TWU honorary degrees

Nelda C. Stark
Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, 1957

Nelda C. Stark, a native of Orange, Texas, was the first recipient of Texas Woman’s University honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1957.  A graduate of the College of Industrial Arts (now TWU), Stark earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1930.  In 1955, she was appointed to the TWU Board of Regents serving until 1975, including six years as vice chair. 

Over the years, contributions from Stark have assisted with building enhancements, research and equipment, athletic scholarships, and endowed funds.  In 1966, TWU regents named the 21-story residence hall for Stark in recognition of her service and generosity to the university.  In 2004 the Stark Foundation made a $3 million dollar gift toward TWU’s state-of-the-art Houston Center which opened in 2006.  TWU’s College of Nursing was named the Nelda C. Stark College of Nursing in of honor of Stark’s generosity and dedication to the university. 

Mary Gibbs Jones 
Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, 1958

Committed to education, Mary Gibbs Jones, a Texas native, dedicated her life to humanitarian and philanthropic endeavors received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1958.  During World War II, Jones worked tirelessly to sell United States War Bonds and knitting for the Red Cross.  Jones was also instrumental in the construction of the Gibbs Memorial Library in Mexia which was built on her family’s old homestead.  Over the years she continued to support the library with regular donations to the library’s various book collections. 

An active member of the Board of Trustees of Houston Endowment, Inc., a foundation created in 1938 by Jones and her husband, Jessie Jones, to coordinate the couple’s philanthropies, has over the years included generous grants which have made growth of the University’s facilities possible.  In addition, over thirty colleges in Texas and throughout the South have received grants from the Endowment enabling them to offer scholarships in the fields of nursing, home economics, liberal arts and sciences, American history, pediatrics, physical therapy, nutritional research for geriatrics, teacher training, and business.  The many scholarships that bear the name of Mary Gibbs Jones are all for women.

Edith Alderman Deen
Honorary Doctor of Letters degree, 1959

Edith Alderman Deen of Weatherford, Texas, distinguished newspaper columnist and best-selling author, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in 1959.  In 1925, Deen began her newspaper career at the Fort Worth Press where she was women’s editor and columnist until 1954.  Deen authored numerous books including All the Women of the Bible (1955) which grew from a series of her published columns on women in the Bible. 

An alumna of Texas Woman’s University, she earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism when she was in her fifties and continued her studies earning a master’s degree in 1960.  Deen served on TWU’s Board of Regents for twelve years.  A former member of the Fort Worth City Council, Deen was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Texas Christian University in 1972.  She was a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and the first Texas Commission on the Status of Women, Deen was named the Altrusa Club’s First Lady of Fort Worth in 1949 and the Zonta Club’s executive woman of the year.  She was the recipient of the Women’s Civic Club Council’s distinguished Senior Citizen of Fort Worth Award. 

Lady Bird Johnson 
Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, 1964

Lady Bird Johnson, born Claudia Alta Taylor, married former President Lyndon Baines Johnson Nov. 17, 1934, in San Antonio, Texas.  She became the third woman to be honored by TWU with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1964.  Lady Bird, a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, authored A White House Diary, a record of her activities during her White House years.  While First Lady, she served as honorary chairman of the National Head Start Program.  In 1977, she was presented with this country’s highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom.  She received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1988.

Known for being proactive in her efforts to champion the environmental initiative, Lady Bird worked on numerous projects including the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.  In 1999, she was presented with the Native Plant Conservation Initiative Lifetime Achievement Award.  To mark her 70th birthday, she founded the National Wildflower Research Center in Austin, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the preservation and reestablishment of native plants in natural and planned landscapes. 

Marcella Perry
Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, 1976

A native of Houston, Marcella Perry’s life was one of diversity and variety. Awarded the honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1976, Perry served on TWU’s Board of Regents from 1971 to 1983 and was the second woman to be named chair. Her professional endeavors have spanned multiple areas including performance, business, and banking.  As a wife and mother, Perry had a sincere appreciation for learning.  She graduated from Reagan High School when she was 14.  She attended Rice University and spent her summers traveling to New York to study dance as the protégé of Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis.  Always the performer and advocate of the arts, Perry established the School of Dance in Houston.  However, when her father suddenly became ill Perry decided to learn the family business – banking. 

