Leaders in Arts, Business and Public Service to Receive Honorary Degrees
At the 2014 commencement celebration, six honorary degrees and an Alumni Achievement Award will be presented to leaders for their accomplishments in the arts, humanities, business and public service.

University Relations - Communications
May 14, 2014


The UA 2014 spring commencement celebration will be held at Arizona Stadium on May 17.
The UA 2014 spring commencement celebration will be held at Arizona Stadium on May 17.

The UA 2014 spring commencement celebration will be held at Arizona Stadium on May 17.

Commencement speaker Anna Maria Chávez and five other leaders in arts, humanities, business and public service will receive honorary degrees during the 2014 Commencement celebration at the University of Arizona on Saturday. In addition, the UA Alumni Association will present its Alumni Achievement Award.

The recipients of the honorary degrees are:

Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA

Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA

While growing up in Eloy, Arizona, Chávez joined the Girl Scouts. That pledge began a lifelong commitment to the national organization and to public service, particularly policy and advocacy work on behalf of vulnerable and underserved communities.

The first Latina to take the helm, Chávez is charged with leading the Girl Scouts in its mission to help girls and women discover the power of friendship, leadership and service. Her preparation was rigorous academic training and a professional commitment to federal and state service.

After her family moved from Eloy to Phoenix, Chávez decided to attend Yale University, having earned a full scholarship. There, she earned her bachelor's degree in American history. Chávez later earned her law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

Chávez went on to serve as the in-house counsel and assistant director for the Division of Aging and Community Services at the Arizona Department of Economic Security and as the deputy chief of staff for Urban Relations and Community Development under then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. While working with federal agencies, tribal governments and community organizations, Chávez advised on housing, economic development and issues affecting Hispanic communities, and she remains an ambitious, impassioned, and knowledgeable national advocate for community building and diversity.  

Chávez also has served in a range of capacities in Washington, D.C., including senior policy adviser to former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater, chief of staff to the deputy administrator at the U.S. Small Business Administration, legal counsel for the Federal Highway Administration and attorney adviser in the Office of the Counsel to the President.

Fletcher McCusker, CEO of Sinfonía HealthCare Corp. (Photo: Chris Mooney)

Fletcher McCusker, CEO of Sinfonía HealthCare Corp.

McCusker has spent four decades working to expand access to health care, advancing innovative health care companies and advocating for expanded economic development in the state of Arizona and elsewhere.

McCusker serves as chief executive officer of Sinfonía HealthCare Corp., a company devoted to providing home-based medical services as a financial alternative to out-of-home care.

His investment in Arizona is especially deeply rooted, and grounded in his family history. A third-generation Tucsonan, McCusker earned a degree in rehabilitation at the UA, later completing Arizona State University's public programs graduate degree program.

In collaboration with the UA, McCusker led a successful spinoff of the UA College of Pharmacy's Medication Management Center, licensing the medication management software and business model to create SinfoníaRx, a division of Sinfonía HealthCare Corp. serving more than 6 million patients. 

McCusker has been an important catalyst for downtown Tucson's development, having contributed greatly to its revitalization. In 2010, he relocated the headquarters of Sinfonía HealthCare Corp. to downtown and supported the renovation of a city block of abandoned buildings. McCusker also was involved in development initiatives to expand the arts district.

McCusker was the first contributor to make a significant financial commitment to the UA's National Institute for Civil Discourse, pledging $1 million to aid operating costs. He also provided the institute with an office space in downtown Tucson. He also has been an active supporter of the UA School of Government and Public Policy, where he has worked to connect students with opportunities in law, public policy, nonprofit management and other areas.

In 2005, he established the Providence Service Corporation Chair in the Eller College of Management's School of Public Administration and Policy to support research related to the collaborative management domain.

Scott Pask, Scenic Designer (Photo: Angela Carone)

Scott Pask, scenic designer

A UA alumnus, Pask is an internationally acclaimed, three-time Tony Award-winning scenic designer.

Raised in Yuma, Arizona, Pask received his bachelor's degree in architecture from the UA and a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University, which would eventually shape the multi-disciplinary nature of his work.

Based in New York City, Scott established a stellar reputation in scenic design as a young professional, drawing directly on his training in architecture and his deep understanding of the built environment. His work epitomizes the best of international, Broadway, off-Broadway and regional theatre.

Pask has won Tony Awards for his designs of the hit musical "The Book of Mormon," "The Coast of Utopia" at Lincoln Center and "The Pillowman." He also has won multiple Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Lucille Lortel, Bessie, and Henry Hewes awards.

Pask has created the scenic designs for the critically acclaimed revivals of "Pippin," "Nine," "Hair" and "La Cage aux Folles," and the hit plays "Take Me Out" and "The Coast of Utopia" – all Tony Award-winning productions.

Pask has also designed the sets for several Broadway shows and made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2008 designing Benjamin Brittens's "Peter Grimes," and his international work includes Cirque du Soleil's "Amaluna."

He attributes much of his success to his design education at the UA and maintains deep ties to both Arizona and the UA.

David Russell, classical guitarist

David Russell, classical guitarist

An acclaimed classical guitarist and Grammy Award winner, Russell has a highly regarded international reputation and is one of the most sought after soloists and teachers in his field.

