La Sierra University

06/21/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/21/2017 02:52

La Sierra University graduation awards highlight honorary doctorates for local attorneys

Loma Linda University Health General Counsel Kent Hansen, a La Sierra alum, and Best Best & Krieger water law attorney Arthur Littleworth received honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa from La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey and Provost Joy Fehr. The degrees were awarded as part of a graduation ceremony that also recognized the achievements and contributions of undergraduate Nicquelle Godfrey, graduate student Bianca Tolan, Krista Motschiedler, assistant professor of chemistry, Lora Geriguis, associate professor of English, and Ken Khan, La Sierra's director of dining services.

As general counsel of Loma Linda University Health, Hansen oversees the 30 corporations that comprise LLUH which functions as one of only 125 academic health centers in the United States. Loma Linda University Health employs some 16,000 people and annually educates some 4,500 students in the health sciences. Hansen is the principal architect of the institution's system of governance and organization.

He graduated from La Sierra in 1975 when the campus was part of Loma Linda University and earned a Juris Doctor from Willamette University in 1979. He served as associate dean of students and university counsel for Loma Linda University from 1979 to 1982 when he joined a Corona law firm. In 1988, he became a named partner of that firm, Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen, where as a managing attorney, he focused on educational law, healthcare law, nonprofit corporate law, and employment defense.

Hansen has maintained his connection with La Sierra over the years in various ways including serving as university legal counsel through his law firm. 'The realities of racial and gender diversity learned on the La Sierra campus influenced my drafts of the first affirmative action plans for Loma Linda University and Andrews University, and inspired my personal and professional commitments to fight racial and gender discrimination whenever I've encountered it,' he said in a biographical statement.

As he received the honorary doctorate, La Sierra University's trustees and vice presidents seated on the stage stood in an ovation to Hansen, a tribute that deeply moved him, he said. 'I am truly blessed and grateful to receive this honor,' said Hansen in a statement on Facebook. 'Receiving the honorary doctorate from the university where my life's work was inspired and whose mission I served for 38 years as counsel and advocate, speaks to me that my professional efforts have been worthy of the client and the cause and have been appreciated by those who I have served to the best of my ability with passion.'

'This award directly stems from my undergraduate years on the La Sierra campus,' he said. 'In many ways, I found my true self when I commenced college there. Mentors encouraged me to pursue higher education law and I found my career passion in representing the interests of private faith-based colleges and universities, particularly those of my Seventh-day Adventist Church.'

The La Sierra degree ceremony was Littleworth's first time, at age 94, attending his own graduation since high school. Due to military duty, family obligations, and a bar exam review schedule, he was unable to attend his previous graduations years ago from Yale and Stanford universities. Upon hearing the news during Littleworth's introduction, the La Sierra graduating class rose in a standing ovation while Littleworth smiled broadly.

A senior partner at Riverside's Best Best & Krieger, Littleworth's law career has spanned more than 40 years during which time he became one of the nation's top water law experts. In 1987, the United States Supreme Court named him a special master to oversee and help decide a states' water rights case involving the Arkansas River. He is co-author of the book 'California Water' which is widely regarded as the definitive text on historical, legal and policy issues regarding use of water in California.

In Riverside, Littleworth is noted as one of the community's renowned civic leaders for his efforts in 1965 as school board president to lead the voluntary desegregation of Riverside's public schools. He achieved this goal by working closely with educators, school board members, Mexican-American and African-American parents and community leaders. In 2014, he published a memoir detailing his experiences titled 'No Easy Way: Integrating Riverside Schools - A Victory for Community.'

'The graduation was a lovely event and it was a real treat to be on the campus,' said Littleworth through his wife, Peggy Littleworth. She and several other family members attended his honorary degree ceremony, as did several officials from the Riverside Unified School District, the city of Riverside and the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce. 'It was a great honor, and the highlight was the spontaneous standing ovation by the students,' Littleworth said, adding that he sends his congratulations to La Sierra's 2017 graduating class.

In addition to the honorary Doctor of Laws degrees, Wisbey presented the following awards:

President's Award for Outstanding University Undergraduate Student to Nicquelle Godfrey, graduating with Bachelor of Arts degrees in history, Global Studies, and sociology, and accepted into the Georgetown University of Law. While maintaining a 3.98 grade point average, she has served as student association president, co-founded the archaeology club, served as vice president of the pre-law club, served as a congressional intern on Capitol Hill, volunteered on an archaeological dig in Jordan, among many other activities.

President's Award for Outstanding University Graduate Student to Bianca Tolan who will receive a Master of Business Administration in marketing. Tolan has maintained a 3.90 GPA and has served as the president of the Marketing Society, participated as a student in the American Marketing Association and the Society for Human Resource Management, and worked as a marketing analyst for B&K Precision where she is now on the board of directors. After graduation, she will pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Loma Linda University.

Distinguished Teaching Award to Krista Motschiedler. She pursued doctoral research at the University of California, Los Angeles where she discovered a love of teaching. She joined La Sierra in 2002 and began teaching courses in organic chemistry, University Studies and courses for the Honors program. Motschiedler has served as chair of the Pre-Health Recommendation Committee since 2013. Motschiedler is also being presented with the 2017 GT Anderson Teacher of the Year Award from the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Verla Rae Kwiram Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award to Lora Geriguis. The Kwiram Award is presented annually to a faculty member who has led undergraduate students to success through challenging teaching, encouraging their students to an open range of ethical and intellectual inquiry. Since arriving at La Sierra in 2007, Geriguis has taught classes on literary studies, environmental humanities, the social and religious aspects of British literature between 1600-1800, and more. Her research focuses on the influence of Restoration period libraries on scientific methods in England, as well as environmental studies of the long 18th century. Additional achievements include the creation of the annual Natures conference which brought participation by graduate students and professors from around the country.

The Jay J. Nethery Award to Ken Khan. This award is presented to those who have contributed to the ideals of La Sierra University, and who have provided selfless and extraordinary service to its students. Khan, a La Sierra alum, arrived at La Sierra in 2002 from a career as a food and beverages director for Marriott Hotels. With the support of La Sierra administration, the Dining Commons and the Eagle's Nest cafe were remodeled during Khan's first year as director. From locally sourced food products to reduced food waste and work-study opportunities for student employees, the Dining Commons is a vastly different world from the one Khan first encountered as a student.

For additional coverage of La Sierra University's June 18 graduation, visit To view photo albums of La Sierra University's 2017 commencement weekend, visit