Perry has actively supported and contributed to civic, cultural, educational, and governmental activities throughout Houston.  She was a Port Commissioner for the Port of Houston Authority, board member of the Houston Chamber Commerce, and served as chairwoman of the fund raising for Houston’s ten million dollar parks projects.  She was a member of the Houston Municipal Art Commission, Beautify Texas Council, Texas Bankers Association, American Bankers Association, and United Savings and Loan League.  In 1972, she was awarded the Good Citizenship Award from the Houston chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Lucile Petry Leone
Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, 1979

Lucile Petry Leone received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1979.  From 1966 to 1971, she taught at TWU’s Houston campus and was associate dean of the Dallas campus.  Prior to joining the TWU faculty, Leone was chief nurse officer of the U.S. Public Health Service from 1949 to 1966.  She authored numerous articles in nursing, public health, hospital, medical, and education journals.  She also served as editor for 17 texts in the McGraw-Hill Nursing Series.   Leone also was head of other nursing programs at Johns Hopkins, Yale, and the University of Minnesota.  In addition, she worked for federal public health and medical services as well as served as assistant surgeon general.

During World War II, Leone directed the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps program. Between 1959 and 1963, she was president of the National League for Nursing.  For over 20 years, she served as a member on the panel of experts on nursing for the World Health Organization.

Marie M. Clay,
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, 2003

Aussie, Dr. Marie M. Clay, Dame Commander of the British Empire and Professor Emerita of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, was the only literacy scholar named as most influential over three decades – the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s – by her peers in the National Reading Conference.  She was the first woman appointed professor at the University of Auckland, and was the first non-American elected president of the International Reading Association.  In 2003, she was awarded TWU’s honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.  She is the pioneer of Reading Recovery which is considered one of the most important contributions to education.  Because of her concern for teachers who, despite well-designed classroom programs and good teaching, were unable to change the paths of progress for particular children, Dr. Clay began researching and developing the program.  Beginning in the late seventies, Reading Recovery was fully developed and trialed.  By 1983, it was implemented in New Zealand. 

Today, Reading Recovery is operating in most English-speaking countries and has been redeveloped for Spanish and French languages.  Dr. Clay served in an editorial and advisory capacity for many of the research projects carried out by 52 Reading Recovery trainers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  Texas Woman’s University is one of the 23 Reading Recovery University Training Centers in the United States, and is the only university in the world providing training for trainers of Descubriendo La Lectura, the Spanish-language version of Reading Recovery.

Richard E. Wainerdi
Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, 2004

Dr. Richard E. Wainerdi, CEO and chief operating officer of the Texas Medical Center (TMC), was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2004.  Since assuming the head leadership position at Texas Medical Center in 1984, Wainerdi has been instrumental in increasing the physical size, patient count, number of employees and students, and research grants at TMC.  In his role as an educator, he spent 20 years at Texas A&M University and founded the university’s Nuclear Science Center, the Activation Analysis Research Laboratory, the German Synfuels Technology Retrieval Program, the Center for Energy and Mineral Resources and a number of other programs, including the university’s College of Medicine.  He continues to serve as an adjunct professor at Texas A&M, Baylor College of Medicine, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and University of Texas Houston Health Science Center.

A petroleum engineering graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Wainerdi also earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in petroleum and natural gas engineering from Pennsylvania State University.  In addition, Wainerdi is a graduate of the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology and the Bronx High School of Science.

 Kaye Stripling
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, 2005

Kaye Stripling, former superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2005.  Stripling, a Distinguished Alumnae, was recognized for her leadership of the Houston ISD, the nation’s seventh-largest school district.  Under her direction, the district saw a six-fold increase in the number of exemplary schools, passed the largest bond issue in its history, and produced a 70 percent increase in students taking pre-college exams.

Dr. Stripling has been recognized as an advocate for teachers and children.  She also has been named a Champion for Children by Initiatives for Children Inc. and a Distinguished Education Leader by the State of Texas. In 2001, she established the Kaye Stripling Scholarship Fund, a private scholarship program unaffiliated with the Houston School district. The mission of the fund is to help HISD graduates achieve their goals of becoming elementary or secondary school teachers.  The fund provides two $10,000 scholarships each year.

Ann Williams,
Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree, 2008

Ann Williams, founder and artistic director of the world-renowned Dallas Black Dance Theatre, was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree in 2008.  Williams is a graduate of Prairie View A&M University and earned a Master of Arts degree in Dance and Related Arts from TWU.  She is a 1990 Distinguished Alumnae, a former member of the University’s Board of Regents from 2001 to 2007, the TWU Foundation, and a past president of the TWU Former Students Association.  In 2002, she was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 2005 she was honored at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as a part of the Masters of African-American Choreography series.  She also has been honored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Founded in 1976 by Williams, the Dallas Black Dance Theatre originated as a community-based and semi-professional organization. Under Williams’ direction, the theatre transformed in to a full professional dance company with an international reputation.  It is the oldest, continuously operating professional dance company in Dallas. Williams serves on the Board of Directors of Texas Ballet Theater and The International Association of Blacks in Dance.  She is a dance consultant and has served as a dance panelist for numerous organizations such as the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs, Texas Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.