|Knox College will award honorary degrees to the chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, a poet, and a member of the White House staff during its Commencement exercises June 5.
Caterpillar chief Jim Owens, poet Kwame Dawes, and White House director Tina Tchen will be awarded honorary doctorates for their contributions to their professions. Tina Tchen will deliver the Commencement Address to the graduates.
"These individuals have distinguished themselves in their personal and professional lives. Each of them can be a role model for Knox graduates," said Knox President Roger L. Taylor. "I am looking forward to calling them honorary alumni of Knox College."
Knox will award Owens and Tchen the honorary degree Doctor of Laws. Knox will award Dawes the degree honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Jim Owens is chairman and chief executive officer of Caterpillar Inc., based in Peoria, Illinois. Caterpillar is the world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines.
Owens has served in his current positions with the company since February 1, 2004. Caterpillar has announced that Owens will step down as chief executive officer this summer and as chairman of the board this fall, when he will retire.
A native of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Owens joined Caterpillar in 1972 as a corporate economist. Three years later, he became chief economist of Caterpillar Overseas S.A. in Geneva, Switzerland.
Owens held managerial positions in Peoria in the Accounting and Product Source Planning Departments from 1980 to 1987. He became managing director of P.T. Natra Raya, Caterpillar's joint venture in Indonesia, in 1987 and held that position until 1990. That year, he was elected a corporate vice president and was named president of Solar Turbines Incorporated, a Caterpillar subsidiary in San Diego, California.
He returned to Peoria in 1993, becoming vice president and chief financial officer with administrative responsibility for Caterpillar's Corporate Services Division. Owens was chosen as a group president and member of Caterpillar's Executive Office in 1995.
A graduate of North Carolina State University with a doctorate in economics, Owens is a director of Alcoa Inc., IBM, the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is chairman of the Business Council and a member of the Business Roundtable, the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, and the board of trustees for North Carolina State University.
An acclaimed author and artist, Kwame Dawes is Distinguished Poet in Residence at the University of South Carolina, where he is also the Louis Frye Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts, and the founder and executive Director of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative. He is also director of the University of South Carolina Arts Institute and the programming director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, held annually in Jamaica.
Dawes has written numerous books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. His newest publications include "Back of Mountpeace," "So Much Things to Say: Anthology of Calabash Poets" (Editor), "Red: An Anthology of Black British Poetry" (Editor), "Bivouac: A Novel," and "Wheels," forthcoming from Peepal Tree Press. His poetry has won the British Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection, the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, and the Pushcart Prize, and in 2003 he served as judge of the National Book Award competition. Dawes's essays and critical articles on literature, theater and film have been published in The Washington Post, London Review of Books, Granta, Essence, World Literature Today, and Double Take Magazine. He is a regular blogger for the Poetry Foundation, and his blogs are available at www.poetryfoundation.org
Dawes is also an actor, playwright, and broadcaster. His plays have been produced by theatre companies worldwide, most recently his musical, "One Love," at the Lyric Hammersmith in London. His multimedia documentary, "Hope: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica," won a 2009 Emmy Award for New Approaches to News and Documentary Programming in Arts Lifestyle and Culture. The documentary is available online at livehopelove.com.
Dawes has performed in Europe, Africa, India, China, the Caribbean and North America, and has been featured in media in the Caribbean, Africa, United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden and the United States. A feature in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution noted his work both as a poet and as a researcher into the lives of African-Americans in South Carolina.
Born in Ghana, Dawes spent most of his childhood and early adult life in Jamaica. He has been a lead singer in a reggae band. His book "Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius" is a scholarly study of the lyrics of the famed reggae musician, while his book "Natural Mysticism: Towards a Reggae Aesthetic," is a critical examination of reggae music and literature.
Dawes has studied at the University of the West Indies at Mona, and has studied and taught in New Brunswick, Canada, on a Commonwealth Scholarship. He has taught at the University of South Carolina since 1992.
TINA M. TCHEN
Tina Tchen is Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, which considers itself "the open front door to the White House." The office coordinates White House events, arranges public speaking engagements for the President, Vice President and White House staff, and seeks public opinion on issues before the administration. It was previously known as the Office of Public Liaison.
Before being tapped to serve President Obama's administration, Tina Tchen was a prominent Chicago lawyer with the firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and a women's activist. She also has been appointed by President Obama to serve as executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. A long-time advocate for women's issues, Tchen has served as the state vice president of the National Organization for Women and worked successfully to help pass the Illinois Criminal Sexual Assault Act.
As a lawyer, Tchen has experience litigating cases in both state and federal courts. During her legal career, she has represented such public agencies as the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Illinois Department of Public Aid, and the Chicago Housing Authority. In 1992, she successfully represented the State of Illinois before the U.S. Supreme Court. Tchen earned a B.A. from Harvard University in 1978 and a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law in 1984.