At its 151st Commencement ceremonies later this month, Elmhurst University will award honorary degrees to a jazz legend with close ties to the University, and two accomplished business leaders who also have been longtime supporters of the institution.
The 2022 honorary degree recipients are jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, who will deliver the Commencement address at the ceremony for graduate students; alumna and philanthropist Maureen Lamberty Heakin ’72, who will deliver the address at the ceremony for undergraduates; and retired senior financial executive and Trustee Emeritus James S. Yerbic.
- Dee Dee Bridgewater is recognized as one of the most important jazz artists of all time. She is a three-time Grammy Award winner, a Tony Award winner, a Doris Duke Foundation Award winner, an NEA Jazz Master, and an inductee to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Bridgewater has performed all over the world, and also served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, drawing attention to the issue of world hunger. She also is a gifted educator with a genuine affection for Elmhurst University. She has mentored Elmhurst students and has performed with the Elmhurst University Jazz Band on seven occasions, including in 2001, when she selected the Jazz Band to accompany her on the main stage of the Chicago Jazz Festival. She will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts.
- Maureen Lamberty Heakin ’72 is retired from a successful 28-year career as a marketing research professional, primarily at Swift & Co. and ConAgra Foods; and is a longtime friend of Elmhurst University. In addition to her responsibilities for such brands as Swift Premium, Butterball and Healthy Choice, Heakin oversaw the company’s Consumer Research Center at the Museum of Science and Industry’s popular Food for Life Exhibit. Heakin has maintained a close connection with her alma mater and has philanthropically supported the University for decades, especially in the areas of music, nursing and the Weigand Center for Professional Excellence. This past summer, Heakin made a $500,000 gift to the University to establish an international visiting artists series for the University’s acclaimed jazz studies program. She will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
- James S. Yerbic has had a long and distinguished career as a senior financial executive, and served as an Elmhurst University trustee for more than 20 years. Yerbic is the retired chief financial officer of Duchossois Industries Inc., and also served as group president at Eagle Industries, vice president and corporate controller at McGraw-Edison Company, and corporate director and CFO at Jepson Corporation. Yerbic was an Elmhurst trustee from 1994 to 2020, chairing several committees during his tenure. He was named a trustee emeritus in 2021. Longtime donors to the University, Yerbic and his wife, Linda, established the James and Linda Yerbic Endowed Scholarship, which is awarded to a graduate of Canton High School in Canton, lll., James Yerbic’s hometown. He will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Elmhurst University honorary degree recipients are recommended by the University’s faculty and president to the Elmhurst University Board of Trustees, which then approves the awards.
The 151st Elmhurst University Commencement ceremonies will take place on Saturday, May 21, 2022.