Research Bench Lab

About MCW

Honorary Degree Recipients

2018 Recipients

Sharon & Larry Adams | Doctor of Humanities


Since 2000, Sharon and Larry Adams have been committed to renovating a 110-block area of central- city Milwaukee, and their efforts have led to the rebuilding or restoration of more than 100 homes and the transformation of more than 20 lots into gardens or green spaces. Their efforts also led to more than $26 million in real estate investment and more than $125 million in commercial projects in the 53205 and 53206 ZIP codes.

The couple founded Walnut Way Conservation Corporation in 2000 to create and sustain economically diverse neighborhoods. Under their leadership, Walnut Way grew into a neighborhood campus where neighbors, organizations and entrepreneurs come to learn and engage. Their goal has always been to improve the quality of life for the residents of these neighborhoods, whom they call friends and neighbors.

Larry Adams was a US Marine and honor guard, and he has received numerous recognitions for his work, including the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago’s Community First Award, the Mayor’s Design Award and the Local Initiative Support Corporation’s People’s Choice Award.

Sharon Adams brings together resources and residents, business owners, nonprofits and a range of shareholders to improve equity, opportunity and cooperation within these neighborhoods. She is the recipient of several awards including the Purpose Prize Fellowship, the Frank Kirkpatrick Award from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and The Business Journal Women of Influence Award.

In 2015, the couple retired from Walnut Way and formed HN Development, LLC, to inspire possibilities for the common good. They remain board members of Walnut Way and MARKETPLACE Bid 32 and live in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood.

Michael S. Orban | Doctor of Humanities


Vietnam War veteran Michael S. Orban has dedicated his life to helping fellow veterans heal from the experiences of war. This includes, over the past decade, working with the Medical College of Wisconsin on projects that directly impact the care and opportunities available to veterans.

Orban co-founded The Warrior Partnership, an MCW program that offers veterans the chance to talk about their traumatic war experiences with medical students and offers students the chance to learn how to integrate the unique needs of this population into their care. He also co-founded the Incarcerated Veterans Project and serves on the community-academic advisory board for Milwaukee PROMPT (Prevention of Opioid Misuse through Peer Training project), a collaboration between MCW and local veterans that is developing innovative ways to address opioid use disorder among veterans.

Orban, a 45-year sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), spent five years in the U.S. Peace Corps Africa and USAID Africa and gives keynote talks on PTSD, suicide and transition to civilian life. He has received the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Air Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with palm and the National Defense Service Medal for his efforts in Vietnam. He was presented with the Red Cross Military Real Heroes Award in 2013. He is the author of Souled Out, Conquering Combat PTSD,

Orban Foundation for Veterans

Roland A. Patillo, MD, FACOG | Doctor of Medical Science


Roland A. Pattillo, MD, Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Morehouse School of Medicine and a 27-year member of the Medical College of Wisconsin faculty, has been a strong force in women’s health for five decades. Dr. Pattillo is an expert on gynecologic and trophoblastic (placental) cancers and stem cell research, and he led a team of physicians who successfully cultivated cervical tissue cells outside the body to develop a vaccine for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). For this and other accomplishments, he received the MCW Distinguished Service Award in 1994.

Dr. Pattillo’s research and clinical studies focused on in-vitro cell models that possessed characteristic biomarkers that were then used in multiple experimental designs for assessment of endocrine function, chemotherapy, radiation therapy sensitivity and differentiation.

This research culminated in the first identification of the trophoblast stem cell and establishment of the first human hormone synthesizing cell system maintained in continuous cultivation. Dr. Pattillo shared all the cell systems he established with scientists worldwide, and one, the ovarian system, was used to develop a new treatment for ovarian cancer. He authored the first stem cell publication in 1968.

Dr. Pattillo completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at MCW and was on the MCW faculty from 1968 to 1995, serving as Acting Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1979 and Vice-Chair from 1980 to 1984. He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, one book and many book chapters.

Dr. Pattillo has been honored with the Medallion of the International Trophoblast Society, the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award and the Pioneer Award from the National Institute of Health for Frontiers in Stem Cell Research.

Rebecca Page Ramirez | Doctor of Humanities and Augustin A. Ramirez, Jr. | Doctor of Medical Science


Agustin A. Ramirez, Jr., and his wife, Rebecca Page Ramirez, have made giving back to the community a centerpiece of their lives, and they put much of their philanthropic efforts into providing others with access to a quality education.

The Ramirez family supported construction of a new elementary and middle school at the United Community Center in central-city Milwaukee, which provides educational opportunities to more than 1,300 predominantly Hispanic students. The Agustin A. Ramirez, Jr. Family Foundation provides college scholarships to more than 100 Greater Milwaukee students each year, and the family has committed $1 million for a new Ramirez Lean Scholars program that funds a collaborative effort between the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the Medical College of Wisconsin to apply lean practices to delivering more effective medicine in a hospital environment.

