Wes Moore, best-selling author of “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Faces,” army combat veteran and Executive Producer/host of PBS series “Coming Home with Wes Moore” will be the keynote speaker at UVU’s 2014 commencement. His address will focus on the impact of an education, the importance of mentors, and the profound effect of choice.
In 2004, Wes Moore was being highlighted in the Baltimore Sun for being a Rhodes Scholar. Around the same time, the newspaper ran stories about another man named Wes Moore, who had been arrested after robbing a jewelry store. Both men came from fatherless homes and from the same neighborhood in Baltimore, Md. Both had gotten into academic and behavioral trouble. When one’s mother sent him to military school, the two Moores’ paths radically diverged.
While one Wes Moore advocates for student success by mentoring kids in Baltimore and New York, the other Wes Moore is serving a life sentence on murder charges.
Moore hesitated naming his book after himself. His publishers said that the point wasn’t the name itself – each school and neighborhood has their own Wes Moore standing at crucial crossroads.
Portions of the proceeds from book sales go to City Year and U.S. Dream Academy, two nonprofits dedicated to mentoring kids.
“President Holland brought his name forward as somebody that was recommended that seemed to represent everything that UVU [stands] for,” Dr. Kyle Reyes, special assistant to the president, said. “President Holland was impressed with his background, his remarkable story of resilience and that he overcame certain things when others, quite literally of his same name, didn’t make the choices he made.”
UVU strives for inclusivity, and since his tenure began, Holland has committed to bringing a diverse group of leaders to speak. Moore is the first African-American to speak at UVU’s commencement in the school’s history.
Moore graduated Phi Theta Kappa as a commissioned officer from Valley Forge Military College and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University. He continued to study International Relations at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.
In 2005-2006, Moore served a combat tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army as a paratrooper and captain. Since coming home, he has worked on a support/reintegration plan for returning veterans.
UVU will award Moore an honorary doctoral degree of public service during the commencement ceremony. Those who receive honorary degrees are decided by the Board of Trustees from a list of names that have made a significant contribution to the world, performed in exemplary ways or have dedicated their lives to service. Other receivers of the honorary degrees will be author and philanthropist Barbara Barrington Jones and 2014 Winter Olympics medalists Noelle Pikus-Pace and Chris Fogt.
Barbara Barrington Jones moved to Utah in 2010 and donated $2 million to the Wee Care Center at UVU as well $3 million to the Museum of Natural Curiosity. She contributes to Ballet West and WELL Africa, a fund that provides education to children in the Ivory Coast. As CEO and Founder of the Barbara Barrington Jones Family Foundation, she motivates women to reach their full potential through camps- one for adult women and one for teenagers.
She used experiences from her own life, from living off a minimal income working to be a ballet dancer in New York to an abusive husband, to write six inspirational books about beauty.
“Noelle and Chris are obviously in the international spotlight, putting UVU on the map in terms of the Olympics, and we wanted to send a message that we are proud of our own alumni and we felt they warrant it, not only for their accomplishments, but what they represent as individuals,” Reyes said.
Noelle Pikus-Pace graduated from UVU in 2005 after studying community health and physical education. That year, a bobsled that failed to brake crashed into her and broke her leg. She retired from the skeleton in 2010. Despite the injury, she returned and won a silver medal in the skeleton for the USA in the 2014 Winter Olympics with support from her husband and two children.
While at UVU, Pikus-Pace broke the University high jump record. In 2004-2005, she became the first U.S. woman to win the women’s Skeleton World Cup title. In 2012, Pikus-Pace was inducted into the UVU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Chris Fogt has represented the U.S.A. in athletics and served the U.S.A. overseas in the army. Before graduating from UVU in 2008 with a degree in business management, Fogt broke six school records in track. Fogt completed the ROTC program and was accepted into the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. He is a second lieutenant in the Military Intelligence Branch.
He returned home from Iraq after a year and trained to join the bobsled team for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The team, called the “Night Train,” won a bronze medal. He will return to serve in the U.S. Army in May.
UVU’s commencement ceremony will be held May 1 at 6:30 p.m.
Tiffany is the Deputy Managing Editor for Spring 2015. Follow her on twitter @tiffany_mf