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Four Prominent Individuals to Receive Honorary Degrees from USU

Thursday, Apr. 26, 2012

USU Commencement illustration
USU Commencement Honorary Degree recipient Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz

Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz

USU 2012 Commencement Honorary Degree recipient Quentin L. Cook

Quentin L. Cook

USU 2012 Commencement Honorary Degree recipient Lars Peter Hansen

Lars Peter Hansen

USU 2012 Commencement Honorary Degree recipient John R. Miller

John R. Miller

Noted humanitarian, award-winning and best-selling author, documentary photographer and Navy SEAL Eric Greitens will address Utah State University undergraduate students during USU’s 125th graduation ceremony Saturday, May 5, in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan. The hooding ceremony for graduate students is Friday, May 4, in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

Greitens will present the commencement address during the program that will feature four prominent individuals who will receive honorary doctorates during the Saturday events. Those receiving honorary doctorates are: Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz, Saudi Arabian vice minister for girls’ education; Quentin L. Cook, former attorney and current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Lars P. Hansen, world-renowned economist; and U.S. beef industry leader John R. Miller.

 Undergraduate students assemble on the university Quad with their colleges no later than 8:30 a.m. Saturday. In the event of exceptionally bad weather, graduates will assemble in the Nelson Fieldhouse. The procession begins at 9 a.m. The ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m.

The Graduate Commencement and Hooding Ceremony for master’s and doctoral degree candidates is Friday 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Assembly of candidates takes place at 12:30 p.m. in the Nelson Fieldhouse for the procession. Master’s candidates are hooded by members of the Graduate Council, while doctoral candidates will be hooded by their major professors and deans.

Guest tickets are not required for the commencement ceremonies in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or for the college ceremonies. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors to the Spectrum will be open to the public for the ceremonies at noon, Friday, May 4, and 8 a.m., Saturday, May 5.

Visit the commencement website for more detailed information.

Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz

Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz has transformed educational policy and practice in Saudi Arabia and has become a symbol of female leadership in the Islamic world.

Serving as the vice minister for girls’ education since 2009, Mrs. Al-Faiz holds the highest ministerial rank reached by a woman in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The appointment was a significant indicator of the broadening role for women in politics and education in Saudi Arabia.

Mrs. Al-Faiz was named one of TIME Magazine’s “2009 TIME 100” for being one of the most influential people in the world. In 2011, Mrs. Al-Faiz received the Distinguished Arab Women Award in Education from the Arab Women Foundation, and, in 2010, she took first place at the 20th Global Summit of Women in China for her Ministerial Round Table Discussion on Countries Best Practices to Broaden Women Employability in Saudi Arabia.

After earning a bachelor’s from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia in 1978, Mrs. Al-Faiz came to the United States to attend Utah State University, where she earned a master’s in instructional technology in 1982.

Upon returning to Saudi Arabia, Mrs. Al-Faiz worked as a teacher in public schools and was rapidly promoted to education supervisor. She subsequently held numerous management positions in the field of education, including her service as head principal of the girls’ section at Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Schools. In 1993, Mrs. Al-Faiz became director general of the women’s branch at the Institute of Public Administration, a position she held until 2009.

Mrs. Al-Faiz still participates in research and has conducted several training programs and executive workshops, presented several working papers and led official delegations to local, regional and international forums and conferences.

Since graduating from USU, Mrs. Al-Faiz has acted as chairman, member, coordinator and consultant for several Saudi Arabian charitable societies, boards and committees, including the Down Syndrome Charitable Association, the Guiding Committee for Neighborhood Schools Program and on the Takafel Philanthropy Foundation.

Mrs. Al-Faiz lives in Saudi Arabia.

Quentin L. Cook

Utah State University alum and Logan native Quentin L. Cook exemplifies outstanding qualities of leadership, service and success. After establishing himself as a prominent San Francisco Bay-area attorney and moving on to become a top executive in the California healthcare system, Elder Cook returned to Utah to serve for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he currently serves as member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

His early days in Logan set the foundation that would catapult Elder Cook to success. After graduating from Logan High School, Elder Cook attended USU, where he served as a student body officer and was recognized with membership in the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and the Blue Key Honor Society. Elder Cook graduated from USU with a bachelor’s in political science in 1963 and went on to earn a Juris Doctorate from Stanford University in 1966. While at Stanford, Elder Cook received the Hilmer Oehlmann, Jr., Prize for excellence in research and writing.

During his years as an attorney, Elder Cook became outside general counsel for the California Health Care System (CHS). His work with the organization moved Elder Cook into the next phase of his career as he was named corporate president and CEO of CHS in 1991. In 1996, while at CHS, Elder Cook orchestrated a successful merger with Sutter Health, making CHS the eighth largest health care system in the United States, growing from a $2 billion organization to an $8 billion organization.