Most recently, the Ramirez Family Foundation committed to investing $60 million to build a new K-4 through 12th school on Milwaukee’s South Side. St. Augustine Preparatory Academy will provide capacity for 3,000 children from K-4 through 12th grade when completed.

Outside of the Milwaukee area, the Ramirezes have funded a Chair in the Mechanical Engineering School at the Georgia Institute of Technology and endowed two scholarships at the University of Virginia. The Ramirez family is also committed to building Christian schools in Central America, with a long-term family goal of reaching 1,000,000 children.

Agustin Ramirez, Jr., currently serves as Executive Chairman of HUSCO International, a global engineering and hydraulics manufacturing company he founded in Waukesha in 1985. He served as CEO of HUSCO for 26 years.

Mary Ellen Stanek, CFA | Doctor of Humanities and Scott P. Stanek, DDS | Doctor of Medical Science


Mary Ellen Stanek, CFA, and Scott P. Stanek, DDS, are generous community supporters and have focused many of their philanthropic efforts on youth development and education. To assist with their support, they established the Scott and Mary Ellen Stanek Family Fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

Mary Ellen Stanek is Managing Director and Director of Asset Management at Robert W. Baird & Co., Chief Investment Officer for Baird Advisors and President of the Baird Funds. She has been a member of the MCW Board of Trustees since 2001 and has served on the boards of Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, Boys and Girls Clubs, Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Junior Achievement, Marquette University, Milwaukee World Festival and United Way of Greater Milwaukee. She also has served on the corporate boards of Baird Financial Group, Journal Communications, Journal Media Group, Northwestern Mutual, West Bend Mutual Insurance Company and Wisconsin Energy Corporation.

Dr. Stanek is in private practice at Stanek Family Dental and is considered a thought leader and role model for dental practice in our region.

Mary Ellen and Dr. Stanek were named Parents of the Year by the Children’s Outing Association in 2011. Mary Ellen Stanek has received many awards, including Marquette University Alumna of the Year, Marquette University College of Arts and Sciences Person for Others, Marquette University High School’s Spirit of St. Ignatius, St. Francis Children’s Service Award, the Point of Light Award, Professional Dimension’s Sacagawea Award and the MVP Award from the Boys and Girls Club.

Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD | Doctor of Medical Science


Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD, a breast oncologist and author, has dedicated much of his career to healthcare reform, research ethics and end-of-life care. He currently serves as Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, the Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor and Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Emanuel’s recent book, Prescription for the Future, identifies standout medical organizations that have achieved higher-quality, more patient-focused and lower-cost care, and from their examples distills twelve transformational practices that could transform the entire healthcare sector.

Dr. Emanuel was the Founding Chair of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health and held that position until August 2011. He recently served as a Special Advisor on Health Policy to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and National Economic Council.

He has received numerous awards including election to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Science, the Association of American Physicians and the Royal College of Medicine (UK). Hippocrates Magazine selected him as Doctor of the Year in Ethics. He received the American Medical Association-Burroughs Welcome Leadership Award, the Public Service Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the John Mendelsohn Award from the MD Anderson Cancer Center and a Fulbright Scholarship (which he declined).

Dr. Emanuel also serves as a Venture Partner at Oak HC/FT and as a contributor for the New York Times and CNN.

2017 Recipients

Donna M. Hietpas | Doctor of Humanities


For nearly thirty years, Donna Hietpas focused her personal and professional life on helping women uncover their strengths and reach personal goals. This includes 27 years of serving as Program Director of the Benedict Center Women's Harm Reduction Program, from which she retired in December. Benedict Center is a nationally recognized agency that provides community-based treatment, education and support to justice-involved women so they can develop safer and healthier lives.

The Women's Harm Reduction Program helps women change unhealthy behaviors and offers a safe place for them to begin healing from past trauma. The program continues to evolve and now includes mental health and substance abuse treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma counseling, and parenting and employment classes. It also operates a Women's Reentry Program at the Milwaukee County House of Correction.

In 2010, Ms. Hietpas was invited to work with Milwaukee Police District 3 and the District Attorney's Office to develop a more effective way of responding to street prostitution. From these efforts emerged the Sisters Program, which combines street outreach, a drop-in center and on-going case management to help women involved in prostitution find a better life. The Benedict Center was awarded a Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program (HWPP) grant from the Medical College of Wisconsin to support these efforts.

Ms. Hietpas credits her success in working with women to treating everyone with respect and dignity and realizing that change is a process which cannot be forced. She believes that building relationships through mutual trust is key.

Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD | Doctor of Medical Science


Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD, is President of Harvard-affiliated Brigham Health – an academic healthcare system that includes Brigham and Women's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital and the Brigham and Women's Physician Organization – and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. A cardiologist and distinguished biomedical researcher, Dr. Nabel's work on the molecular genetics of cardiovascular diseases has produced 17 patents and more than 250 scientific publications.

