Achievements, Messages Make Honorees Worthy of MSU’s Top Award

In a way, the individuals who a university chooses to honor say something about the institution itself.

Candidates for MSU’s honorary degrees must have contributed to Montana’s community, gained substantial recognition for their work and reflect well on the university. They should also offer an important message to MSU’s graduating seniors.

Students and community members can be proud of this year’s bestowal of honorary doctorate degrees to two distinguished women at this spring’s upcoming commencement. Diana Eck and Helene Michael are remarkable individuals most deserving of MSU’s highest honor.

Eck is a foremost scholar of religion based at Harvard University known for her leadership on the Pluralism Project, an initiative which began in 1991 to conduct research and raise awareness about religious diversity in the United States. She is the author of several books on religion.

She is also a Bozeman native, having written about growing up in the Gallatin Valley in her book “Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras.” Eck has won the National Humanities Award as well as the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award in 2003.

Michael, originally from Sweden, is a retired vice president at Boeing Co. and MSU alumnus. She graduated in 1985 with a degree in mechanical engineering technology, and worked at the company until 2011. Michael began at Boeing as a manufacturing engineer, eventually earning the position of vice president, overseeing 737 aircraft manufacturing operations.

Both honorees have roots in Montana and connections to MSU. Michael, in particular, continues to work with the university, serving on the Engineering Advisory Council and participating in several programs that support women in engineering. Eck’s mother was a longtime state representative, and her father taught at MSU as an architecture professor.

Their respective accomplishments provide exceptional examples for MSU’s graduates with a variety of professional or intellectual aspirations. Not only have the honorees led successful careers, but they each demonstrate commitment to important social causes — Eck through her work to foster religious tolerance and Michael through her advocacy for women in science.

These contributions and achievements make Eck and Michael worthy of MSU’s honorary degrees. It is exciting that the university is able to confer this year’s award to two individuals who carry strong messages and deep roots, not just deep pockets. They are two of Montana’s best.