While serving as vice chairman for the newly formed Sutter Health, Elder Cook was called to serve as a general authority for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He held that position until 2007, when he was asked to become a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Despite a robust professional life, Elder Cook has served as a board member of several profit and non-profit corporations during his career, including the Children’s Health Home for mentally disabled children, the Boy’s Club of San Mateo, the San Mateo County Bar Association and the San Mateo Council Boy Scouts of America. He served as a pro-bono city attorney for Hillsborough, California, from 1982-1993 and was on the board of visitors for Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School in 1994-96. 

Elder Cook has been, and remains, a loyal Aggie. He is married to Mary Gaddie Cook and the couple is parents to three children.

Lars P. Hansen

Renowned economist Lars Peter Hansen is a scholar, researcher and author. Dr. Hansen is internationally known for his specialization in economic dynamics, using statistical methods applied to study linkages between financial markets and the macroeconomy.

After graduating from Utah State University in 1974 with a bachelor’s in mathematics and political science, Dr. Hansen went on to earn a doctorate in economics from the University of Minnesota in 1978. Dr. Hansen began his career working as an assistant professor at Carnegie-Mellon, where he served for three years until moving on to the University of Chicago in 1981. A mainstay on the University of Chicago economics faculty since that time, Dr. Hansen has received many accolades for his teaching and research with the institution. He currently serves as the David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and Statistics and is the inaugural Research Director for the Becker-Friedman Institute.

Dr. Hansen’s work has garnered him several awards and honors, including being named co-winner of the Frisch Medal from the Econometric Society (1984) and winner of the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics from Northwestern University (2006). In addition he has received the CME Group-Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications (2008) and the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Economics, Finance and Management (2010). He gave the distinguished Fisher Schultz Lecture to the Econometric Society in 2006, the Ely Lecture to the American Economic Association in 2007 and the Koopman’s Lecture in 2008.

Dr. Hansen’s research has justified and applied novel statistical and quantitative methods to the analysis of dynamic economic models. Methods he developed have been widely used to study a variety of economic phenomenon, including the study of consumption, investment, exchange rates and asset pricing. A central aim of his research is to investigate and assess uncertainty’s impact on dynamic economic models. He has been enhancing models in which economic actors must cope with uncertainty regarding changing environments. The methods Dr. Hansen has developed and refined support empirical investigations of the linkage between economic theory and empirical evidence. His work has been fundamental to our understanding of the pricing of financial assets, by integrating financial market performance with macroeconomics. Recently, Dr. Hansen co-authored (with Thomas J. Sargent) the book Robustness, which extends results from the field of robust control theory to study how concerns of economic actors about their limited knowledge of the future affect macroeconomic outcomes.

An active participant in the economics profession, Dr. Hansen is a Fellow of the Econometric Society, the American Finance Association, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He is a past President of the Econometric Society and a past Vice President of the American Economic Association. He is currently the chairman of Economics Section of the National Academy of Sciences.

His father, Dr. R. Gaurth Hansen, was Professor of Biochemistry and former Provost of USU. His mother, Anna Lou Hansen, was a homemaker and active volunteer in Logan, and now resides in St. George. Dr. Hansen is married to Dr. Grace Tsiang and they have a son, Peter.

John R. Miller

John R. Miller reinvented the United States beef industry using his leadership and operating expertise to build several successful businesses.

Spending his youth in Hyrum, Utah, near his grandfather’s meatpacking company, Mr. Miller’s career in the beef industry would become his family legacy. After graduating from Utah State University in 1977 with a bachelor’s in history, Mr. Miller began his professional career with the family business working as the general manager for American Commodities. Two years later, in 1979, Mr. Miller became CEO of the Miller group of companies, including E.A. Miller and Sons Packing Company, Miller Brothers Trucking Company, Interstate Feeders and American Commodities International. Working in that capacity until 1987, Mr. Miller grew the company from $100 million in sales in 1979 to more than $1.1 billion in sales in 1986.

After the family business was sold to ConAgra in 1987, Mr. Miller’s success as a strong leader allowed him to further his career by moving on to become the CEO and president of Armour Food Company in Omaha, Nebraska. After orchestrating a merger between Armour and the ConAgra owned Swift-Eckrich, Mr. Miller acquired two large Midwest meat companies in 1991 to form the multi-billion dollar National Beef Packing Company in Kansas City, Missouri, where he held the title of CEO until 2009. Mr. Miller served on the board of directors and retained a consulting relationship with the company until 2011.

As a founding member and major shareholder of Wasatch Properties Management, a Salt Lake City, Utah, based private real estate company; Mr. Miller actively participates in properties located in six western states. He is also a founding member of Woodbury Strategic Partners and Salamere Captial and is a director and major shareholder of Tower Group Holdings. An avid history buff, Mr. Miller is also a licensed IFR pilot.

Mr. Miller is married to Victoria and the couple has six children and four grandchildren.

Contact: Maren Cartwright, 435-797-1355,

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