Austin College to Award Three Honorary Doctorates

Approximately 295 members of the Class of 2010 will receive Bachelor of Arts degrees along with 24 Master of Arts in Teaching degree candidates during Austin College Commencement exercises on May 16. At that ceremony, three individuals will receive honorary doctoral degrees in recognition of career achievements and contributions to their communities.

Honorary doctorate recipients are Kern Wildenthal commencement speaker and former president of UT Southwestern Medical Center, who will receive the Doctor of Science degree; Joe Clifford, baccalaureate speaker and senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, Texas, Doctor of Divinity; and Jay Evans, 1964 alumnus of Austin College who recruited hundreds of students to the College during nearly 40 years with the Office of Admission, Doctor of Humane Letters.

Kern WildenthalKern Wildenthal

Wildenthal’s 22-year presidency of UT Southwestern Medical Center marked the rise of the Dallas medical center into one of the premiere medical institutions in the world, all while growing and expanding in size, endowment, reputation, and achievement.

Many Austin College graduates have attended the UT Southwestern Medical School. In the past decade alone, 59 graduates have continued studies in medicine, research, and other health professions at UT Southwestern. In general, Austin College’s health sciences graduates enjoy great success, with medical and professional school acceptance rates across the country averaging more than 80 percent.

Although Wildenthal retired in 2008, he works on behalf of the medical school in philanthropic pursuits as president and CEO of the Southwestern Medical Foundation. He also remains on the medical school faculty as a tenured professor of internal medicine and physiology and holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery Jr., M.D., Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration and the Carolyn P. and Frank M. Ryburn, Jr., Distinguished Chair in Basic Research in Heart Disease.

The former president’s association with the medical school began many years ago when he enrolled in the school at 18. After graduating four years later, he traveled to New York for his internship in New York and returned to UT Southwestern for his residency in internal medicine residency and postdoctoral fellowship in cardiology. He continued study in cardiology at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and earned a Ph.D. in cell physiology at he University of Cambridge in England.

Wildenthal returned to Dallas to join the faculty of UT Southwestern Medical School as an assistant professor of internal medicine and physiology and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1971. Four years later, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship to conduct further research at Cambridge, the same year his Southwestern students voted him outstanding teacher of the year. Returning to UT Southwestern in 1976, he also took on administrative responsibilities, selected to serve as dean of the graduate school.

In 1980, at the age of 38, he was named dean of the medical school, the youngest dean of any American medical school, a distinction he still held when he was named president in 1986.

Upon his retirement, Wildenthal took on roles beyond the medical school. In summer 2008, he became president of the board for the Dallas Opera and, as a founding board member of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, continued work to bring that project to completion. Internationally, he continues to serve on the American advisory board of England’s University of Cambridge, as an honorary fellow of Cambridge’s Hughes Hall, and as a director of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. He also remains active in the International Society for Heart Research, for which he served previously as president of the North American Section.

Austin College Commencement exercises will be held Sunday, May 16, at 8:30 a.m. on the Clyde L. Hall Graduation Court on campus.

Joe CliffordJoe Clifford

Clifford has been senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas since December 2006. He previously held pastorates at Presbyterian churches in Alpharetta and Stockbridge, Georgia, and spent time as a youth director at Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church in McDonough, Georgia.

A 1988 graduate of Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in economics, he spent six years working in banking and finance in Nashville, Tennessee, before he answered a call to ordained ministry. He graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree and earned a Doctor of Ministry in preaching from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, completing a doctoral thesis “From Fear to Freedom: Self-differentiated Preaching in an Age of Anxiety,” an effort to consider leadership in the pulpit from a Family Systems Theory perspective.

He serves on the board of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, as well as the pastoral care advisory board of Children’s Medical Center, and the board of the Presbyterian Village North Foundation. Before moving to Dallas, he served on the Committee on Ministry for the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta and was a coordinating council member for the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta. He also served on the board of visitors for Thornwell Home and School in Clinton, South Carolina, as well as the board of Presbyterian College in Clinton.

A call to urban ministry led Clifford to Dallas, where the church congregation ministers through The Stewpot and global partnerships in Juarez, Mexico; Guguletu, South Africa; and Kerala, India.

The Austin College Baccalaureate service will be held Saturday, May 15, at 7:00 p.m. in Sid Richardson Center of the Robert T. Mason Athletic/Recreation Center.

Jay EvansJay Evans

A 1964 graduate of Austin College, Jay Evans served as a teacher of mathematics and choral music in Lamesa and Abilene, Texas, before returning to the College to begin a nearly 40-year career in admission in which he recruited hundreds of students as he traveled throughout Texas and beyond. When he retired in June 2008, Evans held the position of associate vice president for Institutional Enrollment.

He was involved in professional organizations that put him in contact with hundreds of high school counselors and teachers, active in Texas and nationally with the Association of College Admission Counseling. He was in demand as a speaker and served as a panelist on numerous occasions at the national conference. He also was elected to the National Nominating Committee for the College Entrance Examination Board, served as chairman of the National Presbyterian Scholarship Reading Committee, and served on the National College Board Guidance and Admission Assembly Council. Evans was honored by the Texas professional association in 2003 when he was awarded the Founders Award for service above and beyond the call of duty and received honorary lifetime membership upon his retirement.

Named a Distinguished Alumnus of Austin College in 1994, Evans received the Homer P. Rainey Award for Outstanding Achievement and Service to Austin College in 1997. The Rainey Award, presented by the Board of Trustees, is the highest honor bestowed upon Austin College faculty or staff members.

A lifelong Presbyterian, Jay is a member of First Presbyterian Church in Dallas and serves on the Congregational Care Committee.

Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges that Change Lives.