Dr. Nabel was appointed Chief Health and Medical Advisor to the National Football League in 2015. In this advisory role, she provides strategic input to the NFL's medical, health and scientific efforts; participates as an ex-officio member on each of the NFL's medical advisory committees; and identifies areas for the NFL to enhance player safety, care and treatment.

Dr. Nabel's scientific contributions in cardiovascular gene transfer have developed molecular and cellular techniques, delineated the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis and clarified the processes of cell division and growth of vascular smooth muscle cells in blood vessels. Her studies on Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome have characterized the vascular smooth muscle cell defect leading to premature heart attack and stroke.

From 2005 to 2009, Dr. Nabel served as director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and leveraged a $3 billion research portfolio to establish pioneering scientific programs in genomics, stem cells, and translational research.

Her colleagues have elected her to the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the Association of American Physicians and the American Society of Clinical Investigation.

Ralph E. Hollmon | Doctor of Humanities


Ralph E. Hollmon has demonstrated a strong commitment throughout his career to help underrepresented members of our community improve the quality of their lives. He recently retired as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Milwaukee Urban League, a position he held for 14 years. Under his leadership, the League improved the educational, housing, employment and financial opportunities for thousands of our fellow community members.

Mr. Hollmon's other community outreach efforts include serving as past Co-Chair of the Milwaukee Commission on Police Community Relations; Co-Chair of the Governor's Business Opportunity Advisory Commission; member of the JP Morgan Chase Bank National Community Advisory Board; Marcus Center for the Performing Arts Board of Directors; VISIT Milwaukee Board of Directors; Milwaukee Succeeds Executive Committee; Greater Downtown Action Agenda Executive Leadership Committee; African American Chamber of Commerce and Member of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

He has served as Director of the Milwaukee County Department of Human Services, Chief Executive Officer of the Private Industry Council, and the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. In addition, Mr. Hollmon has held positions with the State of Wisconsin Department of Administration and the Social Development Commission of Milwaukee County.

Will Allen | Doctor of Humanities


Will Allen is an urban farmer who is transforming the planning, cultivation, production and delivery of healthy food to urban and rural populations. He is founder and CEO of Growing Power, and is recognized as a national and international leader in urban and rural agriculture and food policy.

Mr. Allen is the son of a southern sharecropper. After a career in professional basketball and a number of years in corporate sales and marketing at Procter & Gamble, he returned to his roots as a farmer in 1993 and purchased the last remaining registered farm in the City of Milwaukee. It is there where he established Growing Power, a national nonprofit organization and land trust that supports people from diverse backgrounds by helping to provide them with equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food.

In 2008, Mr. Allen was named a John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow and genius grant winner. In 2010, Time Magazine named Mr. Allen to its list of 100 World's Most Influential People. In 2011, he received The James Beard Award.

Mr. Allen's autobiography, The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities, was published in 2012 and received the Silver Medalist Award from Axiom Business Books. The book was nominated for the Outstanding Literary Work for a NAACP Image Award in 2013. He has been given the National Education Association Security Benefit Corporation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education in recognition of his work with children, teachers and schools.

Past Recipients


Billie Ann and Michael Charles Kubly, MD
Doctor of Humanities Honorary Degree

Gary H. Gibbons, MD
Doctor of Medical Science Honorary Degree

Ricardo Diaz
Doctor of Humanities Honorary Degree

Timothy T. Flaherty, MD
Doctor of Medical Science Honorary Degree


John Bartkowski
Doctor of Medical Science Honorary Degree

Jon and Ann Hammes
Doctor of Humanities Honorary Degrees

Lester L. Carter, Jr.
Doctor of Medical Science Honorary Degree

Robert J. Lefkowitz
Doctor of Science Honorary Degree


Mary-Claire King
Doctor of Science Honorary Degree

Tim Size
Doctor of Humanities Honorary Degree

William David Petasnick
Doctor of Medical Science Honorary Degree


Jeffrey T. Laitman
Doctor of Medical Science Honorary Degree

Robert A. Wild
Doctor of Humane Letters Honorary Degree

Thomas A. Brophy
Doctor of Humane Letters Honorary Degree


Cordelia Taylor
Doctor of Medical Science Honorary Degree

Jan Lennon
Doctor of Humanities Honorary Degree

T. Michael Bolger
Doctor of Medical Science Honorary Degree


Allan H. (Bud) Selig
Doctor of Humanities Honorary Degree

Bryon Riesch
Doctor of Humanities Honorary Degree

Mary and Ted D. Kellner
Doctor of Humanities Honorary Degree

Michael Bliss
Doctor of Humanities Honorary Degree

Sheldon and Marianne Lubar
Doctor of Humanities Honorary Degree