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Lessons from Our Honorary Degree Recipients

Our commencement ceremonies at Northwood are built on tradition, weaving together symbolic and practical elements in celebration of the graduates’ new beginnings. One important tradition we observe is the recognition of our honorary degree recipients. These individuals, who embody the spirit of The Northwood Idea and our mission to develop future leaders of a global, free enterprise society, are inducted into the Gallery of Distinction and receive the Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

This year, we honor three respected business leaders who spoke or will speak at one of our commencement ceremonies either in Michigan or Texas.

Charlene Lake has a distinguished career with AT&T Services as senior vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility and chief sustainability officer. Charlene provides active leadership of the organization’s Peace Through Business® program, a program Northwood has been honored to host in the past, providing housing and meeting space for visiting entrepreneurs.

Jennifer Panning, a 1992 Northwood graduate, is president of Artisan Tile, Inc., a leading commercial ceramic tile and terrazzo manufacturer involved in notable projects in Southeast Michigan. A strong supporter of Northwood, Jennifer named an Artisan Tile endowed scholarship for marketing students and has provided tile products and services used in the recent E. W. Bennett Center renovations. Her investment in this University can be witnessed every day by simply strolling through Panning Pavilion.

John Benson comes to us from Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Company in Frankenmuth, Michigan, where he serves as CEO and chairman of the board of directors. Under John’s leadership, we recently announced a partnership with Frankenmuth Mutual in which Northwood will offer insurance risk management classes to area high school students for college credit. This program offers valuable business education experience for young students and addresses a need for insurance professionals in future years.

We welcome these outstanding leaders to our Northwood family and look forward to sharing in their accomplishments to come. We thank them for the example they set for our graduates and for all of us.

Have a wonderful weekend and please stop by one of the Michigan commencement ceremonies if you can.


Keith A. Pretty, J.D. President and CEO Northwood University 4000 Whiting Drive Midland, MI 48640 989.837.4203

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