How about this lineup?

  • A woman who attained wide respect as a leader and advocate, overcoming significant challenges in the process, graduating with honors from UC Berkeley and heading the California Hawaii NAACP for nearly two decades.
  • One of California’s most celebrated ceramic artists, known for her whimsical “lollies” (little old ladies) and the students she influenced as an art teacher at Sacramento State.
  • A real-estate investor whose $9 million gift to the University will advance scientific education for generations of Sac State students and the greater community.

Members of that accomplished trio – Alice A. Huffman, Ruth Rippon, and Ernest Tschannen, respectively – have been chosen to receive honorary doctorate degrees from Sacramento State and the California State University. They will be recognized during Spring Commencement ceremonies, to be held May 18-19 at Golden 1 Center. A fourth luminary, Emeritus Professor Susan McGinty, will receive the President's Medal for Distinguished Service at those same ceremonies.

Huffman and Tschannen
Alice Huffman (top left), Ernest Tschannen and Ruth Rippon (pictured in 1980 in her ceramics studio) all will be celebrated with honorary doctorates at Sacramento State's Spring Commencement in May. (Photo © Kurt Edward Fishback)

CSU trustees approved the honorary degrees earlier this year.

“It is an honor and a privilege to award honorary doctorates to Alice A. Huffman, Ruth Rippon, and Ernest E. Tshannen as an acknowledgement of the tremendous impact these individuals have had in our region,” says University President Robert S. Nelsen. “They have transformed Sacramento through their creativity, wisdom, generosity, and work. I am extremely pleased that we are able to celebrate them this spring."

Their accomplishments are impressive:

  • Huffman has been president of California Hawaii NAACP since 1999. She is a former CSU trustee who champions underrepresented youth in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields through her Alice Huffman STEM program. She came from humble beginnings as one of 18 children born to a West Virginia miner and a gospel singer, and she completed her degree in social and cultural anthropology from Cal in just over two years. She’s a member of the NAACP’s national board and heads her own consulting firm, AC Public Affairs, Inc. Huffman will be recognized with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the College of Education ceremonies at noon Friday, May 18.
  • Rippon is a Sacramento native and ceramic artist who accepted a faculty position at then-Sacramento State College in 1956 and, for the next 31 years, helped elevate the craft of ceramics into a fine art. Many of her students have made names for themselves in the art world, including Peter VandenBerge, Yoshio Taylor, and Barbara Reinertson. Rippon was an early innovator of sgraffito-through-engobe, a technique of scratching the top layer of color to reveal a contrasting color underneath. One of her “lollies” is seated in the University Library, and pair of “little old ladies” watch over Pavilions shopping center on Fair Oaks Boulevard. The Crocker Art Museum honored Rippon last fall with an exhibit of 90 works to celebrate her 90th birthday. She will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts during the College of Arts & Letters ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 19.
  • Tschannen, a Swiss immigrant and self-made millionaire who amassed his fortune by investing in apartment complexes across the country, recently donated $9 million to Sacramento State for the Science Complex. It was the largest single gift in the University’s 71-year history. Sac State will honor Tschannen by placing his name on the science building, which is under construction near the American River. Tchannen’s donation was made public Friday, Feb. 16 – his 93rd birthday – at a campus news conference. He made his first gift to Sacramento State in 2015, when he donated $750,000 to the “Power of 1,000 Hornets” campaign to finance a campus events center. Tschannen will be given an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the College of Engineering & Computer Science ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 19.

Nelsen will present the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service to McGinty during the College of Health & Human Services ceremony at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 19.

“I am extremely pleased that we will be honoring Sue McGinty’s service to Sacramento State with the President’s Medal," Nelsen says. "She has been a pioneer and an innovator in the College of Health & Human Services, and her commitment to increasing the opportunities for our students will continue to impact generations of Hornets."

Susan McGintyEmeritus Professor Susan McGinty's contributions to the University will be recognized when she receives the President's Medal for Distinguished Service during Spring Commencement. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

McGinty guided the University’s physical therapy program through a series of demanding accreditation changes. Sac State’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) students are among the best in the country, consistently boasting a 100 percent passing rate on the national licensure exam and scoring well above the national average.

McGinty began her teaching career at Sacramento State in 1995, becoming department chair the following year.  She shepherded the developing program through its first accreditation at the baccalaureate level and continued to provide leadership in 2000, when the professional accreditation organization mandated that programs transition to the master’s level.

More than a decade later, McGinty again stepped up to provide pivotal guidance when the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education required doctorates in physical therapy. She was instrumental in helping secure Sacramento State’s independent doctoral program a full three years ahead of the mandated deadline.

She retired in August 2012 after 16 years as director of Sacramento State’s Department of Physical Therapy. She and her husband, retired Sacramento urologist Denis McGinty, established the Susan Young McGinty Endowed Scholarship for low-income physical therapy students.

More than 5,200 Sacramento State students are expected to be eligible to participate in the two-day Spring Commencement exercises. – Dixie Reid