Colloton and Petersen to receive honorary UI degrees

Colloton and Petersen to receive honorary UI degrees

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Iowa Board of Regents approves request to award honors at May commencements

The University of Iowa will award honorary doctorates to John W. Colloton and Mary Louise Petersen, two UI alumni who’ve made distinguished contributions to health care, higher education, and public service.

Colloton and Petersen will receive their degrees at the university’s May 17, 2013, Graduate College commencement ceremony. The Iowa Board of Regents unanimously approved the degrees during its Dec. 5 meeting.

“John Colloton and Mary Louise Petersen are models for the kind of leaders we hope our students will become,” says UI President Sally Mason. “Both are committed to building our state and its institutions, but also to putting Iowa ideas to work on the national level.”

Sustained achievements in health care

Colloton will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, recognizing his 44 years of service to the UI Hospitals and Clinics, leadership in medicine and public health, and ongoing commitment to the university and its work.

“His record of sustained achievement at the highest levels of academic health care and his profound commitment to advancing the University of Iowa in all aspects of its educational, research, and outreach mission are unparalleled,” wrote Jean Robillard, UI vice president for medical affairs, in nominating Colloton for an honorary degree.

The Mason City native earned a master’s degree in hospital and health administration from the UI in 1957, then joined UI Hospitals and Clinics as an administrative intern. In 1971, he became UIHC director, a position he held until 1993.

During his tenure, Colloton oversaw dramatic improvement and expansion of the hospital complex, developments that positioned the UIHC as one of the nation’s premier teaching hospitals and delivered advanced medical services to all Iowans. He also became a champion for medical education and research, only the second nonphysician to chair the Association of American Medical Colleges.

In 1987, Colloton was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. His other honors include induction into the National Health Care Hall of Fame, the American Hospital Association’s Distinguished Service Award, and the Horatio Alger Award for Distinguished Americans. The John W. Colloton Pavilion at UIHC is named in his honor.

Colloton remains a generous supporter of the UI and its College of Public Health (which today administers education programs in health management and policy). He helped establish the college, which recognizes Colloton and his wife, Mary Ann, as Founding Partners.

Ambassador for Iowa

Petersen will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in recognition of her service as a member of the Iowa Board of Regents, national advocacy for higher education, and longstanding support for the UI.

A native of Carroll, Iowa, Petersen received a bachelor’s degree in science education from the UI College of Education in 1951. In 1969, she was appointed to the Board of Regents, helping to steer Iowa’s public universities through an era of challenge and change.

“In many ways, she has been an extraordinary ambassador of what I might call the ‘Iowa way’ of understated excellence and commitment to civil society on various scales,” wrote Margaret Crocco, College of Education dean, in a nomination letter for Petersen’s honorary degree.

Petersen served as Board of Regents president from 1973 to 1981, making the case for higher education through difficult economic times. She emphasized fiduciary responsibility and sound business practices, but also nurtured academic culture, respect for diverse viewpoints, collaboration, and partnership.

Petersen’s national honors include service on the Carnegie Foundation Board of Trustees and as board chair for the Association of Governing Boards for Colleges and Universities. At home in Iowa, she received the state’s Distinguished Service Award and was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.

She served on the UI Foundation board of directors from 1991 to 2006 and today is a lifetime honorary director. She also co-chaired the “Good. Better. Best. Iowa.” capital campaign and a fund-raising campaign for the Old Capitol Museum, one of many UI programs that have drawn generous support from Peterson and her husband, Rand.

A committee of UI faculty receives nominations for honorary degrees and forwards recommendations to the university’s provost and president. The Iowa Board of Regents reviews and approves honorary degree requests.


Lin Larson, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0042


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