On May 12 nearly 1,300 students — after years of study — received bachelor’s and master’s degrees during two commencement ceremonies at Johnson Fieldhouse.

Two other degrees were handed out, but they were in recognition of decades of support. Alumni Dwight and Linda Davis received honorary doctorates, the first honorary degrees UW-Stout has awarded since 2003.

Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen said he couldn’t think of two people more deserving of the honor.

“Dwight and Linda have generously given their time, advice and financial resources to advance the mission of UW-Stout, and it will have a lasting effect for decades to come,” Sorensen said in explaining why the couple received honorary doctorates of humane letters.

Dwight Davis delivered remarks at the morning and afternoon commencement ceremonies.

The couple, who live in Sister Bay and are former Wausau residents, have supported annual scholarships for UW-Stout students as well as other important initiatives, including an endowment for “transformational leadership,” Sorensen said. “This endowment aids the university in carrying out various initiatives to maintain excellence and relevancy.”

Furthermore, he said, “They are very active in their communities through support of the arts, parks and recreation, animal welfare, historic preservation, senior citizen programs and youth development in Wausau, Chippewa Falls and Door County.”

While they were students at UW-Stout, Linda Davis was editor of the Stoutonia student newspaper and Dwight Davis was president of the Stout Student Association. Dwight Davis graduated in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree in technology education, while Linda Davis graduated in 1967 with a Bachelor of Science degree in home economics education and an English minor.

Dwight Davis went on to earn a master’s degree from Michigan State University and a doctorate from the University of Illinois. His first career, in community-technical college administration, spanned nearly 20 years. He held executive positions at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Ill., and as president of North Central Technical College, Wausau. He then joined Wausau Insurance Companies, where he held a number of senior executive positions, including serving as the company’s president. In 2001 Davis became CEO of Greenheck Corp., a global manufacturer of air movement and control equipment, headquartered in Schofield. He currently serves as chairman of the board and, along with Linda, is co-owner of the company with the Robert C. Greenheck family.

Sorensen said UW-Stout benefited greatly from its connection to Greenheck: A significant number of UW-Stout graduates found employment with the company, and Greenheck also donated ventilation equipment for UW-Stout facilities.

Dwight and Linda Davis reflected on their educational experiences at UW-Stout and other matters:

What role did UW-Stout play in your general and professional lives?

While our life journey has taken us outside the scope of our majors, our years at UW-Stout shaped the principles and values that have been guideposts for us. These include there is no “finish line” to learning; set goals, prepare plans and strive for superb execution; know that it takes a team to accomplish goals — there is little we can achieve solo; reach beyond your comfort zone; and strive to make a difference in all you do.

Why do you think it is important for alumni to help their alma maters as much as possible?

Universities and their students depend heavily on philanthropic support for facilities, scholarships and educational programs. Alumni know firsthand the key role their educations have played in their lives and the value of their alma mater’s reputation. As such, alumni should be leaders in helping their alma maters financially and in every way practical. Giving back is an opportunity to say “thank you” and can be a source of great satisfaction by knowing that you have played a role in helping others to benefit from the university experience.

What advice would you give students who are graduating from UW-Stout today?

Even though the current economy presents challenges and uncertainty when seeking employment, UW-Stout graduates have a powerful asset in holding a degree from a respected, unique institution. If your desired job does not materialize initially, be patient, begin building a resume in whatever way you can and position yourself for better times. In whatever you do, focus on what you can control, which is exhibiting a positive, “can do” attitude; striving for excellence in all you do; seeking new learning experiences; striving to make a difference; and being a team player. These attributes and your UW-Stout credentials will set you apart and open the door to exciting opportunities beyond what you can envision today.

Dwight and Linda Davis