Marketing & Communications  


April 25, 2002 - Activist, journalist, teacher. Ella Sims has earned many labels throughout her more than 50 years of service to the community. Now she can add "doctor" to that list.

Aquinas College will present Sims with a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa degree during commencement exercises May 11 at 2:00 p.m. in the Field House. Five hundred students will receive their diplomas during a ceremony that also includes the presentation of a Doctor of Social Science, Honoris Causa degree to community activist Mary Caroline "Twink" Frey. Commencement speaker David Mathews, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Kettering Foundation, will receive a Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa degree. Mathew's keynote address is entitled "9-11 American Democracy and You."

For five decades, Sims has been one of the city's most persistent voices in the fight for racial equality and social justice. Sims helped found the Women's Resource Center and in the 1950s became involved in a campaign to obtain federal money for the demolition of sub-standard housing. She served on the boards of the local NAACP, the YWCA, the Family Outreach Center, and the Salvation Army. She wrote a weekly column for The Grand Rapids Press and also volunteered for Growth-Achievement-Progress (GAP), teaching adults to read and write. Sims enrolled in Aquinas in 1976 to get her bachelor degree and retired from a position as the school's counselor and recruiter for minority students in 1987. She is an Aquinas Trustee Emeritus.

Mary Caroline "Twink" Frey's extensive community involvement embodies the Dominican tradition of service to others. Frey founded the NOKOMIS Foundation, which promotes economic stability and healthy lifestyle choices for women and girls. She is a former chair of the Frey Foundation, which writes grants for children's issues, community arts and environmental protection. Frey has also been involved in the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children and the Heart of West Michigan United Way.

David Mathews, Ph.D. was Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare during the Ford administration as well as president of the University of Alabama from 1969 to 1980. Through his post at the Kettering Foundation, Mathews helped establish the National Issues Forums (NIF), which promotes the town meeting tradition as a means of getting Americans more interested in politics. Kettering is a non-profit corporation based in Ohio that conducts research in education, international affairs, and democracy. Mathews is also a trustee for the Gerald R. Ford Foundation and is chair of the Council on Public Policy Education.