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NMSU to honor Judy Gray Johnson, Bill Sheriff at spring commencement ceremonies

Judy Gray Johnson and Bill Sheriff will be awarded honorary doctor of letters degrees at New Mexico State University's spring 2012 commencement ceremonies scheduled for 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at the Pan American Center. Tickets are not required. The Pan American Center will open an hour prior to each ceremony.

Portrait of Judy Gray Johnson
New Mexico State University will honor Judy Gray Johnson during the spring 2012 afternoon commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at the Pan American Center. (NMSU Photo by Darren Phillips)
Portrait of Bill Sheriff
New Mexico State University will honor Bill Sheriff during the spring 2012 morning commencement ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 12, at the Pan American Center. (Courtesy Photo)

Sheriff will be recognized at the morning ceremony, which will include undergraduate and graduate degree candidates from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and the College of Health and Social Services. Johnson will receive her degree at the afternoon ceremony, which will include undergraduate and graduate degree candidates from the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and the College of Extended Learning.

Judy Johnson and her husband, Michael, have made generous contributions to NMSU, establishing the first endowed chair in the Department of Geological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences; creating the Lionel Haight Professorship in accounting in the College of Business; and establishing the Daisy Gray Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship in the College of Education. They have also contributed to the university's Center for the Arts, currently under construction. That gift will be used to establish the center's costume shop, Jaki's Closet, named after their daughter, Jaclynn.

Judy also serves the university through membership on the College of Business Advisory Council and the College of Education Board of Advocates.

She is a certified public accountant whose career experience over 30 years includes public accounting, private industry and local government. During 15 years working for the City of Houston, she served in several capacities, including both city controller and director of finance and administration.

Judy attended NMSU from 1969-1972, majoring in accounting. It was during those years that she and Michael, also an NMSU student at the time, met and married. Michael graduated in 1972, and Judy went on to finish her bachelor's of business administration in accounting at the University of Houston. She has several other family members who are NMSU alumni, including her grandmother, father, sister and daughter.

Michael received an NMSU honorary doctorate in 2006.

Now retired, the couple currently resides in northern New Mexico, where they have a small vineyard and a large garden. Their two grown children live in Texas.

Bill Sheriff has had an outstanding career in executive management spanning nearly five decades. For the past six years, Sheriff has been chief executive officer of Brookdale Senior Living, the nation's largest senior living company. He had served as chairman and CEO of American Retirement Corporation for 22 years prior to its 2006 merger with Brookdale.

Sheriff got his start in management in his family's truckstop business, headquartered in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after completing his bachelor's of science in mathematics at NMSU in 1965. He was president and CEO of that business after his father's death for nine years before selling the company to Ryder Systems, where he was president of the Truckstops Division for 11 years.

He has been honored by both the American Seniors Housing Association and the National Association of TruckStop Operators with lifetime achievement awards. Among his involvements with senior living organizations, he is on the board of both the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry and the American Seniors Housing Association, and he is a member of the Assisted Living Federation of America.

Sheriff's support of higher education includes service on the Board of Trustees of Belmont University and the Harvard Medical School Health Care Policy Advisory Council. He is chairman of the Institute for Optimal Aging, a not-for-profit dedicated to coordinating research on aging within the senior living field.

He is also involved with charitable organizations, including YMCA and Salvation Army.
Sheriff and his wife, Sharon, have been married for 50 years. They reside in Nashville and have three children and eight grandchildren.

For more about NMSU spring 2012 commencement, go to http://www.nmsu.edu/commencement/