Oklahoma City University will award four honorary degrees and confer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees to more than 900 students during two ceremonies May 10 in the Henry J. Freede Wellness and Activity Center, located at N.W. 27th Street and Florida Avenue.
Former Governor George Nigh will give the commencement address during the undergraduate ceremony at 11 a.m., and music professor David Steffens, winner of this year’s OCU Outstanding Faculty Award, will give the address during the graduate commencement ceremony at 3 p.m.
During the undergraduate ceremony, the university will bestow honorary degrees to Nigh and three others — Oklahoma County Commissioner Willa Johnson, Bishop James E. Dorff and the Rev. Maggie Ball — and will give the Servant Leadership Award to Cathy and Phil Busey.
George Nigh served four terms as a state representative, four terms as lieutenant governor and was sworn in four times as governor, including two consecutive terms. He served in the U.S. Navy before earning a Bachelor of Arts from East Central State College.
He became the youngest member ever elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the youngest lieutenant governor in U.S. history. Nigh introduced legislation designating “Oklahoma!” as the official state song in 1953.
He was inducted in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1989 and received the Jim Thorpe Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992. He was named president of the University of Central Oklahoma in 1992, where he is credited with starting a building boom and bringing international attention to the university.
OCU will award Nigh an Honorary Doctor of Public Administration.
Willa Johnson will also receive an Honorary Doctor of Public Administration.
Johnson was elected Oklahoma County Commissioner in 2008 after representing Ward 7 on the Oklahoma City Council for 14 years. She was the first African-American woman elected to the Oklahoma City Council and has served the public for more than 20 years.
Johnson founded the First Tee of Metropolitan Oklahoma City junior golf program, and has worked to provide historical plaques to the Deep Deuce district and in placing Edwards Addition on the National Register of Historic Places. The Oklahoma History Center honored Johnson by placing her portrait in a gallery alongside other prominent African-Americans.
James E. Dorff will receive anHonorary Doctor of Divinity.
Dorff serves as bishop of the Southwest Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. He received a master’s degree in theology from the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.
Prior to his election as bishop, he served for 36 years as a pastor in the North Texas Conference. He was elected to the episcopacy in July 2008. He currently serves on the boards of Southern Methodist University, Southwestern University, Huston-Tillotson University, the Lydia Patterson Institute and on the executive board of Perkins School of Theology. Dorff serves on the Council of Bishops and is currently a member of the council’s executive committee.
The Rev. Margaret A. Ball is retiring this year as vice president of OCUUniversity-Church Relations after 10 years of service. She will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Divinity.
Ball has served in ministry for 30 years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from OCU in 1967 on a Great Plan Scholarship.She earned a Master of Divinity degree from Phillips Graduate Seminary in 1986 and was ordained an elder in the Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church in 1988.
Ball came to OCU from Bartlesville where she served as district superintendent for The United Methodist Church. Previously, she served as associate director of Skyline Urban Ministry, chaplain at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center and minister of care at United Methodist Church of the Servant, all in Oklahoma City. Ball was elected as a clergy delegate to the last four General and Jurisdictional Conferences of the United Methodist Church.
Cathy and Phil Busey have led philanthropic efforts for OCU and community organizations for several years, including establishing theEl Sistema Oklahoma inner city children’s music program.
Cathy Busey is a participating co-owner of Delaware Resource Group of Oklahoma, LLC (DRG) and the Busey Group of Companies with her husband, Phil. She oversees banking relationships and finance, and she contributes to daily operational decisions and corporate administration. Prior to joining DRG and the Busey Group, she was responsible for senior adult programming and church spiritual growth development at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.
Phil G. Busey has practiced law regionally and nationally for 25 years with expertise in Native American, commercial, corporate, government, public finance and contracting law. He received the U.S. Small Business Administration Oklahoma Business Person of the Year, and last year he received the Chairman's Award from OCU’s Meinders School of Business and was inducted into the Oklahoma Commerce and Industry Hall of Honor. He serves on several boards of directors and is active in civic and church organizations.
The Oklahoma City University School of Law will hold its graduation and hooding ceremony at 2 p.m. May 18 at the Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker.