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Ternus, Ruans to receive honorary degrees at Drake commencement 

April 29, 2015

Drake University will award 1,143 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees at its 2015 commencement ceremonies to be held Friday, May 15, and Saturday, May 16, in The Knapp Center, 2525 Forest Ave.

Former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Iowa community leaders and philanthropists John and Janis Ruan will receive honorary degrees at the 138th Commencement of Drake University for bachelor’s degree recipients on Saturday, May 16.

Other highlights of the ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m., include a special musical performance by President David Maxwell, who will retire on June 30 after 16 years at the University, and friends.

“As we celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of our graduating class of 2015, it is an honor to recognize as well Marsha Ternus, John Ruan, and Janis Ruan for their extraordinary contributions to Drake, to Des Moines, and to our nation,” Maxwell said. “Personally and professionally, they exemplify the aspirations of Drake’s mission statement to prepare students for meaningful personal lives, professional accomplishment and responsible global citizenship.”

Ternus, a 1977 graduate of Drake Law School, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws in recognition of her commitment to judicial independence and advocacy for responsible global and civic citizenship.

Appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1993 by Gov. Terry Branstad, Ternus became only the second woman to sit on the state's highest court. In 2007 she became the first woman to serve as the Iowa Chief Justice. During her judicial career she encouraged court efforts to improve the lives of children through the justice system, increase access to justice, and protect judicial independence and impartiality.

Ternus currently serves as director of the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement, where her enthusiasm, vision, and insight have helped to shape the role the nonpartisan institute plays on campus, in the community, throughout Iowa, and across the nation.

John Ruan III and Janis Ruan will be honored for their outstanding commitment to elevating the well-being of the people in Central Iowa through professional, personal, and philanthropic projects.

John Ruan III will receive a Doctor of Business Administration for his excellence in executive leadership, fostering the growth and success of Ruan Transportation Management Systems, Bankers Trust Company, BTC Financial Corporation, and other organizations.

Ruan has been a strong business voice for Central Iowa at home and on the national stage, having recently served as chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as on the boards of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Downtown Community Alliance, and the Iowa Business Council.

He has provided leadership in advocacy and philanthropy through organizations such as the John Ruan Foundation Trust, which funds arts, culture, and civic projects in Des Moines. He has been a friend of Drake University, providing resources through the Ruan Trust and collaborating on events surrounding the World Food Prize Symposium, greatly enhancing the student experience. His continued support of the World Food Prize has placed Greater Des Moines on the global economic development map for agriculture and the biosciences.

Janis Ruan will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of her leadership in the areas of city beautification and social advocacy. She provided the driving force behind the physical beautification efforts on Fleur Drive and Ingersoll Avenue, was a leader in the design process for the World Food Prize building and garden, and chaired the fund drive to renovate the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.

She has made an impact on the region as an active volunteer on the boards of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, Salisbury House, Keep Iowa Beautiful, Restoration Ingersoll, and other organizations, and championing additional nonprofit causes across Central Iowa. Janis is also a member of the Bucksbaum Distinguished Lecture Committee at Drake University.

Honorary degree recipients were selected by the Honorary Degree and Drake Medal Committee, and approved by the Faculty Senate and Board of Trustees.

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Commencement ceremonies and activities to honor graduates

Drake University will provide live and archived streaming video coverage of all four ceremonies. Live coverage will begin approximately 30 minutes prior to the start of each ceremony at www.drake.edu/stream. The schedule of events is as follows:

Friday, May 15 — Hooding Ceremony for Pharmacy Graduates, 4 p.m., at which 96 degrees will be awarded. The program includes a keynote address by 2014-15 College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Teacher of the Year James Sacco and a speech by Class of 2015 student representatives Benjamin Jagow of Port Washington, Wis., Kevin Betthauser of Tomah, Wis., and Connor Birkel of Elmwood, Wis.

Friday, May 15 — Drake Law School Commencement, 7 p.m.; 108 degrees will be awarded. Larry Eisenhauer, former chief judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals, will deliver the keynote address.

Saturday, May 16 — The 138th Commencement Ceremony for bachelor’s degree recipients, 10 a.m.; 660 degrees will be awarded. Speakers will be Drake University President David Maxwell; Annelise Tarnowski of New Hope, Minn., winner of the 2015 Oreon E. Scott Outstanding Senior Award; and honorary degree recipients Marsha Ternus and John Ruan III.

Saturday, May 16 — The 138th Commencement Ceremony for graduate and doctoral degree recipients, 2 p.m.; 279 degrees will be awarded. President David Maxwell will speak alongside Michael Gartner, storied journalist, businessman, and principal owner of the Iowa Cubs.

President David Maxwell and his wife, Madeleine, will host a President's Reception for all graduates and their families from 4:30-6 p.m. Friday, May 15, in Parents Hall, Olmsted Center, 2875 University Ave. There is no charge, and attire is casual.

A commencement lunch for graduates and their families will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16, in Quad Creek Cafe, Hubbell Dining Hall, 1315 30th St. For questions about commencement lunch, contact the Office of the President at 1-800-44-DRAKE, extension 2191.

More information about commencement ceremonies is available at www.drake.edu/commencement.