Alumni

2018 Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters

James E. Shipp and Robert & Blenda Ontiveros

HonoraryWestern Illinois University graduate James E. Shipp, and Quad Cities community activists Robert and Blenda Ontiveros received the Western Illinois University Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at Western's Spring 2018 Commencement exercises Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13, respectively.

The Honorary Doctorate is the highest award Western Illinois University can bestow upon an individual who has made significant contributions to his/her career and to Western Illinois University. Shipp was honored at the 1 p.m. Saturday, May 12 ceremony on the WIU-Macomb campus, while the Ontiveros' were honored at the 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 13 WIU-QC ceremony in Moline.

2018 Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Recipient's Speech

The video below features the 2018 Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters recipient speech, addressing the Class of 2018 at Western Hall on Saturday, May 12.

James E. Shipp

 Shipp received his bachelor's degree in education from Western in 1964. Shipp began his career in 1964 in the Juvenile Justice System for the State of Illinois, and later with the City of Chicago. Four years after graduating from WIU, he was selected to participate in the first National Urban Fellow class and was assigned to field work with the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation in Brooklyn, NY. Shipp eventually became president of the corporation and vice president of the Bed-Stuy Corporation until 1979. In addition to his work with the restoration corporation, he also served as a director of several city, state and national organizations focused on urban development issues.

From New York, Shipp relocated his family to Columbus, IN, for a career opportunity with Cummins Engine Company. During his 29-year career with Cummins, Shipp worked his way to vice president of corporate facilities and assisted in the building of manufacturing plants in North Carolina, France, Mexico, Scotland and England. While in Columbus, he continued his work with community and economic development by serving as a commissioner for the Columbus Housing Authority, the director of the Bartholomew County United Way, the director of the Heritage Fund of Bartholomew County, chair of the Indiana State Enterprise Zone and director of the William R. Law Foundation, which provided financial assistance to disadvantaged youth for higher education.

Following a successful career in Indiana with Cummins, Shipp returned to New York and purchased the company's distribution business in New York, where he served as president and owner of Cummins Metropower, Inc. until his 2008 retirement. In addition to serving as president and CEO of Shipp Enterprises, LLC in White Plains, NY, Shipp has maintained a commitment and dedication to public service by continuing to serve on such boards as the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, the Mid Bronx Desperados Community Housing Corporation and the Gillen Brewer School for children with disabilities.

While a student at WIU, Shipp was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and was a record-setting, conference champion and national finalist wrestler. Shipp was inducted into the WIU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997 and received the WIU Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1996. He remains an active member of his alma mater as a member of the WIU President's National Advisory Board.

Shipp received master's degrees in urban studies and in city and regional planning from Occidental College (CA) and Pratt Institute, Brooklyn (NY), respectively. 

Robert and Blenda Ontiveros

As the founders and owners of Group O in Milan, IL, the ninth largest Hispanic-owned business in America, the Ontiveros' many contributions to the Quad Cities region have focused on social responsibility and helping others succeed. They are the founders of Mercado on Fifth, a non-profit outdoor market and revitalization project in Moline's Floreciente neighborhood; generous contributors to minority scholarship initiatives at Quad Cities-area higher education institutions, including the WIU-Quad Cities campus; benefactors of the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend; and supporters of Junior Achievement's Whole School program, which supplies classrooms with educational materials.

The Ontiveros' have dedicated themselves to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Valley, serving as members of the Board and supporting the Boys & Girls Club community, as well as to the Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. As chair of the Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Bob is also an active member of the League of United Latin American Citizens No. 10 Council, VIVA! QC and the Illinois and U.S. Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

Their investment in WQPT's "Vibrant Neighborhoods" project has assisted in raising the profile of the Mercado on Fifth, and their continued investment in the WIU-QC Small Business Development Center/International Trade Center has further helped establish these centers in the QC region.

Bob Ontiveros is a Moline High School graduate and a graduate of Moline Community College (now Black Hawk College). The Ontiveros' firm, Group O Companies, a packaging, supply chain and marketing services company, which started nearly 40 years ago, is now a multimillion dollar enterprise with four separate businesses.

"James Shipp's, and Robert & Blenda Ontiveros' many contributions to their communities and to Western Illinois University, as well as their leadership in human, community and economic development and dedication to improving the lives of others, are commendable," noted WIU President Jack Thomas. "Thus, it is our honor to bestow upon Jim Shipp and Bob and Blenda Ontiveros honorary doctoral degrees."

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