'Tuesdays with Morrie' author Mitch Albom among University of Utah's five honorary doctorates for 2011

Published: Saturday, March 12 2011 10:44 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Mitch Albom, author of "Tuesdays with Morrie" will be awarded a doctorate of humane letters by the University of Utah during its commencement exercises Friday, May 6.

Albom, an award-winning columnist for the Detroit Free Press who provides regular commentary on ESPN television and radio, is among four men and one woman who will be recognized by the university for service and/or achievement.

The other recipients selected by the U.'s Board of Trustees include Nobel Prize in Chemistry recipient Venkatraman "Venki" Ramakrishnan, a former U. professor of biochemistry; Ivory Homes founder Ellis R. Ivory; Joyce T. Rice, longtime university supporter; and E. Parry Thomas, who is credited with helping build Las Vegas into an economic powerhouse.

Albom earned his bachelor's degree in sociology at Brandeis University and master's degrees in journalism and business administration from Columbia University in New York City. In addition to publishing books, Albom has worked as a stand-up comic, amateur boxer and nightclub pianist. In 1989, he founded The Dream Fund, which helps disadvantaged children get involved with the arts. He has also founded two other charities in the Detroit metropolitan area.

Ramakrishnan, who with two colleagues received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009, will be awarded a doctorate in science. As a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University, Ramakrishnan developed an interest in ribosomes that began his path toward the U. and one of science's highest honors. In 1995, he moved from the Brookhaven National Laboratory to the U. to become a professor in biochemistry until 1999. He then moved to his current position as a scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. 

Ivory, who will receive a doctorate of business, is a 1964 alumnus of the U. Early in his real estate career, Ivory partnered with Roger Boyer to develop the Bloomington community near St. George. In successive years, Ivory's company built more than 14,000 homes for Utah families. In 1999, Ivory retired from Ivory Homes and sold the company to his son Clark. Ivory is chairman of This is the Place Foundation, where attendance at the state park has climbed from 51,000 in 2006 to 262,000 this past year. A 2009 "Giant in Our City" honoree by the Salt Lake Chamber, Ivory is a former chairman of the Deseret News board of directors.

Rice will receive a doctorate of humane letters. She and her husband Robert Rice have long supported the U. through philanthropy and service. The renovated football stadium is partly named after them. She and her husband have endowed chairs in nursing and business and have funded scholarships in surgery, pharmacy, music and athletics. The Rices, founders of European Health Spas, once the world's largest physical fitness chain, have also endowed research at the U. Joyce Rice has served three terms on the U.'s School of Music board and is a member of the university's National Advisory Council. The Rices have also been generous donors to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' missionary fund, BYU-Hawaii, Utah Youth Village and the the Utah Symphony and Opera. All six of the Rices' children attended the U.

Thomas will receive a doctorate of business. Born in Ogden, Thomas earned a bachelor's degree in finance at the U. As a student, he received an award from The Wall Street Journal for creating the concept for the U.'s school of banking. Upon graduation, Thomas worked for Continental Bank & Trust Co. and was assigned to Las Vegas, where he oversaw the Bank of Las Vegas. In this position, he counseled Howard Hughes in many real estate decisions and successfully lobbied for legislation that allows publicly held companies to acquire casinos. Thomas and partner Jerry Mack established the Nevada Southern University Land Foundation, which helped acquire land for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas campus. The UNLV basketball arena is named after them.

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