SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah will honor Robert “Archie” Archuleta, May Farr and Gary L. Crocker with honorary doctoral degrees during its 2019 commencement ceremony May 2.
“Our honorees have touched the lives of thousands of people through their commitment to public service,” said Joe Sargetakis, chairman of the U. board of trustees’ honors committee.
“They also have been unwavering in their support of the university, helping the U. in its mission to serve the state as the University for Utah.”
Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals who have achieved distinction in academic pursuits, the arts, professions, business, government, civic affairs or in service to the university.
The Honorary Degree Committee, which includes representatives from the faculty, student body and board of trustees, reviews nominations and then consults with an advisory group of faculty, staff and administrators. Finalists are presented to the university president, who selects recipients.
The degree will be awarded posthumously to Archuleta, who passed away unexpectedly in January. He was 88.
Here's a brief biography of the recipients:
• Archie Archuleta, a U. alumnus, was a retired elementary school teacher and principal, former administrative assistant for minority affairs for Salt Lake City, and Latino activist and civil rights advocate.
At the time of his death, he was past president of the board of trustees for Utah Coalition of La Raza. Archuleta served as president of the coalition for nine years, retiring from that position in 2010.
From 1953 to 1987, he taught elementary school in the Salt Lake City School District. He laid the foundation for the alternative high school that later became Horizonte.
He also was an adjunct professor of sociology at Salt Lake Community College. Archuleta continued to lecture on Mexican-American history and racism, sexism, ethnocentrism and civil rights after his retirement from the district.
Archuleta served as the administrative assistant for minority affairs in the administration of former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.
Throughout his life, Archuleta was an ardent activist on behalf of minorities, those in poverty, peace, economic advancement, civil rights, civil liberties and cultural issues. In the words of his family, he was “tireless in his quest for justice.”
Archuleta served on numerous community committees and boards, including Centro Civico Mexicano, the Center for Documentary Arts, Salt Lake County Democratic Caucus, Concerned Citizens Committee, Alliance for Unity, Utah Aging Commission, Crossroads Urban Center, Utah Humanities Council and the Enriching Utah Coalition.
He also mentored many U. students, helping them to develop their own voices as advocates and activists.
He and his wife, community activist Lois Lucille Herrmann Archuleta, were honored with a Key to the City from Salt Lake City in 2018, and a scholarship has been established at the U. in their honor.
The couple was married more than 60 years. Archuleta is survived by his wife, their five children and six grandchildren.
Archuleta earned his bachelor’s degree from Idaho State University and an education specialist degree from the U. in 1982.
• May Farr, who earned a degree in nursing from the U. in 1952, has spent her life turning hardship into innovation and advocacy.
Farr met her husband, James, at Salt Lake County General Hospital where she was working as a nurse and he was completing his training to become a pharmacist. He earned his bachelor and pharmacy degrees from the U. as well.
They moved to California, where they raised their four children while pursuing health careers.
When James Farr suffered a lung infection in 1963, he had to use awkward and uncomfortable respiratory equipment. The couple set about inventing a better alternative, investing their life savings to launch Med-Econ Plastics Inc., manufacturer of disposable respirator mouthpieces and, later, disposable oxygen masks, tubing and manifold setups.
The Farrs sold the company nine years later, and in 1978 they launched a second medical equipment company, Airlife Inc. It was later sold to American Hospital Supply Corp.
As the family enjoyed entrepreneurial success, they were dealt serious health challenges. Their daughter had cancer. James Farr was diagnosed with leukemia, which took his life in 1982.
A few years later, the Farrs' son was diagnosed with catatonic schizophrenia. Newly widowed, May Farr became a full-time caregiver for her son.
She channeled her energies into advocacy, joining the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Farr helped found a chapter in California’s Inland Valley and was later elected to NAMI’s California board of directors.
In 1996, the San Bernardino County Supervisors appointed Farr to its Mental Health Commission, a position she still holds today. In 1998, she helped launch the county’s first mental health court.
Farr pushed for California’s Mental Health Services Act, which realigned tax dollars to provide behavioral and mental health services. As services were reorganized, Farr worked to ensure a state committee representing patients and their family members remained intact.
Farr has received numerous awards for her advocacy of behavioral health care. She was inducted into the U. College of Nursing’s Half Century Society and is a member of the college’s Advisory Council.
In 1972, the Farrs established a Presidential Endowed Chair in Environmental Law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. After James Farr's death, the family made a sizable donation to expand Northridge Hospital Medical Center, which named a new tower in his honor. The U.'s School of Medicine and College of Nursing also have received donations from the Farrs.
• Gary Crocker is president and managing director of Crocker Ventures LLC., a privately held life science investment firm that funds biotechnology and medical device companies. He also serves as chairman of the board of both Nexus Orthopedics and publicly traded Merrimack Pharmaceutical, which he joined as a board member in 2005.
He is founder of Research Medical, a manufacturer and marketer of specialty cardiac catheters and related medical devices used in open heart surgeries. Forbes recognized the business as one of America’s Best 200 Small Growth Companies for six consecutive years, and it generated more than 20 percent average annual growth in sales and earnings.
Crocker sold the firm in 1997 to Baxter International’s Edwards Life Science division in a $236 million acquisition, which at the time was the largest medical device merger in Utah history.
Earlier in his career, Crocker was vice president of business development and director of marketing for Sorenson Research. He negotiated the 1980 sale of the firm to Abbott Laboratories. He also served as an internal strategic analyst for Baxter International.1 comment on this story
Crocker currently serves as the chairman of the U.’s Center for Medical Innovation and on the boards of the Sorenson Legacy Foundation and Utah Symphony/Utah Opera. He formerly served on the U.'s board of trustees.
He and his wife, Ann, donated funding in 2001 for the Crocker Science House, which provides housing for science honors students, and a scholarship program for science interns. In 2010, Gary and Ann made the anchor donation for the Crocker Science Center at the U., which opened in April 2018.
The Crockers are the parents of seven children.
Crocker earned his bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Harvard University.