Four honorary degrees honoring a lifetime of achievements will be among the nearly 4,500 diplomas presented this coming weekend at West Virginia University as another academic year comes to a close.
The recipients are:
• Financial and legal services leader Rodgin Cohen, Presidential Honorary Doctor of Laws, College of Law.
• Intuit CEO Brad Smith, Presidential Honorary Doctor of Business Degree, College of Business and Economics.
• American space pioneer Katherine Johnson, Presidential Honorary Doctor Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.
• Country music legend Charlie McCoy, Honorary Doctor of Musical Arts, College of Creative Arts.
The last commencement begins at 2 p.m. Sunday as the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences, WVU’s largest college, presents its bachelor’s degrees at the Coliseum.
In addition to the Coliseum, commencements will be held at the Creative Arts Center and the Morgantown Event Center.
Graduates and their guests are reminded that an ongoing $15 million renovation at the Coliseum will present some logistical challenges. As a result, restrooms inside the Coliseum will be closed. Alternate facilities equipped with air conditioning will be accessible around the Coliseum and near the Basketball Practice Facility, which will also have an alternate viewing area set aside for those who are unable, or do not wish to navigate the construction areas.
Also, all commencements will be livestreamed at http://webcast.wvu.edu.
One of the many celebrations scheduled is the Mountaineer Send-off, which will be held each day May 13, 14 and 15 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Erickson Alumni Center. There will be free food, giveaways, music, photos, an opportunity to sign the class of 2016 banner, get connected with the WVU Alumni Association to get information on membership and an array of fun activities.
Other special events include an International Students graduation reception Thursday afternoon commissioning of the Army and Air Force ROTC officers on Friday.
Students and their families are encouraged to visit the Commencement website at graduation.wvu.edu for detailed information and event updates, as well as information about photography, lodging, parking and traditions.
You can follow and participate in the Commencement events on social media using the hashtag #WVUGrad.
Cohen will be honored at the College of Law ceremony Friday at 12:30 at the Creative Arts Center.
Cohen is senior chairman of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, having served as chairman of the firm from 2000 to 2009. The primary focus of his practice is acquisition, regulatory, enforcement, corporate governance and securities law matters, primarily for U.S. and non-U.S. banking and other financial institutions and their trade associations.
Widely recognized as a leader of the financial and legal services industries, Cohen has received numerous accolades. He was the recipient of The Clearing House’s 2014 Chairman’s Achievement Award. In 2013, the New York Law Journal named Cohen among its 16 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients. Also in 2013, The American Lawyer named Mr. Cohen among “The Top 50 Innovators in Big Law in the last 50 Years” for his ideas, policies and practices that have left a mark on the legal industry.
Cohen has been a member of the FDIC Systemic Resolution Advisory Committee, the National Security Agency Cyber Awareness Panel, the Treasury Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession and The New York State Commission to Modernize the Regulation of Financial Services. He is or has also been vice chairman, Economic Studies Council of Brookings Institution and a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center Financial Regulatory Reform Initiative, The Pew Financial Reform Project, the IIF Special Committee for a Strategic Dialogue for Effective Regulation and The Financial Services Roundtable’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Enhancing Competitiveness.
Cohen is a trustee of New York Presbyterian Hospital, Rockefeller University, Deerfield Academy where he serves as president of the board, the Hackley School, Lincoln Center Theater, New York City Partnership and, formerly, Hampton University and the Economic Club of New York, and is a member of the Harvard Law School Visiting Committee and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Visiting Committee and the advisory boards of Wall Street Rising, United Way of Westchester-Putnam and the University of Charleston.
He has been honored for his philanthropic and community work by United Way, Pro Bono Partnership, Episcopal Charities, Wall Street Rising (Leadership Award), Partnership for the Homeless, American Jewish Committee (Learned Hand Award), Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York (Deus Caritas Est Award), The American Friends of the Hebrew University (Torch of Learning Award), and, with his wife Barbara, the Legal Aid Society (Servant of Justice Award).
Johnson, a pioneer of the American space movement, will be recognized in absentia at the Eberly undergraduate ceremony Sunday, May 15 at 2 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum.
She was born in White Sulphur Springs and was trained as a mathematician and physicist. Because the local schools only offered classes to African-Americans through the eighth grade, her father enrolled his children in a school 125 miles from their home, where Johnson’s mother and three siblings lived during the academic year until they all graduated from college. Johnson graduated from high school at age 14 and from college at 18.
After teaching for seven years in elementary and high schools in West Virginia and Virginia, she went to work in 1953 as a pool mathematician or “computer” for the Langley Research Center, part of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in Hampton, Virginia, the forerunnier of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
At NASA, Johnson worked on the early space program, including computing the launch window for astronaut Alan Shepard’s 1961 Mercury mission. She was tasked with calculations to propel space capsules into orbit around the moon and to send landing units to and from the lunar surface. She plotted backup navigational charts for astronauts in case of electronic failures. In 1962, computers were used for the first time to calculate John Glenn’s orbit around Earth. But, according to Johnson, NASA officials called on her to verify the numbers generated by the computers. She also calculated the trajectory for the 1969 Apollo flight to the moon.
While working in NASA’s Flight Dynamics Branch at LRC, Johnson helped author the first textbook on space. Later in her career, she worked on the space shuttle program, the Earth Resources Satellite, and on plans for a mission to Mars. Johnson co-authored 28 scientific papers during her 33 years with NASA, before retiring in 1986.
She earned many awards throughout her career, including the Lunar Orbiter Spacecraft and Operations team award at NASA; numerous NASA LRC Special Achievement Awards; National Technical Association Mathematician of the Year; and honorary doctorates from the State University of New York at Farmingdale, Capitol College in Laurel, Md., and Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Va. In 1968 and 1999, she was honored as the West Virginia State College Outstanding Alumnus of the Year for her scientific achievements. In 2000, she was inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, Atlanta, Ga.
