Topics: Administrative, College of Fine Arts, Scholarships, Athletics

April 24, 2012

Renowned actress Sutton Foster, winner of two prestigious Tony Awards for her Broadway performances, will deliver the address at Ball State University's annual Spring Commencement on Saturday, May 5, at 10 a.m. The university will confer 2,950 degrees on the Arts Terrace.

Foster will receive an honorary doctor of arts degree. Her work in musical theater has been recognized by two Tony Awards plus three other Tony nominations, as well as three Outer Critics Circle Awards, two Fred Astaire Awards and two Drama Desk Awards. She also is an accomplished singer who has recorded two solo albums and appeared at Carnegie Hall, as well as an actress who recently secured a role on an ABC Family pilot, and has appeared on television shows from Johnny and the Sprites to The Flight of the Conchords and from Law and Order: Special Victims Unit to Sesame Street.

Foster has been actively engaged with Ball State students for several years. Her involvement includes teaching classes at Ball State, mentoring the interdisciplinary team that wrote the musical "The Circus in Winter" and co-directing a student production of "The Drowsy Chaperone."

Hoosier entrepreneur, philanthropist, and Ball State benefactor Leland Boren also will receive an honorary degree, a doctor of laws, in recognition of his successful career in business and his philanthropic endeavors.

Boren began his career in 1945 at The Pierce Governor Company.  In 1971, he merged The Pierce Company with Avis Industrial Corporation and has served as president and chief executive officer ever since. Avis now is a holding company for 10 manufacturing facilities in the United States, Mexico and Canada. While he continues to own and operate Avis, Boren also is president of PHD Inc. in Fort Wayne, Ind., with manufacturing operations in Fort Wayne and Huntington.

Boren has worked with a myriad of industries ranging from manufacturing to banking to cattle ranching to music. Boren was chairman, CEO and majority shareholder of Citizens Banking Company in Anderson until the bank sold to what is now KeyCorp. His entrepreneurial drive and passion for music led him to work with gospel musician Bill Gaither to launch Spring Hill Records, and in 1997, Entrepreneur magazine ranked them among the top 75 American entrepreneurs.

He and his late wife, LaRita, founded The Boren Foundation, a family foundation that has provided and continues to provide countless grants for the benefit of primary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education. The foundation's impact is felt in east central Indiana and across the state.

Three Indiana governors have named him a Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor governors have bestowed upon Indiana citizens, for his achievements and positive influence.

At Ball State, he and Mrs. Boren were benefactors of more than 60 Bold Celebration Scholarships and other merit awards. Members of the Founders Society, the Borens invested in freshman merit scholarships, the nationally ranked entrepreneurship program, establishment of an endowed memorial scholarship in journalism, Teachers College, and Ball State's public radio and television programs. They have also enhanced the David Owsley Museum of Art with artwork from their fine art collection.

Boren most recently provided significant support for two Ball State programs that serve children with autism spectrum disorders while advancing autism research.

Also honored at commencement will be Bill Richards, who will receive the President's Medal of Distinction. Richards, a successful head men's tennis coach at Ball State for 40 seasons, has proven his effectiveness as a leader and loyalty to the program and the university — making him the leader of one of the most successful programs in the history of Ball State athletics.

Richards has garnered a plethora of awards and honors and is the most winning men's tennis coach in Ball State and Mid-American Conference (MAC) history. This season, he passed two major milestones, reaching 600 overall career victories and 200 overall MAC victories. During his career, he has led the team to 19 MAC regular season championships and 17 tournament championships, including the 2011 MAC Tournament. His teams have made seven NCAA tournament appearances, and he's coached 16 undefeated MAC seasons.

A native of Sturgis, Mich., Richards was an outstanding player at Western Michigan University and graduated in 1970. He earned a master's degree in health and physical education from Bowling Green University, where he served as a graduate assistant, in 1971. He was the head tennis coach at Portage Central High School in Michigan for one year before his appointment at Ball State.

Spring Commencement on the Fine Arts Terrace overlooking the Quadrangle is among the university's greatest traditions, and past events have been graced by the presence of U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar; Richard Linnehan, four times an astronaut on NASA space shuttles; Pulitzer Prize winner David Broder; Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, among others.  The speaker at last May's commencement was Steve Kroft, senior correspondent for CBS' "60 Minutes."

By Joan Todd, Executive Director of Public Relations