Washington State University awarded two honorary doctorates in 2019 and 2020, one to a distinguished chemistry professor and the other to a philanthropist with a passion for education.
RALPH G. YOUNT
Ralph Yount has given hope to millions of people who will never know his name.
During his 44-year career as a professor of chemistry and molecular biosciences at WSU, Yount’s study of muscle function advanced medical understanding of diseases such as muscular dystrophy, ALS, and myasthenia gravis.
His work focused on the way muscles contract, specifically the relationship between a muscle protein called myosin and ATP, the molecule involved in energy transfer. His creation of an ATP analog was critical to work that eventually led to two Nobel prizes and has been cited in more than 4,000 papers.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded Yount’s work for 43 years without interruption and awarded him a MERIT grant in 1986, the first year the grants were established. This is one of the longest continually funded projects at the NIH.
He also served as vice president and chairman of the postdoctoral fellowship committee for the Muscular Dystrophy Association for 15 years.
Yount’s extraordinary achievements as an educator and scientist have been recognized throughout his career. In 2001, former WSU President V. Lane Rawlins chose Yount to be the first recipient of the Eminent Faculty Award, the University’s highest award for faculty excellence over an extended period.
“Ralph Yount is what a faculty member should be,” said Rawlins. “He questions every decision, is a tireless and brilliant researcher, loves to teach, and is a superb colleague.”
In 2003, he was among the first three faculty members named to the newly-established rank of Regents Professor. He was also the first Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry.
When it came to teaching, Yount often went the extra mile to recruit talented prospects and help them succeed. One of his doctoral students, James Wells, became a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2017.
“Yount’s career at WSU—as well as his kindness and compassion—have left an indelible mark on the institution,” says Michael Griswold, Regents Professor and director of the School of Molecular Biosciences.
“Ralph demanded excellence of everyone, including himself. WSU is a better institution because he was here.”
Yount is currently professor emeritus in chemistry. The Ralph G. Yount Distinguished Professorship in Sciences has been established in his name.
MARK C. PIGOTT
Mark Pigott is a genuine Renaissance man. The former CEO and current executive chairman of PACCAR Inc. oversees his fourth-generation family business while supporting education, libraries, Shakespearean theater, and other arts.
Founded in 1905 as the Seattle Car Manufacturing Company, PACCAR originally made railway and logging equipment as well as Sherman tanks for the Allied forces during World War II. The family later expanded into the design and manufacture of heavy-duty trucks, eventually acquiring the Kenworth, Peterbilt, and DAF lines, now sold in more than 100 countries.
President George W. Bush presented PACCAR the 2006 National Medal of Technology for its leadership in aerodynamic, reliable, and environmentally friendly commercial vehicles.
Pigott believes business success works in tandem with companies giving back to society. He has personally, and as president of the PACCAR Foundation, supported research and education facilities, scholarships, social services, and the arts, including a gift to WSU for the construction of the PACCAR Environmental Technology Building.
PACCAR has supported the Independent Colleges of Washington for over 60 years and has donated to the Seattle Art Museum, Children’s Hospital, and United Way. Pigott served on the board of directors for the United Kingdom’s Royal Shakespeare Company America from 2000 to 2010. He also funded a project to replace historical Armada paintings in Parliament’s House of Lords and helped restore St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The Pigott Education Center at the National Gallery in London welcomes more than 80,000 schoolchildren each year to nurture their appreciation for art.
A self-proclaimed bibliophile, Pigott understands the importance of libraries for preserving the cultural record and educating the next generation of readers. His love of Elizabethan theater is reflected in his support of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and the British Library in London.
Pigott’s professional accomplishments and community service have earned royal titles in France, Belgium, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In 2012, he was awarded the prestigious honorary knight commander of the Order of the British Empire.