The WCC Board of Trustees has selected Gary M. Owen, former speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, to receive the College’s highest honor, the 2014 Honorary Associate Degree in Community Service. Owen has a long history as an advocate for WCC, as an alumnus, a state legislator representing Ypsilanti and as Speaker of the House.
In the early 1960s, Owen served in the army and after his discharge, chose to attend WCC. He enrolled in the first class at the college in 1966 and earned an Associate Degree in General Education. At his commencement in 1968, Owen was chosen as the college’s first student speaker. He then transferred to the University of Michigan where he received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
“Washtenaw Community College is an invaluable resource for our community and the students it serves each year, helping them achieve their educational and career goals,” said Owen. “I am proud to be an alumnus of this truly special institution. It’s an honor to receive this honorary associate degree and to share the recognition with the class of 2014 graduates who, I know, will go on to do great things in Michigan.”
In 1973, Owen was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives, where he served for 16 years, representing eastern Washtenaw County. He was the first freshman legislator ever to be appointed to the House Appropriations Committee and to a sub-committee for community colleges. In 1983, Owen was elected Speaker of the House, a position he held through 1988.
During his tenure in the Michigan House of Representatives, Owen spearheaded legislation to provide funding in support of K-12 education, community colleges, and universities. Owen has also received honorary doctorates from Northern Michigan University in political science and from Cleary University in law.
Owen will be presented with the honorary degree during the WCC commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 17, at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center.