Johnson was one of the 17 recipients of the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in November 2015. Other recent awards include the Distinguished West Virginian Award from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, having a bench dedicated to her at the Air and Space Museum in Hampton, and being honored as one of eight in the Virginia Women in History Traveling Exhibit sponsored by the State Library of Virginia in Richmond.
In 1997, Johnson was recognized as one of 24 black inventors and scientists at the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia. She was featured in the U.S. Office of Education documentary, “Practical Uses of Mathematics,” as well as in D.C. Heath’s “Fifth Grade Science” textbook. She was also included in the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Black Contributors to Science and Energy Technology,” and is featured in “Black Women Scientists in the United States” by Wini Warren.
Johnson is a graduate of West Virginia State College (now University), where she earned a B.S. degree, summa cum laude, in mathematics and French. She did graduate work at West Virginia University, one of the first blacks to attend. Johnson has been a longtime member of the Carver Presbyterian Church in Newport News and was a member of the choir. She is a Diamond Soror (+75 years) of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She also still enjoys watching sports, playing bridge and bingo, and talking with students about her work and their potential involvement in STEM initiatives.
She had three daughters by her late husband, James Goble; Joylette G. Hylick of Mount Laurel, N.J., Constance G. Garcia (deceased), and Katherine G. Moore of Greensboro, N.C. She has been married for over 55 years to retired Lt. Col. James A. Johnson. She has six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. The Johnsons currently live in a retirement community in Newport News, Virginia.
McCoy will receive his degree at College of Creative Arts ceremony Friday, at 4 p.m.
He was born in Fayette County. He spent the majority of his youth in Florida, he spent extended periods of time in the Mountain State well into his teenage years.
After spending one year as a music education major at the University of Miami, McCoy moved to Nashville, where he quickly became a first-call session musician and a regular part of the elite group of Nashville musicians known as the “A Team,” recording with artists ranging from Ann-Margret to Tom T. Hall. He also contributed noteworthy work to such iconic songs as Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 and 33,” and George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
McCoy was also a significant bandleader, first as the frontman for Charlie McCoy & the Escorts and later as the leader of the Nashville supergroup Area Code 615, a group that also included West Virginia native Wayne Moss.
McCoy also appeared on the nationally-syndicated television program Hee Haw, where he headed the so-called Million-Dollar Band, featuring such luminaries as Jethro Burns, Johnny Gimble, and Chet Atkins. As a solo artist, he has released more than three dozen albums; he continues to tour with his own band, drawing particular interest from audiences in Europe and Japan.
McCoy’s work has been widely celebrated and honored. His 1972 album The Real McCoy received a Grammy Award, and his session work has been recognized with two Country Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year Awards (1972, 1973) and seven Academy of Country Music Specialty Instrument Awards (1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1988). McCoy has also been inducted into several halls of fame, including the International Musician’s Hall of Fame (2007), the Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame (2007), the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame (2008), and, most importantly, the Country Music Hall of Fame (2009).
Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Intuit, will be honored at the College of Business and Economics ceremony Saturday at 4 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum.
He joined Intuit in 2003 and held a series of executive positions during a five-year rise through the company where he successfully led several of its major businesses. He was named Intuit’s president and chief executive officer in January 2008, and became chairman of the board of directors in January 2016.
Building on Intuit’s strong foundation and enduring mission, Smith has cultivated an agile, innovative culture and led initiatives to reimagine and reinvent Intuit to harness emerging technology and trends, continuing to improve the financial lives of customers around the world. During that time, Intuit has earned a reputation as an innovative company that is consistently ranked as one of the top 100 best places to work, and among the most-admired software companies each year.
Before being named CEO, Smith was senior vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Small Business Division, which included the portfolio of QuickBooks, Quicken and Payroll products.
Previously he led the company’s Consumer Tax Group, which produces TurboTax, the nation’s leading consumer tax preparation software. He began his Intuit career leading the Accountant Central community, cultivating relationships and delivering services for accounting professionals.
Smith earned his master’s degree in management from Aquinas College in Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Marshall University.
Full schedule of events
Friday, May 13:
• Reed College of Media, 9:00 a.m., Coliseum
• College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, 12:30 p.m., Coliseum
• College of Law, 12:30 p.m., Creative Arts Center
• Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, 4:00 p.m., Coliseum
• School of Public Health, 4:00 p.m., Morgantown Event Center
• College of Creative Arts, 4:00 p.m., Creative Arts Center
Saturday, May 14:
• School of Dentistry, 8:30 a.m., Morgantown Event Center
• School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy Ph.D. and Master’s, 9:00 a.m., HSC Okey Patteson Auditorium
• University College and College of Education and Human Services, 9:00 a.m. Coliseum
• School of Nursing, 12:00 p.m., Morgantown Event Center
• Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering & Mineral Resources, 12:30 p.m., Coliseum
• College of Business & Economics, 4:00 p.m., Coliseum
• School of Pharmacy, 4:00 p.m., Morgantown Event Center
Sunday, May 15:
• School of Medicine MD, 8:30 a.m., Morgantown Event Center
• Eberly College of Arts and Sciences – Master’s and Ph.D., 9:00 a.m., Coliseum
• School of Medicine Professional Programs, 12:30 p.m., Morgantown Event Center
• Eberly College of Arts and Sciences – Bachelor’s, 2:00 p.m., Coliseum
Friday, May 13 – Sunday May 15
• Mountaineer Send-Off, Erickson Alumni Center – 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
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