After ten years of discussion and debate, officials at Pierce College selected their first honorary degree recipient.
A team of faculty, staff and administrators looked at each nominee’s educational service, humanitarian service, servant leadership, personal and professional accomplishments and entrepreneurial leadership.
The team finally settled on longtime Puyallup business owner Jerry Korum, who was awarded his honorary degree June 12 at the college’s commencement ceremony.
Each nomination must be submitted by an employee or a student of the college, and each nominee is combed through by faculty, staff, administrators and Pierce College’s board of trustees.
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“It’s a way of honoring somebody of distinction,” Chancellor Michele Johnson said. “Someone whose life work has made our community better.”
The first honorary degree recipient was an easy choice for college officials. Korum was nominated by different people multiple times, and the board of trustees made the unanimous decision to select Korum as the very first recipient of the college’s honorary degree.
“Jerry Korum is somebody who fit all of the categories,” Johnson said. “(The board of trustees) felt his work demonstrated all of this.”
In the past, Korum has helped chair fundraising efforts for an on-campus child care center, and he often helps displaced and unemployed workers get back into careers through the PierceWorks program.
While Korum has done plenty of work for the college, the honorary associates of arts degree holds a special place for the Puyallup business owner. Korum doesn’t have a college degree, so receiving his diploma from Pierce College was a touching moment.
“I was pretty emotional,” he said. “I was just flabbergasted. I love the college, and my deep involvement there. I always tell people that Pierce College is my college.”
According to Johnson, the program is set up to honor people such as Korum to be recognized and thanked for their efforts of bettering the community.
“He has set the bar pretty high for future honorary degree recipients,” she added. “He’s been generous to us and the community in so many ways.”
Since buying Korum Automotive 47 years ago, Korum has overseen over 150 employees, and given tirelessly to his community.
“I love this community,” he said. “It’s an honor to serve the community. It is a dream life.”