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Five Individuals To Receive Honorary Degrees At Commencement

Five Individuals To Receive Honorary Degrees At Commencement

Four individuals will join Commencement speaker Fareed Zakaria, one of the nation's leading critical thinkers, in being awarded honorary degrees.

Four outstanding individuals will join University of Oklahoma Commencement speaker Fareed Zakaria, one of the nation's leading critical thinkers, in being awarded honorary degrees at OU’s 2013 Commencement Ceremony, scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, May 10, at The Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, 180 W. Brooks St.

In addition to Zakaria, the following will be awarded honorary degrees:

  • Tom W. Boyd, Professor of Philosophy,  who has impacted the lives of tens of thousands OU students during his more than 40 years of teaching at OU
  • Susan E. Brackett, D.D.S., M.S., Oklahoma City, prosthodontist and philanthropist, has provided leadership and service to the dental profession and enhanced the arts for OU students
  • Jan Marie Crawford of Denver, civic leader and supporter of higher education, promoted a sense of community at OU as director of Union Activities at the Oklahoma Memorial Union in the 1960s
  • and The Honorable Ralph G. Thompson, Oklahoma City, a leader in the federal judiciary, serving 32 years as a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma


Boyd, David Ross Boyd Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Professor of Religious Studies at OU, retired this semester after teaching at OU for more than 40 years. He taught philosophy at the university for 29 years, concentrating on the philosophy of religion, ethics and value theory. Before initially retiring in 1997, Boyd served as Kingfisher Chair of the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics. In 2002, he was talked out of retirement by President David L. Boren and enlisted for service in the new religious studies program. Boyd most recently taught as part of the retired professor program and served as a consultant to the program. 

Boyd’s current concentration is on the interplay of religions in a global context, the problem of religious pluralism, and the relation between culture and religion. He also studies the impact of religion on ethics. He seeks through his studies and teaching to understand and appreciate religion in its contemporary setting and in light of an emerging planetary culture. His writings, made up of articles and book chapters, have focused on the interface between religion and culture.

In addition to being presented nine teaching awards at the university, he was named recipient in 1996 of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Medal for Excellence in teaching at the college level. The award recognized Boyd for his many important contributions as an educator, role model and leader in the continuing pursuit of excellence in higher education in the state of Oklahoma. In October, Boyd was recognized at OU’s annual Ring Ceremony in honor of his longtime service to the university.

Brackett graduated from the OU College of Dentistry in1978, its third graduating class. After teaching at two different dental schools, she decided to pursue specialty training in the area of prosthodontics in 1985.

In 1987, Brackett received her certificate in fixed prosthodontics and a master of science degree from the University of Iowa. At that time, she returned to the OU College of Dentistry in the Department of Fixed Prosthodontics. In 1988, she presented her original research and won the Stanley D. Tylman Award, sponsored by the American Academy of Fixed Prosthodontics. She is the co-author of American Medical Writer’s Association award-winning textbook, Fundamentals of Tooth Preparation, as well the Fundamentals of Fixed Prosthodontics, third edition.

Brackett maintains active membership in a number of dental organizations. She is a diplomate of the American Board of Prosthodontics and a Fellow of the American College of Dentists. She also serves as a Fellow and secretary of the American College of Prosthodontists.

For 20 years, Brackett devoted her career to academics, including 16 years as a faculty member at the OU College of Dentistry. She currently maintains a part-time private practice limited to prosthodontics in Oklahoma City.

In 2009, Brackett was presented with the Regents’ Alumni Award, which honors individuals who have given generously of their time and service to the university. She serves on the Board of Visitors of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts and the Board of Trustees of the J. Dean Robertson Society of the College of Dentistry. Brackett and her husband have been loyal supporters of the OU School of Dance for several years. They have contributed to multiple programs including the Enrichment Fund, the Indian Ballerina Scholarship Fund, and the Ballet Russe Archives. In addition, they established a Distinguished Visiting Artist Chair in 2005.

As director of Union Activities at OU in the 1960s, Crawford enhanced and nurtured countless students’ learning through campus activities at home and abroad. She led a student group on a 15-country tour of Europe that included the first OU student trip to Russia, and also oversaw University Scandals productions as well as other university-sponsored concerts.

Crawford was one of the first students to study Higher Education Administration at OU, earning her master’s degree in that field in 1960.

For her support of the University College Student Learning Center, a room was named in her and her husband’s honor in 2009 in the Lissa and Cy Wagner Hall.

In 2011, she made a major gift to OU in honor of the special appreciation she feels for her alma mater and its students. The gift, made in her name and that of her late husband, Richard J. Crawford, who earned his doctorate in communication from OU, funded renovation of the University Club in the Oklahoma Memorial Union. Those renovations included aesthetic improvements to provide a welcoming environment and invite conversation, additional meeting spaces, and renovations to the dining and kitchen areas that allowed for menu expansion. In appreciation, the Oklahoma Memorial Union space occupied by the University Club was named in perpetuity as the Jan Marie and Richard J. Crawford University Club.  She noted at the time that the gift brought her full circle, as her Union Activities office was located very near to what is today the Leadership Conference Room.

Also at that time, Crawford made a gift to upgrade and maintain the Leadership Conference Room in the Student Affairs area of the Oklahoma Memorial Union and to renovate and purchase music equipment for the Music Practice Wing in the Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center.

Crawford is a member of OU’s Seed Sower Society.

After leaving OU, the Crawfords joined the faculty of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where she taught communication. Now a resident of Denver, Crawford is a member and former officer of the Board of Trustees for the National Repertory Orchestra and a current supporter of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

Thompson was appointed U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma in 1975 at age 40, making him one of the youngest federal judges in the nation. During his 32 years as a federal judge, he presided over a variety of civil and criminal cases, some with national implications. As chief judge of the court, the Western District Court was recognized nationally as one of the most efficient federal courts in the nation.

An Oklahoma City native, Thompson is the grandson of Dr. William Bennett Bizzell, OU’s fifth president. Thompson graduated from OU with a degree in business administration in 1956 and a law degree in 1961. He served two terms, from 1966 to 1970, in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He served 27 years in the U.S. Air Force, active and reserve.      

Thompson was elected president of the U.S. District Judges Association of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and named the 10th Circuit’s district judge representative to the Judicial Conference of the United States. From its 27 members, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist selected him as one of seven members of the conference’s executive committee, the policymaking arm of the federal judiciary. Rehnquist also appointed him as one of seven federal judges of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Thompson assumed senior status in 1999 and retired in August 2007. Upon retirement from the court, he was appointed as a Commissioner of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

Thompson is the recipient of numerous honors, including the OU Regents’ Alumni Award, OU’s Distinguished Service Award and the Journal Record’s Award for Distinguished Service. He has served as president of the OU Dads’ Association, chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee of OU’s Centennial, and as a founding and current member of OU’s Bizzell Library Society. He also serves on the boards of visitors of the OU Honors College and the OU College of Law.

A 34-year member of the OU President’s Associates, he sponsors two academic scholarships for OU students – the endowed Lee B. Thompson Sr. Law Scholarship and a College of Law Second Century Scholarship. He taught trial advocacy at Harvard Law School for 27 years and was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1995.