Nebraska Wesleyan to confer degrees on May 6

  • Student and Prairie Wolf at commencement
  • Student and Prairie Wolf at commencement

Nebraska Wesleyan University will confer degrees to over 340 students during its 134th commencement on Saturday, May 6.

Honorary degree recipients

Honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.), commencement speaker

McDowell head shot

Tyre J. “T. J.” McDowell, Jr. (’95) is a recognized and accomplished leader in Lincoln with outstanding experience serving the community in the education and nonprofit sectors. He currently serves as an advisor to Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, leading the city’s One Lincoln initiative to foster equity, diversity and inclusion.

T. J. previously served as the assistant vice chancellor for student affairs for student life and leadership at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His previous experiences also include graduation initiative coordinator for Lincoln Public Schools; executive director of the Clyde Malone Community Center; program manager at the Community Health Endowment; executive director of Lighthouse, an accredited after-school program; and director of education outreach at Lincoln Action Program.

His roots and passion run deep for Nebraska Wesleyan. In 1995, T. J. earned a degree in sociology from NWU; he served on the Board of Governors from 2008 to 2014, joined the Nebraska Wesleyan staff in August 2014 leading the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and was promoted to vice president for campus community, which he served until 2018. He is a past recipient of NWU’s Young Alumni Achievement Award.

T. J. continues to be an active volunteer in Lincoln serving on the boards of the Cooper Foundation, the Foundation for Educational Services, and the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. 

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) 

Acklie head shot

Phyllis Osborn Acklie is a native of Norfolk, Neb. She and her late husband, Duane Acklie, purchased Crete Carrier in 1971 and two years later moved its headquarters from Crete to Lincoln. Today, Crete Carrier Corporation is one of the nation’s largest privately-owned trucking companies.

The Acklies’ business, community involvement and philanthropic investments reverberate throughout Lincoln and across the state. Both Duane and Phyllis knew the importance of being involved and giving back. Education has been a continuing philanthropic passion. Phyllis and Duane have generously supported Nebraska Wesleyan for many years. Upon Duane’s passing, Phyllis made a generous gift to the new science building, subsequently named the Duane W. Acklie Hall of Science.

Phyllis remains active in the community serving on the board of Acklie Charitable Foundation, Capitol Casualty Company, and Wyuka Historical Foundation, with a term as president. Her past community activities include serving as a past board member and chair of the Lincoln Community Foundation, as well as several terms on the Bryan Memorial Hospital Foundation and Bryan Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees. Phyllis is a past board member and chair of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation and served for many years on the board of Union Bank and Trust Company.

In its initial year, she and her husband Duane served on the board of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. They were both recognized in 2014 by the University of Nebraska Medical Center with the Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award.

From business to faith to philanthropy, Phyllis has been a servant leader and pillar in the community for decades. 

Honorary Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)

Markin head shot

Rodney Markin ('77) graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and minors in mathematics and physics. He is a past recipient of the university’s Alumni Achievement Award.

Rodney is the associate vice chancellor for business development, executive director of UNeTech, David T. Purtilo distinguished professor of pathology, and professor of pathology and microbiology, surgery (Courtesy) and psychiatry (Courtesy) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Markin practices medicine at Nebraska Medicine, where he is also the vice president of business development.

His professional and academic research interests have focused on solid organ transplantation, informatics and clinical laboratory automation including robotics, information systems, medical utilization management and outcomes optimization.

Rodney’s work in clinical automation earned him a place as a fellow in the National Academy of Inventors. Not only is he a prolific inventor with over 35 patents, but he has also helped turn his ideas into products that have built startup companies or have sold widely in multinational companies. Additionally, Rodney has authored or coauthored approximately 300 book chapters, publications, articles and abstracts. 


Nebraska Wesleyan's commencement begins at 11 a.m. at NWU's Abel Stadium.

Final walk is an annual tradition that symbolizes the culmination of a graduate's learning experience at NWU. Final walk will take place at 8:40 a.m. and will be streamed to the NWU Facebook page

At 9 a.m., following final walk, will be Baccalaureate at 9 a.m. at First United Methodist Church, located at 50th Street and Saint Paul Avenue. Baccalaureate services are a tradition at Nebraska Wesleyan as part of our relationship with United Methodist Church. All are welcome to attend.  

Additional commencement details and a live stream of the ceremony can be seen on our commencement webpage