Over the course of his international career, Russell has produced dozens of recordings, primarily for GHA Records and Telarc Records. He also has performed in concerts, recitals and music festivals and on stages in major cities around the world – including Los Angeles, New York, London, Tokyo, Madrid and Rome – and is esteemed for his captivating performances.

Born in Glasgow, Russell gained fame early in his career, twice earning the Julian Bream Guitar Prize. He went on to receive a special grant from the Spanish government to study with José Tomás, a Spanish classical guitarist and revolutionary figure in his field during the 20th century.

The superb quality of his craft has resulted in a range of other awards and honors for Russell. In 1997, he was named a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Music in London, which is granted to musicians who have distinguished themselves in the field. Then, in 2003, Russell received the Conservatory of the Balearics' Medal of Honor. In 2005, the Conservatory of Vigo named a new recital hall "Auditorio David Russell" in his honor.

Another significant milestone came in 2005 when Russell received a Grammy Award for best instrumental soloist in classical music for "Aire Latino."

Since 1981, Russell has maintained an invaluable connection with the UA School of Music, playing concerts and leading master classes with students of the University's' renowned classical guitar program.

Russell's connection with the UA resulted in Sanford "Sandy" and Phyllis Bolton making significant contributions to the University, culminating in a $3.1 million endowment to support faculty and enable generations of students to train in the highly regarded program, while also ensuring community access to performances.

Terrence (Terry) Valeski, Vice Chairman of T-Mobile in the Czech Republic

Terrence (Terry) Valeski, Vice Chairman of T-Mobile in the Czech Republic

Valeski has launched and operated five different wireless operations in various countries around the world and, over his career, has gained an exemplary reputation in international corporate leadership.

Valeski earned his liberal arts degree from the UA and, after graduating, entered the U.S. Army as a lieutenant. He began his business career at J. Walter Thompson, a New York-based advertising firm, and eventually became senior vice president.

During his studies at the UA, Valeski was highly involved in student-run organizations including the Chain Gang Junior Honorary and Blue Key National Honorary. He was also a Sigma Chi Beta Phi chapter member, a varsity member of the wrestling team and business manager of the Arizona Daily Wildcat, the student newspaper. He also earned the Rawson-McRae Award as the UA's outstanding sophomore man.

Valeski is chairman of the Eller College of Management's national board, which advises the college dean.

Valeski, an executive in residence at Eller, is highly committed to supporting faculty research and is particularly invested in helping the college retain top quality faculty. He has made a multiyear commitment in support of faculty excellence, which helps to support a professorship for one of Eller's top management and information systems faculty members.

Having been a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity during his time at the UA, Valeski was instrumental as a member of the Sigma Chi Alumni Association in reinstating the Beta Phi chapter of Sigma Chi at the UA. He also helped reintroduce the chapter's Mentoring and Career Development Program.

Malcolm H. Wiener, historian and archaeologist

Malcolm H. Wiener, historian and archaeologist

As a pre-eminent scholar, Wiener has greatly enhanced what is understood about the cultural and environmental history of Bronze Age societies and the collapse of ancient civilizations. His contributions have had a significant impact on research on archaeology and human-environment relations, in both the Mediterranean region and the world.

Wiener founded the Institute for Aegean Prehistory, which each year supports about 40 excavations and research projects across the Mediterranean Basin, including several projects led by scientists at the UA.

Born in Tsingtao, China, Wiener earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard College on a Naval ROTC scholarship. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Wiener earned his law degree from Harvard.

Working as a practicing attorney through the 1970s, he served as general counsel to the Archaeological Institute of America and also advised the U.S. State Department in the International Convention on Illicit Traffic in Antiquities.

In 1971, he founded what is now known as the Millburn Ridgefield Corp., an asset management firm. Wiener also founded the Institute for Aegean Prehistory and the Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Foundation, a major contributor to research on cancer and other diseases.

In honor of his legacy, the Wiener Laboratory at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens was inaugurated in 1992 to advance scientific techniques of investigation of archaeological materials, enable collaborative research and inform the public.

Alumni Achievement Award

Turki Faisal Al Rasheed, founder and chairman of Golden Grass Inc.

The 2014 Alumni Achievement Award will be presented to Turki Faisal Al Rasheed. This award is given to alumni who have attained prominence in their field of endeavor and demonstrated outstanding service to the UA.

Al Rasheed received his bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering from the UA in 1981, followed by master's and doctoral degrees from universities in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. Today, he is a prominent agribusiness leader, a champion of democratic processes and voting rights in the Middle East, and a proud alumnus who actively represents the UA in the Gulf region.

Al Rasheed is the founder and chairman of Golden Grass Inc., one of the largest agribusinesses in Saudi Arabia. He is currently an adjunct faculty member in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and frequently visits to give guest lectures on food safety and sustainable agriculture and its role in alleviating world hunger.

Al Rasheed also founded and chairs the Saudi Voters Center, a website encouraging Saudi nationals to be involved in social and political decisions that affect their country.

Al Rasheed has remained connected to the UA in many ways. He plays a critical role in the UA's activities in the Gulf region, advising on grant proposals, making introductions, and promoting academic and scientific collaboration. He was one of the founding members of the UA alumni network in the Gulf region and in 2013 hosted a reunion for Saudi alumni at his home.