OU to recognize honorary degree recipients at fall commencement ceremonies

icon of a calendarDecember 4, 2023

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OU to recognize honorary degree recipients at fall commencement ceremonies
Wendel A. White
Wendel A. White

During its December 2023 commencement ceremonies, Oakland University will present four individuals with honorary degrees in recognition of outstanding achievements in their respective fields.

Wendel A. White has been selected to receive a Doctor of Arts Honoris Causa.

Wendel A. White was born in Newark, New Jersey and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. He was awarded a BFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York and an MFA in photography from the University of Texas at Austin. White taught photography at the School of Visual Arts (N.Y.), The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (N.Y.), the International Center of Photography (N.Y.), Rochester Institute of Technology, and is currently Distinguished Professor of Art and American Studies at Stockton University.

He has received various awards and fellowships including the Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography, Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University; John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Photography; three artist fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts; Bunn Lectureship in Photography and grants from En Foco, Center Santa Fe, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and various artist’s residencies.

His work is represented in museum, public, and private collections including National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), Mint Museum (N.C.), Duke University (N.C.), New Jersey State Museum (N.J.), California Institute of Integral Studies (Calif.), Graham Foundation for the Advancement in the Fine Arts (Ill.), En Foco, (N.Y.), Rochester Institute of Technology (N.Y.), The Museum of Fine Art, Houston (Texas), Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago (Ill.), Haverford College (Penn.), University of Delaware (Del.), University of Alabama (Ala.), and Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (N.Y.).

White has served on the boards of directors for the Society for Photographic Education, New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and The Print Center (Penn.). He has also served on the Kodak Educational Advisory Council, NJ Save Outdoor Sculpture, the Atlantic City Historical Museum, Atlantic City Free Public Library Foundation, New Jersey Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission, and the New Jersey Black Culture and Heritage Initiative Foundation.

Recent projects include Manifest: Thirteen Colonies; Red Summer; Schools for the Colored; Village of Peace: An African American Community in Israel; Small Towns, Black Lives; and others. Throughout fall 2023, his exhibition Remains • Remnants • Reliquaries was featured in the Oakland University Art Gallery.

White will be honored at the 9 a.m. ceremony on Friday, December 15.

Walt and Donna Young have been selected to receive a Doctor of Arts Honoris Causa.

Walt Young
Walt Young

Walt has over 50 years’ experience in leading organizations. For the first 36 years, he held senior positions at four public companies: BF Goodrich, The Budd Company, The Henley Group and Champion Enterprises. As chair and CEO of Champion (Fortune 500), Walt was recognized by Fortune as a “Superstar” and by the Harvard Business School as one of the 100 top business leaders of the 20th century. While at these four companies he completed 23 different turnarounds and over 75 mergers and acquisitions. 

Since 2003 Walt has focused on entrepreneurial start-ups, including as a lead investor and director for Accuri Cytometers (acquired by Becton, Dickinson in 2011), CelSee, Inc. (acquired by BioRad in 2020) and Swift Biosciences, Inc. (acquired by Danaher in 2021). He has led and assisted over 100 entities to raise more than $150 million in capital.  

Walt is currently on the board of four early stage companies: Eagle River Homes, Weathershield, Nanocerox,, and KromaTiD. From 2003 to 2018, he was a director at NRG Energy. Further, his non-profit boards have included Muskingum University, Oakland University Foundation and Gleaners Food Bank of Southeast Michigan.

Walt received a B.A. in History and Economics from Muskingum University, his MBA in Marketing and Management from Penn State University and an honorary doctorate in Public Service from Muskingum University.

Donna Young
Donna Young

After receiving her B.A. degree from Muskingum University, Donna proofread and edited classified reports for HRB Singer in State College, Penn., a pioneer and leader in the technical signals analysis of Soviet weapons systems.

After moving to Ohio, Donna worked as a nursing school librarian at Akron City Hospital. She retired early from paid employment to the life of mother and volunteer. Her volunteer work with and for children has included a hospital-based program for new mothers, leading Brownie and Girl Scout troops and a Cub Scout den, tutoring a Japanese ESL student, serving in many PTA positions including president, and participating in the Kids on the Block program (in-school puppet presentations of disabled children to create empathy and understanding).

At Northbrook Church, Donna served as elder, clerk of session, Stephen minister, and chair of a pastor search committee, and also participated in various other committees. Her community involvement began as a member of the Junior League with the organization of an event for seniors to provide information on alternative housing options. She was a member of the former “Friends” group of Oakland Family Services and served on the CEO search committee.

At Oakland University, Donna is a member of the Women and Philanthropy group and, with her husband, a supporter of the Honors College study abroad program. Since its inception in 1994, she has been the secretary/treasurer of The Young Foundation, providing grants to human services organizations in the Pontiac area.

Walt and Donna have been married for 57 years and have a daughter and son, along with four grandchildren. The couple will be honored at the 2 p.m. ceremony on Friday, December 15.

Glenn Ellis has been selected to receive a Doctor of Science Honoris Causa.

Glenn Ellis
Glenn Ellis

Glenn Ellis, a native of Birmingham, Ala., is president/founder of Strategies for Well-Being, LLC, a health education-communications consulting company promoting health ethics and equity. A respected writer, his first book, “Which Doctor?” was received with wide acclaim in 2006, and his second book “Information is the Best Medicine,” was released in 2012. He is working on his third book, a history of medicine in Philadelphia, due out in 2025.

In addition, Ellis has contributed to Real Health Magazine, Heart and Soul Magazine, The Black AIDS Institute Newsletter, as well as The National Medical Association’s Healthy Living magazine.

In addition to a syndicated weekly column, Ellis remains a regular national radio guest and commentator. He is currently the host of the “Information is the Best Medicine” podcast and can be heard weekly on iHeart Media.

Ellis was a member of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Thomas Jefferson University, Drexel University and Mercy Health System, as well as a member of the Executive Continuing Medical Education Committee (EMC) for all four acute-care Mercy Hospitals in the Philadelphia area for over 20 years. He maintains a busy lecture schedule in the U.S. and abroad, where he highlights health disparities and medical ethics. He is a sought-after university guest lecturer and has made scientific presentations in Belgium, Germany, Cuba, Austria, Africa, Ukraine, and The Netherlands.

Ellis is a Certified Health Care Ethicist (CHCE) and received his master’s degree in public health (MPH) at the University of Liverpool. He is a doctoral candidate in Global Bioethics (DBIO) at Euclid University. He is also a Fellow at the College of Physicians – Philadelphia. His current projects include a book on the history of medicine in Philadelphia (2025), a photo-journalism collaboration book on the sociological toll of COVID-19 on the lives of Americans and a book of narrative essays on clinical ethical dilemmas.

Ellis will be honored at the 9 a.m. ceremony on Saturday, December 16.

Honorary degrees are awarded by OU’s Board of Trustees in recognition of distinguished accomplishment and service within the scope of the arts and letters, sciences, professions and public service as recognized and supported by the University. The awarding of honorary degrees reaffirms Oakland University’s scholarly, creative and humanitarian values, and ties the university to the community at large.

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