Meet the 2024 Honorary Degree Recipients

Marcia Chatelain, PhD

Doctor of Social Sciences, Honoris Causa

May 2024

Marcia Chatelain has dedicated her life to telling the stories of others. A historian, scholar and author, Chatelain is renowned for her impactful storytelling and passion for social justice. Chatelain’s natural curiosity has resonated with people around the country, earning her a Pulitzer Prize in history and showcasing her as a lifelong learner and teacher.

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Chatelain’s Mizzou journey began when she arrived as a high schooler to participate in a workshop on urban journalism. As an undergraduate student, she was a 2000 Harry S. Truman Scholar and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and religious studies in 2001. After graduating, Chatelain moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a resident scholar at the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Continuing her academic pursuit, she then attended Brown University and earned a doctorate in American civilization.

Throughout her career, Chatelain has been committed to sharing stories of history through academia. She began working at the University of Oklahoma in 2007 and spent four years teaching there as the Reach for Excellence Assistant Professor of Honors and African American Studies before moving to Georgetown University, where she was a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of History and African American Studies until 2023. Currently, she is the Penn Presidential Compact Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.


Sarah Leen

Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa

May 2024

Sarah Leen has always had an eye for the out of the ordinary. Earning her bachelor’s degree in fine and studio arts in 1974 from the University of Missouri, Leen’s passion for visual storytelling was always apparent. As a graduate photojournalism student in the Missouri School of Journalism, Leen became the first female student to win the College Photographer of the Year. She also secured an internship with National Geographic, an opportunity that would shape her career.

After working for a series of newspapers including the Topeka Capital Journal, the Columbia Daily Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Leen shifted to freelance work — mostly for National Geographic — for nearly two decades. In 2005, she officially joined the magazine as a senior photo editor and made history in 2013 by becoming the first female director of photography for National Geographic Partners.

During her time at National Geographic, Leen produced some of the magazine’s most iconic images. Her work graced countless pages of the publication, as she published 16 stories and six covers during her time there. Despite her success, Leen ultimately decided to pursue her true passion: editing photography books. In 2019, she left National Geographic to focus on her work as a photo editor and teacher, a testament to her dedication to sharing the art of photography with others.


Gilbert Ross, MD

Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa

May 2024

Gilbert Ross has dedicated his life to serving others and improving lives. In 1960, he became the first urology resident at the University of Missouri after being handpicked by then-Chief of Urology Ian M. Thompson.

Ross excelled during his residency and joined the university as a faculty member immediately after graduation. He has since spent more than six decades serving in various capacities throughout the MU School of Medicine — solidifying his legacy and pursuing advancements in health care.

Working in conjunction with the Division of Nephrology, Ross helped spearhead MU Health Care’s Kidney Transplant Program. In 1972, he orchestrated mid-Missouri’s first kidney transplant surgery. He served as the program’s principal surgeon and director from 1972-99 and again from 2004-08. Thanks to his efforts and advocacy, more than 1,100 patients have received much-needed organs.

While at MU, Ross also served as chief of the Division of Urology from 1977-98, facilitating the training of generations of medical students and residents. To honor his tireless dedication to advancing medical science, an endowed professorship was named in his honor in 1999.

In addition to his countless contributions to Mizzou, Ross has been an active member of the health care community at large. He was a founding member of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and served as a member of the Coller Surgical Society and the American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons. He was also named an honorary member of the American Urological Association.


Don Walsworth

Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa

May 2024

Don Walsworth has dedicated his life to serving Missourians, and his impact has been felt in fields spanning business, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, politics, health care, athletics, philanthropy, community outreach, public service and more. Walsworth, now the chief executive officer of the largest independently owned yearbook company in the word, graduated from the University of Missouri in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in education.

After studying printing management at Carnegie Mellon University, the Marceline, Missouri, native began his career at his family’s printing company, Walsworth Inc., in 1957. Ten years later, he became the company’s president. Today, Walsworth Inc. is among the 35 largest domestic printing companies and one of the nation’s 10 largest book manufactures.

Walsworth’s business acumen and entrepreneurial mindset has earned him numerous accolades over the course of his career. In 1975, the Small Business Administration named him Small Businessman of the Year for the Missouri-Kansas region, and in 1982, he was elected president of the National Yearbook Manufacturer’s Association. In 2004, Walsworth received the prestigious business honor of Missouri/Kansas Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Manufacturing.

Outside of his business career, Walsworth has left his mark in civic life and public service with community outreach efforts in his hometown of Marceline, at MU, and throughout Missouri. He served two terms on the Marceline City Council, one term as mayor, and is a past president of the Marceline Chamber of Commerce. Former Governor Bob Holden appointed Walsworth to the UM System Board of Curators in 2003. In 2007, he was awarded the prestigious Missourian Award, which is bestowed upon Missourians who have made outstanding contributions to their state in civics, business, arts or politics.


View past honorary degree recipients