Montana State University

Four to receive MSU honorary doctorate degrees

April 3, 2007 -- Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service


Montana State University will convey its highest award on four Montanans as they receive MSU honorary doctorates at commencement ceremonies next month. MSU photo by Stephen Hunts.   High-Res Available

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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A courageous whistleblower who helped uncover the country's largest healthcare fraud, an international software entrepreneur who transformed life in Southwest Montana, a historian who has linked ancient myths with fossil evidence and a scientist who directed Yellowstone Park policy, will receive honorary doctorate degrees from Montana State University during its 111th commencement ceremonies.

James Alderson, Greg Gianforte, Adrienne Mayor and John Varley will receive MSU's highest commendation at ceremonies set for 10 a.m. Saturday, May12, at MSU's Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

"We are pleased to honor these remarkable individuals with the highest commendation MSU confers," said Geoff Gamble, MSU president.

Alderson, who graduated from the MSU College of Business in 1969 with a degree in accounting, was a key whistleblower in what became the largest healthcare fraud prosecution case in U.S. history. Alderson was chief financial office for North Valley Hospital in Whitefish when Quorum Health Group, a subsidiary of the healthcare giant HCA Healthcare Corp, took over the management of the small hospital. Alderson was fired when he refused to keep two sets of cost reports involving Medicare payments. In 1993, he filed a whistleblower suit against Quorum. During the coming years, Alderson and his family moved 14 times as he sought employment, all the while maintaining public silence about the case. The federal case was settled 13 years later for nearly $1.7 billion and benefited taxpayers throughout the country. The MSU College of Business has established the Alderson Program in Entrepreneurship in his honor. Alderson will receive an honorary doctorate in business.

Greg Gianforte is president and chief executive officer of RightNow Technologies, an international software company listed on the NASDAQ exchange and headquartered in Bozeman. A sought-after speaker who has lectured at Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics, Gianforte's recent book on entrepreneurship "Bootstrapping Your Business: Start and Grow a Successful Company with Almost No Money" was published in 2005. Gianforte moved to Bozeman after he sold Brightwork Development, a pioneering developer of software, to McAfee. Gianforte's early work developing customer service software led to the1997 launch of RightNow in Bozeman. RightNow Technologies has had 35 consecutive quarters of revenue growth and has 600 employees throughout the world, including 300 at company headquarters in Bozeman. Gianforte and RightNow frequently have partnered with MSU, including a recent multiple-year pledge that will fund a new Distinguished Professorship in MSU's Computer Science Department. Gianforte, who has both a bachelor's in electrical engineering and a master's in computer science from Stevens Institute of Technology, will receive an honorary doctorate in computer science from the College of Engineering.

Adrienne Mayor is a scholar, writer and independent folklorist who explores the link between oral traditions and pre-Darwinian interpretations of fossils. Mayor defines fossil legends as traditional tales about giant creatures and monsters that might have their origins in physical evidence, such as bones or other life forms. Described as an independent scholar who has searched in territories that others have not thought to enter, her pursuit of Native American legends and her insightful connection of myths to fossils and paleontology has brought international recognition to the state of Montana and its Indian people. She has published three books, including her most recent, "Fossil Legends of the First Americans," published by Princeton University Press in 2005, and numerous scholarly articles. Her writings bridge the disciplines of geology, paleontology, geography, history and folklore. Featured in both National Geographic and Natural History, Mayor has been a visiting professor at both Princeton University and Stanford University and is a part-time Bozeman resident. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Mayor will receive an honorary doctorate in letters from the College of Letters and Science.

Biologist John Varley, former director of Yellowstone Center for Resources, guided the natural resources of Yellowstone National Park through three decades of historic events including the fires of 1988, the introduction of wolves and the eradication of lake trout introduced to Yellowstone Lake. Varley began his Yellowstone career in 1972 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, shifting to the National Park Service in 1983. In 1993 he was named founding director of the Yellowstone Center for Resources, coordinating a research program that typically involved hundreds of research projects and scientists. He is said to be the primary architect, using science as a foundation, of policy that brought the Yellowstone cutthroat trout back from the brink of population collapse. Varley is the author or co-author of scores of papers, reports, articles and chapters on a variety of scientific topics including co-authorship of the award-winning "Yellowstone Fishes: Ecology, History and Angling in the Park." He retired from Yellowstone in 2006. Late last year, Varley was selected as the director of the Big Sky Institute based at MSU. Varley, who has both a master's and a bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of Utah, will receive an honorary doctorate in science from the College of Letters and Science.

MSU annually confers doctorates on friends of the university to honor achievements and service to the state of Montana.

Gordon Brittan (406) 994-5208 or Shari McCoy, 994-2341