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DSU's "First couple" awarded top honors

August 30, 2016

Dakota State University President Dr. José-Marie Griffiths and her husband, Donald W. King, are likely the only university “first couple” honored weeks apart this summer with honorary degrees from their respective alma maters, University College London (UCL), London, England and the University of Wyoming (UW), Laramie, WY.

UCL awarded Griffiths an honorary doctorate in July for her “distinguished contributions to science, and her lifelong career in higher education, which has also spanned information and computational science.” University College London is recognized as one of the top multidisciplinary research university’s in the world and was founded in 1826 in London.

UCL’s president, Dr. Michael Arthur, pointed out to the audience that “the awarding of this honorary degree to Dr. Griffiths is not simply because of her accomplishments but also because of her shared values with the institution, and the way she has expressed those values throughout her various appointments and endeavors.”  He especially encouraged the female graduates in attendance to see Dr. Griffiths as a role model for women in science.  He noted that Dr. Griffiths has used her own professional roles to advance the careers of other women, and has been repeatedly recognized for this.  UCL also recounted how Griffiths work has put her in great demand while also attracting prolific research support, including contracts and grants with sixteen U.S. federal agencies, among them the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Science and Technology, NASA  NATO, UNESCO and the British Library Research and Development Division, as well as major corporations such as AT & T Bell Laboratories, IBM, Eastman Kodak, Johnson & Johnson, and Du Pont.  And Dr. Arthur recognized the national U.S. leadership role that Dr. Griffiths has played, with her several appointments to U.S. Presidential bodies, most recently to the National Science Board.

Born, raised and educated in England, Griffiths earned a B.Sc. degree in Physics with Information Science at UCL in 1973, followed by a Ph.D. in Information Science in 1977 and carried out post-doctoral work in Computer Science and Statistics.  She came to the U.S. early in her career, to teach at the University of California-Berkeley, and has remained in the States since, continuing to respond to requests for her leadership at various institutions in various positions.  She was appointed as president of Dakota State University in spring, 2015.

King was awarded his honorary doctoral degree in May at UW’s spring commencement.   Wyoming recognized King for his international contributions as a world-renowned statistician and information science pioneer. The University stated in their announcement of the award, “Through his career Donald W. King has led ground-breaking research studies with results that have transformed both the quantitative measures, models and evaluation methods used in information science and informatics, as well as the practices of the organizations that benefitted from the results of those studies.  Long before “big data” was even a theoretical concept, King was leading international, national, state and local studies on the economic analysis of information systems.”  One nominator wrote: “I am confident in saying that no other individual has contributed as much across all lines of government and private information clearinghouses, depositories, special libraries, public libraries, academic libraries, and public and private databases, as Don King.”

Born in Cheyenne during the Great Depression, King studied statistics at Wyoming, receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  In 1961, he co-founded Westat Inc., which has become one of the world’s leading private-sector statistical survey research organizations. He served as a high-level executive in a series of connected companies and became president of King Research Inc., which achieved prominence for information system evaluations. In 1997, he retired from the business world to concentrate on writing, lecturing and service.