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Honorary Degrees and Commencement Speakers Announced

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Bob Chapek, chairperson of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and Andrew Liveris, chairperson and CEO of The Dow Chemical Co., will speak at Michigan State University’s commencement ceremonies on May 8.

Chapek, an MSU alumnus, will address undergraduates at the 1 p.m. convocation, which will be held at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center, 534 Birch Road. He will receive an honorary doctorate of business. Also at that ceremony, Daniel Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, will receive an honorary doctorate of business. In addition, Carlotta LaNier, president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation, will receive an honorary doctorate of laws.

Later that day, Liveris will address advanced degree candidates at 3:30 p.m., also at the Breslin Center. He will receive an honorary doctorate of engineering.

“We’re pleased to welcome Bob Chapek back to campus. He’s a successful alumnus whose story will inspire graduates and prepare them for their next journey,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “At the same time, we’re honored that Andrew Liveris, the visionary chief executive of one of the world’s largest and most innovative science and technology companies, will join us. Both are examples of the hard work and dedication that define Spartans.”

Bios of the speakers and honorary degree recipients follow.

Chapek oversees Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ travel and leisure businesses, leading a team of more than 130,000 people.

Prior to being named chairperson in February, Chapek served as president of Disney Consumer Products, handling licensing and commercialization of four Walt Disney brands: Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel. He’s also worked as president of distribution for The Walt Disney Studios, managing the company’s film content distribution strategy, and as president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

Before his 20-plus-year career with Disney, Chapek worked in brand management at H.J. Heinz Co. and in advertising at J. Walter Thompson.

He earned his master’s of business administration from MSU and his bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Indiana University Bloomington.

A 39-year veteran of Dow, Liveris’ career has spanned the world with roles in manufacturing, engineering and general management. During more than a decade as Dow’s CEO, he has transformed an old-line cyclical chemicals manufacturer into a global technology powerhouse, innovating the intersections of the sciences and society.

Liveris is the author of “Make It in America,” a comprehensive set of policy solutions and business strategies to achieve an advanced manufacturing economy. As co-chairperson of President Barack Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee and in collaboration with governments around the world, Liveris has worked to empower nations with clear policy roadmaps toward advanced manufacturing and economic growth.

In addition to his work at Dow, Liveris sits on IBM’s board of directors, is vice chairperson of the Business Roundtable, an executive committee member and past chairperson of the U.S. Business Council and a member of the U.S. President’s Export Council. He is also a member of the board of trustees of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, California Institute of Technology and the U.S. Council for International Business.

Liveris was born in Darwin, Australia, and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from University of Queensland. He was conferred an honorary doctorate in science by his alma mater in 2005.

Since taking leadership of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in 2006, Loepp has led the company’s efforts to transform health care in Michigan. He also played a key role in modernizing the state’s health insurance regulatory system and led the transition of Blue Cross to a nonprofit mutual insurance company in January 2014.

Maintaining a long-standing commitment to Michigan’s core cities, Loepp has led sustained efforts to revitalize Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing, cities where the Blues are a major presence in terms of workforce and economic impact. In 2011 and 2012, the Blues moved 3,000 employees into downtown Detroit and now has more than 6,000 workers there.

Loepp served as chairperson of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The organization represents all 37 national Blues plans and covers more than 100 million Americans. In addition, Loepp is executive committee chairperson of the Downtown Detroit Partnership board and also serves as director for Business Leaders of Michigan.

During Loepp’s tenure, Blue Cross has been recognized on a national level for efforts to build a diverse and inclusive workforce. The Blues has also received state and national recognition for its supplier partnerships and community initiatives.

A former chairperson of the Detroit Regional Chamber and chairperson of the 2007 Mackinac Policy Conference, the Detroit News named Loepp a 2013 Michiganian of the Year.

At just 14 years old, LaNier was the youngest Little Rock Nine member to integrate Central High School, after which she and her follow members became “foot soldiers” for freedom.

She graduated from Central High School in 1960 and then attended MSU for two years. In 1968, LaNier graduated from Colorado State College (now University of Northern Colorado), from which she has an honorary doctorate and sits on its board of trustees.

Active in her community, LaNier is a member of the Denver Chapter of The Links Inc. and the Johnson Legacy Inc. board of directors.

In recognition of her brave efforts to fight racism, LaNier is the recipient of the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal and the Congressional Gold Medal. She’s also an inductee in the Colorado Woman’s Hall of Fame and the Girls Scouts Women of Distinction.

— Kristen Parker via MSU Today, photos provided

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