Honorary Degree Recipients


Dr. Patricia Okker
Former New College of Florida President
Commencement Speaker

Dr. Patricia Okker joined the University of Missouri as an assistant professor of English in 1990. She was promoted to full professor in 2004, a year after winning the William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence. From 2005 to 2011, Okker chaired the English Department. She then moved to the Provost’s Office, where she developed a new model for academic program reviews and led the university’s successful 10-year accreditation team. Beginning in 2017, Okker served as dean of the College of Arts and Science. In her role as dean, she raised the College’s graduation and retention rates by implementing a data-driven strategic plan for student success and increased the diversity of the faculty.

In July of 2021, she became the President of New College of Florida (NCF), a small public liberal arts college in Sarasota, Florida.  The School made headlines in January when seven new trustees (out of 13) were appointed with a mandate to transform the college into a conservative school similar to Hillsdale College, a private conservative Christian college in Michigan. At its first meeting, the newly constituted Board of Trustees fired Dr. Okker, who had been in the office nineteen months. At its second meeting, the Board of Trustees abolished NCF’s Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence, which handles the college’s diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. 

Her teaching and research interests include 19th-century American literature, American women writers, American periodicals, career preparation in the liberal arts, and writing and wellness. Okker holds three degrees in English language and literature: a bachelor’s degree with honors from Allegheny College, a master’s degree with distinction from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Joe Dwinell '82
The Boston Herald 
Honorary Doctor of Journalism 

Joe Dwinell is a 1982 graduate of North Adams State College (MCLA) and earned a master's degree in journalism from Boston University in 1988. He is now the executive editor of the Boston Herald, where he has worked for the past 18 years as both an editor and investigative/enterprise reporter. He was previously an editor and reporter at MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Massachusetts, where he won numerous regional writing and editing awards. He was also a nightly on-air contributor to the former WB56/Boston "Ten O'Clock News" show and has appeared on CNN, Fox, CBS, MSNBC, ABC and other cable and radio shows as a segment guest.


Brian and Vikki Fairbank 
The Fairbank Group
Honorary Doctors of Public Service

Brian Fairbank is chairman of The Fairbank Group, whose portfolio of properties includes Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Cranmore Mountain Resort, and Bromley Mountain Ski Resort. Brian has served on the board of Berkshire Health Systems for 12 years and has been the moderator for the town of Hancock for 45 years. In 2006, Brian established a donor-advised fund with Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, allowing his family to direct gifts to the charities and causes they support. Both Brian and Vikki have been longtime supporters of MCLA, its programs, and its students. 

Kenneth Turner 
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center
Honorary Doctor of Science

Kenneth Turner is president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), an economic development and investment agency dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the life sciences in Massachusetts. He directs and oversees the center’s operations, investment strategy, programs, and partnerships.
Prior to joining the MLSC, Turner served as director of diversity and inclusion/compliance with the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport). He oversaw and managed Massport’s multiple diversity programs, including business and supplier diversity, workforce diversity, and airport concessions, as well as all compliance initiatives associated with the Authority’s disadvantaged/minority/women business enterprise programs.

Prior to this, Turner served as deputy secretary for administration and finance for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services. He has more than 20 years of general management and executive experience in Fortune 100 media and package goods companies, including having served as senior vice president of emerging markets at AOL Time Warner and having held marketing positions at Hallmark Cards and Hasbro Toys.

A retired U.S. Navy Captain and submarine nuclear weapons system officer with 26 years of service, Turner holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge.