The USI Board of Trustees approved the conferral of honorary doctoral degrees to Dr. Linda L. M. Bennett, Dr. Stephen Bennett and Betty J. Worthington at a regular meeting on Thursday, January 10 in Indianapolis. All recipients will be recognized and be presented their degrees at the spring 2019 Graduate Commencement Ceremony on Friday, April 26.
Dr. Linda L. M. Bennett, USI president emerita, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Bennett became president in July 2009, after serving as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs since 2003. She served as the third USI president for nine years before retiring in 2018. Bennett led initiatives at USI focused on enrollment and retention management, outreach and engagement, faculty development, the retention of intellectual capital, accreditation renewal, and long-range strategic planning.
An active civic leader, Bennett has contributed to a variety of organizations, including serving as chair of the WNIN Public Broadcasting Board of Directors as well as working with the Deaconess Health Systems Board of Directors, American Red Cross, Mayor’s Diversity Lecture Series, Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, Welborn Baptist Foundation, Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana, the Mayor’s Education Roundtable and the Rotary Club of Evansville. In 2016, she received the Indiana Commission for Women Torchbearer Award and Trailblazer Award and was named a Sagamore of the Wabash in 2018. Bennett lives in Evansville with her husband Dr. Stephen Bennett and continues supporting the community and the University.
Dr. Stephen E. Bennett, retired professor of political science and author, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for his dedication to higher education, establishment of presidential, academic and athletic scholarships and his service to USI from 2003 to 2018.
Betty J. Worthington, longtime supporter of USI, will also receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Worthington has served as a director on the USI/New Harmony Foundation Board and is a champion of the arts, New Harmony and the University.
First endowed professorship established in College of Nursing and Health Professions
The Board also heard a report that the University of Southern Indiana Foundation has received a $1.35 million leadership gift from the estate of the late Hershel B. Whitney to USI’s College of Nursing and Health Professions.
The leadership gift includes $1.1 million for the establishment of the Hershel B. Whitney Professorship in Gerontology and a $250,000 endowment that will provide unrestricted funding for USI’s Occupational Therapy Program.
“This leadership gift is another indication of how more and more people are becoming aware of the good work accomplished at USI,” said USI President Ronald S. Rochon. “To invest in the University at such a significant level is a testament to Mr. Whitney’s thoughtful planning and to the high caliber of our faculty and programs. We are profoundly grateful.”
Dr. Katherine Ehlman, associate professor of gerontology and director of USI’s Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness, has been named the inaugural holder of the Hershel B. Whitney Professorship in Gerontology. As a faculty member and the director of the Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness, Ehlman encourages leadership, development and enhancement among students, colleagues and professionals within the field of gerontology, while inspiring creativity in addressing issues impacting the elder population. She is involved in research in the areas of nursing home quality, dementia and student attitudes on aging, and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles on these subjects. Ehlman has helped to secure more than $1.3 million in internal and external grant funding for related projects. She is a certified health education specialist, a certified dementia care trainer, and is a licensed Indiana health facilities administrator.
Also in recognition of this gift, the Hershel B. Whitney Occupational Therapy Lab will be named in the USI facilities within the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences in downtown Evansville.
“This generous gift comes at an exciting time for the College of Nursing and Health Professions and USI. Our innovative work in the field of gerontology is garnering attention from national and global experts,” said Dr. Ann White, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions. “The support we have received from the Hershel B. Whitney trust will accelerate our progress and will allow Dr. Ehlman to build upon her already stellar career and recognition for her expertise in this field. With this funding, our Occupational Therapy Program will now have one of the most advanced OT labs in the state of Indiana. We are excited about the positive opportunities yet to come as a result.”
Mr. Whitney resided in Indianapolis and was employed with Eli Lilly and Company until his retirement. Following his death in 2015, the Hershel B. Whitney Charitable Trust selected the University of Southern Indiana as the appropriate venue to make a positive impact on programs that enhance the care and support of our aging population.