals; exemplify the values of excellence, service and integrity; and possess distinguished accomplishments in their professions, public service or service to humanity. Submissions are referred to a joint committee of trustees and faculty members, which forwards recommendations to the full Board of Trustees for approval.

Hassrick was born in Philadelphia and raised in Denver. He earned his master’s degree in art history (1969) from the University of Denver and his bachelor’s degree in history (1963) from the University of Colorado.

A leading authority on art of the American West, Hassrick has written extensively on Western artists, including Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Alexander Phimister Proctor, Ernest Blumenschein and John Mix Stanley. Among his numerous books are “Frederic Remington,” “The Way West,” “Painted Journeys: The Art of John Mix Stanley” with Mindy Besaw and “Drawn to Yellowstone: Artists in America’s First National Park,” which was re-released in 2016 to coincide with the centennial of the National Park Service.

In 1976, Hassrick became the executive director of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (now the Buffalo Bill Center of the West) in Cody. During his 20-year tenure, he helped to grow the center -- both physically and fiscally -- and to transform it from a community museum into a nationally and internationally recognized institution. For his distinguished service to the field of art, he received the Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award.

Hassrick left Wyoming to become the founding director of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M. He also was the founding director of the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West at the University of Oklahoma. Additionally, he directed the Denver Art Museum’s Petrie Institute of Western American Art. He returned to Cody, where he serves as director emeritus and senior scholar at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. He continues to curate art exhibitions, lecture on art of the American West and write numerous publications.

“He is a very gifted man with rare intelligence, wisdom and the ability to express often complex aspects of art in a way that becomes very understandable and meaningful to those under his tutelage in his classes or lectures,” wrote Wyoming retired U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson.

“He is a person of the highest integrity, and his work reflects the highest echelon of scholarship,” wrote Bruce Eldredge, executive director and CEO of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. “His years of service as a museum director and art historian in the state of Wyoming bring credit to the university, to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and to the state of Wyoming. Hassrick, like William F. ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, is truly a ‘Man of the West and a Man of the World.’”

Raised in Laramie, Green Johnson earned her bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology (1972) from UW. She worked as a court reporter in Denver and Salt Lake City for a time. When her son started school, she began volunteering in the public schools. There, she witnessed the struggles many families were experiencing with issues such as abuse, hunger and homelessness. Her life purpose became clear: to make a difference in the lives of those who cannot advocate for or help themselves.

For more than 30 years, Green Johnson has served and led various organizations dedicated to improving the lives of others. She is particularly interested in empowering women and girls, and working for social and racial justice.

She has served on the boards and committees of local, statewide and national organizations, including the YWCA World Service Council, YWCA USA, YWCA Utah, United Way of Salt Lake, International Women’s Forum, Ronald McDonald House Charities, National McGruff House Network, American Red Cross of Utah, State of Utah Foster Care Citizen Review Board, Governor’s appointment to the Board of Child and Family Services, Boys and Girls Clubs of Utah, Salt Lake Ballet, Pioneer Theatre and Salt Lake Art Center Guilds, Catholic Community Services in Salt Lake City, United Way National Women’s Leadership Council, the White House Summit on the United State of Women, Utah Council for Crime Prevention, Women’s State Legislative Council of Utah and the UW Foundation Board.

Additionally, Green Johnson was the American Red Cross of Utah board representative for the African Measles Initiative in Ghana. In 2002, she traveled to Ghana on a humanitarian mission with the International Red Cross to participate in the initiative. At the end of the Ghana campaign, 8 million children had been immunized against the disease.

In his nomination letter, Kent Noble, the Bill Daniels Chair of Business Ethics in the UW College of Business, described a trip he and his wife took to Salt Lake City a few years ago in which they witnessed some of Green Johnson’s work. They met the staff of the local YWCA and toured the Family Justice Center, which provides resources for women who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

“While the stories of the women in the center were sobering, the care the residents were receiving was inspiring,” Noble wrote. “You see, thanks to Ms. Green Johnson’s leadership, these women were recovering in a state-of-the-art facility with desperately needed services ranging from emergency shelter and safety planning to immigration assistance and language training. In short, women who were once living a life of fear and desperation were now taking the first steps toward regaining their dignity and hope.”

Among the awards Green Johnson has received for her volunteer service are the United Way of Salt Lake Outstanding Volunteer of the Year, American Red Cross of Utah Lifetime Achievement Award, Salt Lake Council of Women Hall of Fame, Utah Nonprofits Association Norma Matheson Volunteer of the Year, Utah Nonprofits Association Heart and Hands Award, and the Governor of Utah and the Governor’s Commission for Women and Families Woman of Achievement Award.

“Paula Green Johnson’s volunteerism, leadership and philanthropy have been diverse and far-reaching,” wrote Larry Weatherford, the Dick and Maggie Scarlett Endowed Professor in the UW College of Business. “She attributes her commitment to community service to her belief that it is every citizen’s duty to make their city, their state, their nation and the world a better place. Paula has taken this lesson to heart. Indeed, she is all about making a difference. For more than 30 years, she has given time and energy to make the world a better place, without ever looking for accolades.”

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