U-Idaho Celebrates Honorary Degree Recipient and Doctoral Degree Pioneers

Tuesday, April 16 2013


MOSCOW, Idaho — The University of Idaho will present an honorary degree and recognize pioneers in two of the higher realms of education at the University of Idaho — doctorate in education and doctorate in philosophy — at spring commencement in Moscow on May 11. The ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. in the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center.

Honorary Degree


An honorary degree is awarded to a person deserving of honor by virtue of scholarly distinction, noteworthy public service or significant contributions to the state of Idaho. In the selection of candidates for honorary degrees, preference is given to those who are Idaho residents or University of Idaho graduates.

Harry Bettis will receive an honorary doctorate of administrative science degree. One of the state’s most distinctive and generous citizens, he is a fourth-generation Idahoan who, as a child, was sent by his parents to the California Preparatory School, a prestigious boarding school, and who graduated from Stanford with a degree in business. He soon returned to join the family endeavors. He took over the family ranch along the Wood River and has since been a cattleman with Idaho dirt on his boots and a signature cowboy hat atop his head. The operation has grown into a partnership with his three daughters.

Bettis’ business interests include banking and oil distribution. He is a great-grandson, on his father’s side, of C.W. Moore, founder of Idaho First National Bank. Bettis has served on the Idaho First National (now U.S. Bank) board of directors since 1971 and also has been on the board of directors of U.S. Bankcorp.

During his Stanford years, Bettis changed his middle name to Little to reflect his heritage on his mother’s side and honor the connection to his grandfather, Andrew Little, dubbed the “The Sheep King of Idaho.” It was Little, Bettis has said, who taught him how to work.

Bettis, who remains unpretentious and candid, also has continued a family tradition of channeling wealth into the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation, named for his great aunt. The foundation, of which he is president, is one of Idaho’s most powerful, supporting major programming for Idaho Public Television, as well as supporting programs, student scholarships and capital improvements at University of Idaho and other state universities. His service and contribution to the University of Idaho alone total more than $7 million.

Doctoral Degree Honorees


In 1962, Florence Aller obtained the university’s first doctoral degree in education with her thesis, “The role of the self concept in student marital adjustment.”

The next year, the university awarded its first five doctorate of philosophy degrees and its second doctoral degree in education. Being recognized at commencement this spring are: Newman H. Fisher (mathematics), Daniel E. George (chemistry), Bruce D. Gesner (chemistry), Richard A. Hermens (chemistry) and John A. Morford (educational administration). Dean E. Metter (zoology) passed away in 2001, and Aller died in 1993.

The late Aller, after obtaining her doctorate, became an assistant professor of home economics at the University of Idaho, where she focused her research on student marital adjustment and teenage marriage.

Her dissertation was later published as an article, “Some Factors in Marital Adjustment and Academic Achievement of Married Students,” in the March 1963 issue of what was then the Personnel and Guidance Journal (currently the Journal of Counseling & Development).
She also had published “Historical reflections: Idaho Home Economics Association” and “75 Years to Remember: Home Economics at the University of Idaho, 1902-1977.”

Her husband, Alvin (deceased), was a professor of botany at U-Idaho. Both have memorial scholarships in their names offered through Northwest Nazarene College, where they taught before coming to Moscow.

Dean “Doc” Metter
was the first person to receive a doctorate in zoology. After receiving his degree, he joined the biology faculty at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he taught zoology, comparative anatomy, evolution and herpetology (the study of amphibians and reptiles). A believer in putting knowledge to the test in the field, Metter was a co-founder of the Bobby Witcher Society, and helped create a scholarship named after the colorful herpetologist renowned for his carefree handling of venomous snakes. After Metter’s death, the society renamed the scholarship as the Dean E. Metter Memorial Award.

In honor of his work, he has a subspecies of reptile named after him.

Newman Fisher
received the first doctorate in mathematics. While a student, he was a member of the American Mathematical Association of America, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and Pi Mu Epsilon. After completing his degree, Fisher returned to San Francisco State University where he was on the faculty of the mathematics department. He later served as chair of the department for 22 years and associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering for six years. He retired as a full professor with tenure in 1997 and continues to be active in university affairs. He and wife Neah live in San Francisco.

Richard Hermens is an emeritus professor at Eastern Oregon University. Beginning in 1966 he taught physical, analytical, inorganic and general chemistry. A 50-year member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Hermens was instrumental in organizing the Eastern Oregon Science Journal, which opened the door for students in any science and mathematical field to publish their research.

Hermens co-founded MicroLab, based in Bozeman, Mont. MicroLab manufactures chemistry equipment for student and classroom use. He also co-owns a publishing company that publishes history books of the La Grande, Ore., area. Hermens received the University of Idaho Silver and Gold Award in 2003 and was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society in 2012. His spouse, Maxine, earned her B.S. in elementary education at Idaho and is retired from Eastern Oregon University, where she worked in student records.

Bruce Gesner earned a doctorate in chemistry and spent 24 years at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill and Whippany, N.J., followed by five years with the Pacific Bell Telephone Company. He spent the rest of his career consulting for Telecom Australia. He retired in 2002 and now tends to a small commercial real estate venture with his son in Sacramento. His spouse, Phyllis Whittiker, is a retired attorney and COO of The National Judicial College. They reside in Reno, Nev.

Daniel George was one of the first graduates to earn a doctorate in chemistry at Idaho, where he also earned his bachelor’s degree. He spent his career as a research chemist at DuPont and is now retired. He and his wife, Sachiko, live in Chadds Ford, Penn.

John Morford, who earned the university’s second doctorate in education, joined the education faculty at Seattle University in 1973 and has since retired. At Seattle University, he was dean of the school of education from 1973 to 1978. Under his leadership the Doctorate in Educational Leadership program, Seattle University’s only doctorate program, was launched in 1975 and continues to be one of the university's most distinguished academic programs. Earlier, as chair of the Department of Education at John Carroll University in Ohio, he founded one of the first programs preparing teachers to work in urban poverty areas.

His wife, Jerene, is active in joining her husband in their humanitarian efforts in the Seattle area.
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About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho inspires students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Through the university’s $225 million Inspiring Futures capital campaign, private giving will enhance student learning, faculty research and innovation, and a spirit of enterprise. Learn more: www.uidaho.edu.