28 Apr 2017

Nobel Peace Prize Winner to Speak at Heritage University’s 35th Annual Commencement

Nobel Peace Prize Winner to Speak at Heritage University’s 35th Annual Commencement

Author: David Mance  /  Categories: Campus  / 

Nobel Peace Prize winner and Heritage University associate professor Michael Durst will serve as keynote speaker during its 35th Commencement exercise Saturday, May 6 at 10:00 a.m. at the Yakima Valley SunDome. Overall, 360 undergraduate and graduate students earned their degree at Heritage this year from the Yakima Valley and from the regional sites in the Tri-Cities, Moses Lake and Wenatchee.

Before joining Heritage in 2014 and becoming the coordinator for the pre-engineering program, Durst spent 40 years in the nuclear science and technology industry. His work took him around the globe to collaborate on some of the most important nuclear projects of our time including Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which was then part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union.

In the mid-90s, Durst joined an international team working with Russian scientists to improve Ukraine’s power system. Eventually he became the project manager for an international team in Slavutych, Ukraine, that designed a new, safe confinement structure for the destroyed Chernobyl.

In 2005, Durst and others in the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to help rid the world of materials used to make weapons of mass destruction.

The Violet Lumley Rau Outstanding Alumni Awards will be presented to one undergraduate and one graduate alumni during the commencement ceremony. The undergraduate recipient is Elizabeth Nason, J.D. Nason earned a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in 1985. She later went on to earn a Juris Doctorate from Gonzaga University School of Law. She is the first enrolled Yakama woman to graduate from law school and to be licensed to practice law in the state of Washington. She spent eleven years working as an attorney for both the Colville Tribe and the Yakama Nation before starting her own private practice. In 2002 she became the first woman to serve as Chief Judge for the Yakama Nation Tribal Courts. Elizabeth later stepped away the legal profession to serve as the director of the Yakama Nation’s first Diabetes Wellness Center as the program was being developed. Today she is the Yakama Nation Administrative Director, the highest administrative office for the Nation.

The graduate alumni award recipient is Cydney Bacon. Cydney was working as an art instructor at Lewis and Clark Middle School when she decided to return to college to earn her master’s degree from Heritage. She graduated with a Master of Education in counseling in 2000 and went on to serve as a school counselor at Toppenish Middle School, a position she continues to hold today.

On a state level, Cydney is a member of the Washington State Counseling Association and has served as both the vice president for middle level and as the organization’s president from 2015 to 2016. She has been a presenter at state conferences and for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Winter Institute. 

Heritage will announce the recipients of the Board of Directors’ Academic Excellence Award and the President’s Council Student Award of Distinction during the ceremony.

The Yakima Valley SunDome is located at 1301 South Fair Ave. in Yakima. Parking is free. Additional information is available online at:  http://www.heritage.edu/Community/2017-Commencement

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