Brimming with honors

Heitkamp, Lacy and Hamm latest to receive approval for honorary doctorate degrees from UND

Heidi Heitkamp and Ben Trapnell

Former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, aviation pioneer Clay Lacy and oil and gas businessman Harold Hamm, all friends of the University of North Dakota, are the latest to be approved to receive honorary degrees from the University. (Above) UND Associate Professor of Aviation Ben Trapnell (right) shares a laugh with Heitkamp during her visit to UND’s Robin Hall to learn about the school’s unmanned aircraft programs. Photo by Tyler Ingham/UND Today.

Three’s a crowd? Hardly when it comes to honorary degrees. More like “three makes proud.”

The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) late last week approved three new honorary degree candidates for the University of North Dakota.

They are former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a UND alumna and former state tax commissioner and attorney general for North Dakota; Clay Lacy, aviation pioneer and entrepreneur; and Harold Hamm, oil and gas businessman and namesake for UND’s Harold Hamm School of Geology & Geological Engineering.

No official date has yet been set when any of the three newest honorary degree candidates will receive their recognitions, which traditionally takes place during commencement ceremonies at UND. The candidates are eligible to receive their honors as early as UND’s next scheduled commencement ceremonies in May.

UND’s Spring General Commencement ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 11.

Solid reputations

In May, UND already is set to present an honorary degree to Hollywood actor and North Dakota native Josh Duhamel for his successful moviemaking career and his pride and longstanding advocacy for his home state. Duhamel actually was approved to receive his honorary doctorate in 2017, but it wasn’t until this year that the stars aligned and an official date was set for the presentation of his honor.

On Feb. 20, the University Senate approved a recommendation from its Honorary Degree Committee to forward Heitkamp, Lacy and Hamm’s names to the SBHE as candidates for a UND Honorary Doctorate Degree. The SBHE granted unanimous consent last Thursday.

“The reputations of Harold Hamm, Heidi Heitkamp and Clay Lacy reflect very favorably on the University of North Dakota and the State of North Dakota,” said UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo. “This is a wonderful way to recognize their dedication to UND and to North Dakota.”

The Hon. Kenneth Yalowitz, Matthew Rojansky, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Paul Sum

Former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., makes a point during a panel discussion about U.S.-Russia geopolitical relations in the Arctic at UND’s Clifford Hall in 2017. Heitkamp was flanked by U.S.-Russia experts from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (left) the Hon. Kenneth Yalowitz, a former U.S. ambassador to Belarus and Georgia, and Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. UND Professor of Political Science Paul Sum is seated to the right of Heitkamp. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

About the honorees

Heidi Heitkamp was raised in the town of Mantador, N.D., and graduated from UND with undergraduate degrees in history and political science (double major). In 1986, she was appointed Tax Commissioner of North Dakota, serving from 1988-1992. Heitkamp won election for Attorney General of North Dakota in 1992. Later, in 2012, Heitkamp would become the first woman from North Dakota elected to the U.S. Senate.

Throughout her career, Heitkamp has remained accessible to UND students and has supported the University’s mission in a variety of ways. She has regularly interacted in and out of the classroom with UND political science students. In 2013, Heitkamp delivered the annual Frank Wenstrom lecture to an audience of students, staff, and faculty and community members. Her message in that lecture was clear: Let’s make ourselves better people by standing up for others, by helping others, and that public service is a vehicle through which this can be effectively accomplished. Also, in 2017, Heitkamp worked with the University to host a special conference on Arctic policy. The day-long event brought national experts to UND to meet with students and faculty about issues and opportunities in the Arctic Circle.

Clay Lacy

Clay Lacy

Clay Lacy began serving on the UND Aerospace Foundation Board in 2006 and, through his superior knowledge of business aviation, provided valuable financial advice to save the Foundation millions of dollars. In addition, Lacy introduced new connections to the UND Aerospace that led to the establishment of new scholarship endowments for UND aviation students.

Lacy also is the founder and chief executive officer of Clay Lacy Aviation, established in 1968 as the first executive jet charter company in the western United States. His professional resume includes stints as an airline captain, military aviator, experimental test pilot, air race champion, world-record setter, aerial cinematographer and business aviation entrepreneur.

Lacy has flown more than 300 aircraft types, logged more than 50,000 flight hours and accumulated more hours flying turbine aircraft than any other pilot in the world.

Harold Hamm has provided significant service to UND that enhances student opportunities and learning. For example, he established two scholarships and two professorships at UND in 2012. Hamm’s generosity also provided new equipment and a virtual library for the newly established Harold Hamm School of Geology & Geological Engineering at UND.

Hamm founded his own oil company, Shelly Dean Oil Co., which in 1990 was renamed Continental Resources. Today, Continental is an independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company. Hamm serves as its chairman and CEO.

Hamm has paid a number of visits to UND over the years to meet with students and faculty of the College of Engineering & Mines and the nearby Laird Core and Sample Library, a state resource of geological records and samples, which have proved important for oil and gas exploration in western North Dakota.

Harold Hamm

Harold Hamm takes part in a ceremonial puck drop at a Fighting Hawks and Denver Pioneers hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Image courtesy of UND Athletics.

Longstanding tradition

Honorary degrees have long been awarded by institutions of higher learning to recognize lives of achievement. In 1909, UND presented its first honorary degree, a Doctor of Laws, to Webster Merrifield, who served the University for 25 years, including 18 as its third president. Honorary degrees from UND particularly recognize those with an association with the University or with the state and region; they also have been presented to such notables as philosopher Mortimer Adler, heart surgeon Michael DeBakey and President John F. Kennedy.