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Four Individuals to Receive Honorary Degrees at USU's 126th Commencement

Thursday, Apr. 25, 2013

USU commencement 2013 illustration, color guard
Samuel Alba, USU 2013 commencement honoree

Samuel Alba

Charlie Denson, USU 2013 commencement honoree

Charlie Denson

Orrin Hatch, USU 2013 commencement honoree

Orrin Hatch

Mathana Santiwat, USU 2013 commencement honoree

Mathana Santiwat

Utah State University welcomes four distinguished individuals to receive honorary degrees during its 126th graduation ceremony.

Those receiving honorary degrees are Samuel Alba, retired United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Utah; Charlie Denson, president of Nike Brand; Orrin Hatch, Utah senator and the most senior Republican in the United States Senate; and Mathana Santiwat, president of Bangkok University in Thailand.

The prominent individuals will receive honorary doctorates during the undergraduate ceremony May 4 at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan. Denson will be the commencement speaker.

USU President Stan L.Albrecht said honorary degrees are one of the most important ways the university has to recognize people for the commitment and sacrifices they have made to make positive changes in the world.

“All of these individuals have made their marks in a number of ways and in a number of fields, but all of them deserve honor for their passion and determination to serve others,” he said.

SAMUEL ALBA (Honorary Doctorate Recipient)

Utah State University alum Samuel Alba has had a long and storied career in the law profession. After establishing himself in both the public and private sectors, Alba was appointed as a United States Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for Utah.

During his time as Magistrate Judge, Alba was extremely well-respected and presided over a large and diverse roster of cases. He served as a Magistrate Judge for 20 years, five of which were spent serving as the Chief Magistrate Judge. Alba was the state of Utah’s first Latino federal judge.

Alba has extensive experience in handling both civil and criminal matters and began his career working with the Federal Public Defenders office in Arizona. He then went on to work with a personal injury and criminal defense firm and later joined the United States Attorney’s Office as a first assistant and chief of the criminal section. Alba followed his time with the U.S. Attorney’s office by returning to private practice where he focused on commercial litigation and white collar criminal defense cases in both state and federal courts. He was then appointed as a Magistrate Judge and after retiring from his appointment in June of 2012, Alba returned to private practice where he is currently a shareholder with Snow, Christensen and Martineau.

A product of an immigrant family that migrated from Mexico to find seasonal work in the United States, Alba’s parents saw to it that he and his siblings were well educated. After settling in the West, Alba attended USU where, in 1969, he graduated with a bachelor’s in political science. He then went on to earn a Juris Doctorate from Arizona State University’s Law School in 1972.

Alba’s prominence and success in the field of law garnered him many accolades over the years. In 2005, the Utah Minority Bar Association honored him as one of the first 50 minority lawyers in Utah and, in 2009, Alba was included in Latinos in Utah, a book recognizing the contributions made by Latinos in the state of Utah. Alba delivered a speech in 2010 on “The Changing Face of Law in Latin America,” as part of USU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences Distinguished Alumni Speaker series. In 2013, Alba was named as one of Utah’s Legal Elite in the area of Criminal Law by Utah Business Magazine.

CHARLIE DENSON (Honorary Doctorate Recipient and Commencement Speaker)

As president of the Nike Brand Charlie Denson is responsible for leading the strategy of the world’s most distinctive, authentic and connected brand in sports.

Denson oversees all aspects of the global direction for the company’s consumer categories, including Actions Sports, Basketball, Football (Soccer), Men’s Training, Running, Sportswear and Women’s Training, as well as the Jordan Brand and Nike Golf.

His career at Nike spans more than 30 years. After graduating from Utah State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1978, Denson started as an assistant store manager of “The Athletics Department,” Nike’s first retail store in Portland, Ore., in 1979. He quickly moved up the ranks and has held many positions over the years, including time as vice president of United States and European sales and as general manager of Nike USA.

An innovator in developing sales and distribution strategies, Denson has been a driving force in Nike’s global growth as the company has expanded into approximately 190 countries. In particular, he pioneered Nike’s growth in China, India and Brazil. In fiscal year 2012, Nike Brand revenues surpassed $21 billion, a growth of 16 percent.

An avid Aggie fan, he was instrumental in unveiling Utah State’s new athletic logo in the spring of 2012. The university worked with Nike in collaboration on a 15-month re-branding campaign that was made possible through Denson’s support as well as the longstanding association between Utah State Athletics and Nike.

ORRIN HATCH (Honorary Doctorate Recipient)

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is known for his service, hard work and perseverance. As the senate representative for the state of Utah, Hatch is a leader in developing strong legislation that has impacted the lives of every American.

Now serving his seventh term, Sen. Hatch is the most senior Republican in the United States Senate. He is dedicated to Utah and fights for the ideals that define the state and its people.

His years of experience in the senate have allowed Sen. Hatch to develop several key areas of legislation for Utah and for the United States government. He currently serves on several committees and is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance. He is a member of the Judiciary Committee; the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; and the Joint Committee on Taxation. He also has the honor of serving on the board of directors for the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Hatch began his career as a lawyer after graduating from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s in history and from the University of Pittsburgh with a Juris Doctorate. He spent 14 years as a lawyer before being elected to the United States Senate in 1977.

MATHANA SANTIWAT (Honorary Doctorate Recipient)

Growing up in a traditional Thai household in Bangkok, Mathana Santiwat was formally educated at a private Catholic school for her early education and then moved on to a Thai preparatory school.

Santiwat currently serves as Bangkok University’s president and has enjoyed a productive career in higher education in Thailand. After graduating from Thammasat University with an undergraduate degree, Santiwat joined what was then known as Bangkok College. For three years she served as a lecturer’s assistant, where she aided senior students in their advanced accounting class and was the advisor for student activities, while also working as a part time Certified Public Accountant.

Deciding to further her education, Santiwat was given a scholarship from Bangkok College to attend Utah State University where she came in 1976 to earn a master’s in accounting. Her education and experience allowed Santiwat to return to Bangkok College where she was appointed dean of the School of Accounting. After serving as dean for three years, Santiwat was offered another scholarship to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Kansas where she studied higher education administration, with business administration as a minor.

On her return to Thailand in 1985, Santiwat resumed her position as dean of the School of Accounting at the newly named Bangkok University. It was a period of rapid growth for the university and Santiwat moved on to become the vice president for planning and development, a position she held for one year. She was then promoted to serve as vice president for academic affairs, a position she held for 19 years until she was appointed as Bangkok University’s president in May of 2007. Throughout her career in higher education, Santiwat has travelled the world as a visiting lecturer.

Santiwat helps women in Thailand, and worldwide, who find themselves victims of violence. She has served on the board for Thai Women Watch and, in 2000, was among the Thailand delegates to attend the annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York.

For more information on USU’s 126th Commencement, visit the commencement website.

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