Montana State University

MSU to award honorary doctorates to state education leader and vice president of global company 3M

March 4, 2016 -- By Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service

Jean Bennington Sweeney, a vice president of the global innovation company 3M, will receive an honorary doctorate in science (engineering) during MSU's spring commencement, set for Saturday, May 7. Photo courtesy of Jean Bennington Sweeney. Willard "Will" Weaver, who from 1985 to 2001 served as dean and CEO of what is now Great Falls College MSU, will receive an honorary doctorate in letters (education) during MSU's spring commencement, set for Saturday, May 7. Photo courtesy of Will Weaver.

Jean Bennington Sweeney, a vice president of the global innovation company 3M, will receive an honorary doctorate in science (engineering) during MSU's spring commencement, set for Saturday, May 7. Photo courtesy of Jean Bennington Sweeney.

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Willard "Will" Weaver, former head of Great Falls College MSU, and Jean Bennington Sweeney, a vice president of the global innovation company 3M, will receive honorary doctorate degrees during Montana State University's spring commencement, university officials announced today.

MSU's spring commencement ceremonies are scheduled for 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. Weaver will receive an honorary doctorate in letters (education) during the morning ceremony, and Sweeney will receive an honorary doctorate in science (engineering) during the afternoon ceremony.

"Montana State University is privileged to honor Will Weaver and Jean Bennington Sweeney with the highest commendation the Montana Board of Regents can confer," said MSU President Waded Cruzado. "Both have had extraordinary careers and are extremely deserving of this recognition."

Weaver, who from 1985 to 2001 served as dean and CEO of what is now Great Falls College MSU, has been called a persistent visionary and leader who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to provide public education to the citizens of Montana.

During his 16 years at the helm of Great Falls College MSU, enrollments increased exponentially and program and class offerings grew. He was instrumental in the development and growth of Tech Prep agreements, the precursor to today's dual enrollment/credit programs. His work with customized training and college courses that were offered in Bozeman demonstrated the need for a two-year college presence in the Gallatin Valley, which resulted in the development of Gallatin College MSU. As a member of the Montana Ambassadors, Weaver also was instrumental in securing funding to create Your Guide, a publication that has become the current viewbook for high school teachers, guidance counselors, students and employers seeking a quick reference to two-year education offered in the state.

In addition, Weaver envisioned and brought to fruition the dental hygiene program at Great Falls College MSU. It is the only accredited dental hygiene program in the state.

Weaver received a bachelor's degree in 1965 and a master's degree in business education in 1971, both from MSU. He was a member of the Bobcat football team from 1960-1964.

He worked as a high school business teacher in three public school districts in Montana before starting his career in education leadership. In the late 1970s, Weaver received a fellowship through the Graduate Leadership Development Act and attended Oregon State University, where he completed course work for a doctorate in vocational education administration.

Weaver served on numerous community, regional, state and national boards and advisory councils during his education career, including appointment to the Montana Economic Advisory Council. He also received distinctive honors and awards, including those given by the U.S. Department of Education and the Vocational Administrator of the Year award for the state of Montana. Upon retirement from Great Falls College MSU, the college's student government, known as the Associated Students, honored him by establishing the Willard R. Weaver Honorary Scholarship, which has since become an endowed scholarship.

He was accepted as a fellow at Harvard University to study management of lifelong education. He received the McLaughlin Research Institute Service Award in 2001. In 2008, he was inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame as part of the 1964 football team, and in 2014 he was honored with induction into the Pennridge-Quakertown Area Sports Hall of Fame in his native Pennsylvania.

Weaver and his wife, Nancy, support MSU through funding scholarships, the End Zone Campaign, Bobcat Club, Quarterback Club, the Museum of the Rockies Capital Campaign, and with service on the MSU Alumni Foundation Donor Relations Advisory Board. They have supported Great Falls College MSU by establishing an endowed scholarship, High Plains Memorial Scholarship, and by funding additional student scholarships. They have also provided funding for the Bright Beginnings Learning Center. Weaver continues to provide leadership to Great Falls College MSU by serving on the Development Board. In 2009, Great Falls College MSU recognized the Weavers for their ongoing commitment to the college by renaming the library the Weaver Library.

Sweeney is vice president for environmental, health, safety and sustainability at 3M. She has held a diversity of positions with 3M, including product development, manufacturing management, general manager and two international assignments as manufacturing director for 3M Australia in Sydney and managing director of 3M Taiwan in Taipei.

In her current position, Sweeney is responsible for 3M's global environmental, health, safety and sustainability programs. This includes technical and regulatory expertise in environmental, safety, ergonomics and industrial hygiene, and 3M's governance framework for sustainability strategies. Sweeney is a frequent guest speaker at conferences worldwide about 3M's sustainability strategy and performance.

Throughout her time at 3M, Sweeney has been committed to interviewing and hiring MSU graduates for positions with the company.

A native of Billings, Sweeney graduated from MSU in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. She chose to pursue chemical engineering during a time when only a very small percentage of the field was female: in 1970, near the time when she began her studies at MSU, 350,000 women in the U.S. received a bachelor's degree, but only 337 women received a degree in any engineering field, according to the National Science Foundation. Sweeney also holds a master's degree in business administration from University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Sweeney is committed to removing barriers for women in engineering. In 2011, Sweeney and her mother, Vonnie, established MSU's Bennington Scholarship for Women in Engineering, named after her father, W. J. Bennington, a 1951 graduate of Montana State College in architectural engineering. The scholarship provides recipients with financial support as well as meetings and mentoring opportunities with Sweeney. Sweeney has also served as the featured speaker at MSU's Women in Engineering dinner.

Sweeney maintains strong connections to Montana and MSU. From 1996-2004 Sweeney served on the Department Advisory Committee for MSU's chemical engineering department. Since 2004, she has served on the College of Engineering Advisory Board. In 2008, she was appointed a trustee with the MSU Alumni Foundation, and she is now a member of the MSU Alumni Foundation's Board of Governors and serves as vice chair.

She has distinguished herself with her philanthropic support of the university, including her support of the Lloyd Berg Scholarship, the construction, in the mid-1990s, of the EPS building, and the End Zone Campaign. She also regularly speaks to MSU students in engineering.

Sweeney currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she has been recognized for her work on the Board of Trustees for The Nature Conservancy's Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota chapters. Sweeney has also served as a board member for Any Baby Can, an Austin, Texas-based non-profit in support of children and families.

Contact: Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service, (406) 994-4902 or