2014 Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters

Sandra Keiser Edwards

Sandra Keiser Edwards, deputy director of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR, will receive the Western Illinois University Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at Western's Spring 2014 Commencement exercises Saturday, May 10.

The Honorary Doctorate is the highest award Western Illinois University can bestow upon an individual who has made significant contributions to his/her career and to Western Illinois University.

2014 Honorary Doctorate Speech

The video below features the 2014 recipient of the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, addressing the Class of 2014 at Western Hall on Saturday, May 10.

Sandra Keiser Edwards

Keiser Edwards, a 1974 College Student Personnel master's degree graduate, has been a key member of the Crystal Bridges leadership team since 2007, overseeing the founding of the museum, as well as its construction and successful opening in November 2011. Since that time, the museum has welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors, with Keiser Edwards serving in the pivotal role of deputy director. Keiser Edwards continues to be a guiding force in establishing the institution, creating and growing connections to bring increased tourism to the area, as well as offering museum visitors unparalleled arts, cultural and educational experiences.

Previously, Keiser Edwards served as the associate vice chancellor for development at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville for nine years. She and her late husband, Clay Edwards, helped direct the university's groundbreaking Campaign for the Twenty-First Century, a significant initiative that raised more than $1 billion for academic programs, including the founding of an honors college and endowing the graduate school. In 2007, Keiser Edwards was made an honorary alumna of the university by the Arkansas Alumni Association.

She has also served as director of development (outreach and cooperative extension) and director of station development (public broadcasting) at The Pennsylvania State University, posts she held from 1988 to 1998. She created the first comprehensive advancement program in the field of continuing and distance education at a public university, and was part of the management team that created Penn State's World Campus, a virtual university for students at a distance from the physical location. As a result of these achievements, the university awarded Keiser Edwards the Outreach Pioneer Award.

"Sandy's contributions to the arts, philanthropy, and higher education, as well as her support of Western Illinois University, are much-admired and appreciated. It is with great pride that we bestow upon Ms. Keiser Edwards an honorary doctorate from her alma mater," said WIU President Jack Thomas.

Keiser Edwards received Western's Alumni Achievement Award in 1993 and the WIU Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006. She currently serves as a member of the College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) Advisory Board.

During her time at Western Illinois University, Keiser Edwards served as a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Activities. She later served in that office as a full-time staff member, overseeing major concert and film programs.

Keiser Edwards holds a bachelor's degree from Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, NC., where she served on the board of trustees from 1978-1986.


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