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CSUB Announces Honorary Doctorate Recipients for 2019 Commencement Ceremony

President Lynnette Zelezny of California State University, Bakersfield, has announced two recipients will be awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters at CSUB’s spring 2019 commencement ceremony later this month.

Jon Van Boening, who as senior vice president of operations for Dignity Health’s Central California service area, has championed quality health care and greater access for thousands of Kern County residents over his distinguished career, joins social justice advocate Jane Elliott in earning the prestigious honor.

An alumnus of CSU Bakersfield, Jon Van Boening is respected throughout the community and the industry he serves for his innovative contributions in the advancement of health care and for providing Central Valley patients with the most innovative, compassionate care available. His accomplishments and leadership embody the commitment of the California State University (CSU) to bringing excellence in academic achievement.

Van Boening has served as president and chief executive officer of Bakersfield Memorial Hospital since 2001, and as the senior vice president of operations for Dignity Health’s Central California Service Area since 2012.

His commitment to the well-being of CSU Bakersfield is evident. He currently serves on the University’s Foundation Board as well as the School of Business Executive Advisory Board. He was instrumental in securing a Dignity Health sponsorship to help develop the first Family Nurse Practitioner Program at CSU Bakersfield and provides continued support to scholar-athletes as the official health care sponsor of CSU Bakersfield athletics. His leadership also has directed many generous gifts to CSUB.

Elliott is known in academic circles as the creator of the Blue-Brown discrimination-reducing exercise, developed in response to the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to explain the concept of racism. Her work showing how phenotype differences such as eye color are given social value has demonstrated to a general audience how irrational prejudice can be.

Her diversity training and advocacy has come at a great personal and professional price. As a result of her early work in her hometown of Riceville, Iowa, many of her neighbors and even some family members ostracized her over her work to improve race relations.

At the age of 85, she has been the subject of eight documentaries, continues to conduct race-relations workshops throughout the country, conducts many interviews, all with the goal of creating a just society for all citizens. Her videos continue to influence college students taking courses in psychology, sociology, child development, criminal justice and many other disciplines. These videos have served her mission, which is: “People are vicarious learners and can be influenced to know right from wrong.”

Nominations are submitted to the Office of the President. Honorees are chosen based on the Faculty Honorary Degree Committee, in consultation with the President.

Honorary degrees may be awarded to recognize achievements in all parts of the world and should represent an appropriate balance between local and non-local, and academic and non-academic recipients, and should represent a wide diversity of fields of endeavor; recipients must be distinguished in their respective fields and the eminence of persons nominated must be widely recognized. They must have demonstrated intellectual and humane values that are consistent with the aims of higher education and with the highest ideals of the person’s chosen fields; and service or benefaction to the University do not in themselves justify the awarding of honorary degrees.   

Nominees should reflect the values of CSUB and have a record of achievement that reflects the highest ideals of higher education. Preference may be given to candidates who have a history of leadership and support for CSUB and/or the people of Kern County.

Previous recipients of an honorary degree at CSUB have included Rayburn S. Dezember, Merle Haggard, Harvey Hall, George, Walter W. Stiern and Ben and Gayle Batey.

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