Published: April 14, 2014

Global business execs take stage at MSU commencement

Contact(s): Kristen Parker Media Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709

Indian philanthropist Azim Premji, chairman of the global information technology company Wipro Ltd., and Norman Augustine, retired CEO and chairman of the aeronautics company Lockheed Martin Corp., will speak at Michigan State University’s spring commencement on May 2.

Premji will address undergraduates at the 1 p.m. convocation, which will be held at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center, One Birch Road. He will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Also at that ceremony, Shirley Weis, the first woman and nonphysician to serve as chief administrative officer of Mayo Clinic, will receive an honorary doctorate of science.

Later that day, Augustine will address advanced degree candidates at 3:30 p.m., also at the Breslin Center. He will receive an honorary doctorate of science. In addition, Clifton Haley, former president of MSU College of Law and former CEO of Budget Rent-a-Car Corp., will receive an honorary doctorate of laws.

“As Spartans, we work every day to make a difference around the world, so it’s fitting that Azim Premji, an international business executive, will address our graduates as they prepare to be global citizens,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “In addition, we’re privileged to have Norman Augustine, former acting secretary of the U.S. Army and a defense industry leader, on campus to share his leadership experiences. We’re proud to honor Shirley Weis for her innovative leadership and Clif Haley for the important role he played in the development of the MSU College of Law.”

Tickets are not required for either of the free public events. Twitter users may follow both ceremonies using #msugrad14.

Bios of the speakers and honorary degree recipients follow.

A graduate in electrical engineering from Stanford University, Premji has been at the helm of Wipro Ltd. since the late 1960s, turning what was then a $2 million hydrogenated cooking fat company into a $7 billion IT and research and development organization with a presence in 60 countries. The overall Wipro group revenues are $8 billion.

Premji has been driven by one basic idea: to build an organization deeply committed to values. He believes businesses have a social responsibility not only to employ ethical, fair and ecologically sensitive business practices, but also to actively engage in fundamental societal issues. As such, Wipro is committed to improving education in India and in the United States.

In 2001, Premji established the Azim Premji Foundation, with a vision of building a better society by enhancing quality and equity in India’s public school system. The foundation works in seven states of India, which have more than 300,000 schools. In 2011, the foundation established Azim Premji University, which focuses on programs in education and development.

Throughout the years, Premji has received numerous honors and accolades. Business Week listed him among the top 30 entrepreneurs in world history. Time listed him among the world’s 100 most influential people in April 2004 and again in April 2011, citing his contribution to improving the public education system in India. Premji is the first Indian recipient of the Faraday Medal. The Republic of France bestowed upon him the “Legion of Honor,” and in January 2011 he received Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award in India.

Upon retiring from his position as chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp., Augustine became a lecturer with the rank of professor at Princeton University.

Augustine’s career in aeronautics began in 1958 with the Douglas Aircraft Co., where he eventually became a chief engineer. He then served as assistant director of defense research and engineering in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and subsequently as assistant secretary of the Army and under secretary of the Army.

Augustine was the chairman and principal officer of the American Red Cross for nine years, as well as chairman of the Council of the National Academy of Engineering and the Aerospace Industries Association. He is the former president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and is a regent of the University System of Maryland, trustee emeritus of Johns Hopkins and a former member of the boards of trustees of Princeton and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Holding 31 honorary degrees, Augustine has been presented with the National Medal of Technology by the president and is a five-time recipient of the Department of Defense’s highest civilian decoration, the Distinguished Service Medal.

Weis recently retired from her position as chief administrative officer of Mayo Clinic, overseeing the operations of a $10 billion, 60,000-employee international health care system. She was a member of its board of governors and board of trustees.

Now, she is president of Weis Associates, a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, leadership development and management.

Under Weis’ management, the Mayo system became one of the most respected and effective in the world, earning her a national reputation for leadership and finance. In fact, Weis was named by Modern Healthcare Magazine as one of the top 25 most influential women in health care.

In addition, Weis was the chief operating officer for the Blue Cross HMO network in Lansing, and served on its board of directors prior to joining Mayo.

Weis is a member of the Women’s Business Leaders Advisory Board in Washington, D.C.; the American World Clinics Advisory Board; and the MSU College of Nursing Board of Visitors. She is a magna cum laude graduate of MSU's College of Nursing and holds a master’s degree in management from Aquinas College.

Currently a trustee and adjunct professor for MSU College of Law, Haley is the former president of the college and chairman of the board. As president, Haley led the effort that resulted in Detroit College of Law becoming MSU College of Law.

After graduating from Detroit College of Law, from which he also received an honorary degree, Haley held domestic and international management positions with Ford Motor Co. In addition, he is the former chairman and CEO of Budget Rent-a-Car Corp.

More than 40 years after earning his law degree in 1961, Haley returned to college and became MSU’s oldest undergrad in 2003, when he earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary humanities.


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