Topic: Administrative

December 8, 2011

Ball State University will award honorary doctor of laws degrees to Indiana Sen. Luke Kenley and U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Pratt at its annual Winter Commencement on Saturday, Dec. 17. 

Kenley, who has more than 35 years in local, state, and recently, national affairs, and Pratt, the first African-American to hold a federal judgeship in Indiana history, will receive the degrees at the 10 a.m. ceremony in Worthen Arena.

"Senator Kenley and Judge Pratt have made untold contributions over many years of public service," said Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora. "These two lifelong Indiana residents have made a significant difference in the lives of their fellow Hoosiers. They are excellent examples of what our students can aspire to, with hard work and dedication."

A Noblesville resident, Kenley began his career as a public servant when Gov. Otis R. "Doc" Bowen appointed him Noblesville City Court judge, a position he held for 15 years while running the family's grocery business. He was elected to the Indiana Senate in 1992, has served on and led many committees, and was instrumental in several notable tax and educational reforms. Kenley also has been a key volunteer and board member for Noblesville organizations, focusing some of his energies on his native city.

Kenley's efforts to advance the cause of public education have made a significant difference to the children of Indiana. Thanks to his efforts, the Indiana Charter School Bill made it through the General Assembly, integrating charter school funding into the school funding formula. Kenley also was instrumental in the passage of Senate bills dealing with several initiatives to help students and teachers. His commitment to education goes beyond policymaking; Kenley annually conducts a leadership conference for high school students at his own expense.

Pratt comes from a family of Indiana public servants, including her father, attorney and former state representative Charles A. Walton, and mother, Joan Blackshear Walton. After graduating from Spelman College in Atlanta and earning a JD from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., she returned home to practice in her father's law firm of Walton & Pratt and served as a contract county public defender.

She was a master commissioner for the Marion County Superior Court and was elected a Marion County judge in 1996. From 1997 to 2008, Pratt was presiding judge of the Superior Court, Criminal Division, after which she served as a judge in the Marion Superior Court, Probate Division. She was appointed to the federal judgeship by President Obama in 2010.

Kenley and Pratt will receive their honorary degrees along with Arthur Levine, who, as previously announced, is the commencement speaker. Levine has earned significant recognition for his success as an educator, a pioneer in school equity reform and advocate of higher standards in educator preparation.

Levine is president of The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. He lectured at Ball State four years ago regarding the preparation of future teachers and school leaders, and Ball State is one of four university partners in Indiana for the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship.

By Joan Todd, Executive Director of Public Relations