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They Have Touched Our Lives

From left to right: video-game pioneer John Carmack; actress Edie McClurg; hybrid-vehicle innovator William Reinert; and singer and songwriter Chely Wright will be the 2017 recipient of honorary doctorates from UMKC.

Four industry pioneers will receive 2017 honorary doctorates at UMKC

Four exceptional leaders who have made their mark in their industries will receive honorary doctorate degrees during commencement exercises at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The honorees are video-game pioneer John Carmack, School of Computing and Engineering; actress Edie McClurg, College of Arts and Sciences; hybrid-vehicle innovator William Reinert, College of Arts and Sciences; and singer and songwriter Chely Wright, College of Arts and Sciences.

John Carmack

Carmack, who has been experimenting with 3-D graphics since junior high, was instrumental in the creation of iconic gaming franchises including Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein thanks to his pioneering of computer gaming engines.

Carmack studied for a short period of time at UMKC, taking classes in the summer and fall of 1987 and the winter semester of 1988 while attending Shawnee Mission East High School. He attended UMKC for two semesters following graduation.

His contributions to real-time computer graphics allowed for the creation of more complex games with rich details on early personal computers that lacked video cards and operated on MS-DOS. He is also credited as a catalyst for the explosive growth and evolution of the medium of gaming. As the innovator of the first-person shooter genre of computer games, Carmack devised ways to introduce smooth scrolling, raycasting, binary space partitioning (BSP) and Carmack’s Reverse, a method named for Carmack himself.

In 1991, Carmack co-founded id Software. This organization still exists today and is a world-renowned game developer and technology innovator. In 2013, Carmack joined Oculus, a technology company specializing in virtual reality, in the role of chief technology officer.

Today, his work focuses on virtual reality devices. Carmack has been the recipient of many awards and recognized by industry publications for his contributions to the world of gaming and technology. At the age of 29 in 1999, Carmack was named among the 50 most influential people in technology by Time digital magazine. In 2007, he received two Emmy Awards.

Edie McClurg

McClurg is a stand-up comedian, actress, voice actress and UMKC alumna (B.A. ’67) whose award-winning career has spanned six decades. She has been featured in nearly 90 different films and 55 television shows, appearing in cult classics and lending her voice to animated productions. From “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” to “Carrie,” McClurg is an iconic screen character.

Prior to her acting career, McClurg spent 10 years working for National Public Radio (NPR). She served as a disc jockey, newswoman and producer for KCUR 89.3. During the NPR national broadcast of the Nixon Tape Transcripts, McClurg portrayed John Ehrlichman in Conversation 26. She also taught radio at UMKC for eight years.

Her work in satirical improvisation began with the Pischel Players and the Comedy Store. Then she joined The Groundlings, an improv and sketch comedy theatre in Los Angeles, where she spent 10 years of her career. McClurg’s connection with The Groundlings led to her onscreen debut in the 1976 horror film “Carrie.” This was just the first of many roles she played on the silver screen.

McClurg is most recognized for her roles in a series of John Hughes films: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” “She’s Having a Baby” and “Curly Sue.” She has also acted in films directed by Robert Redford and Oliver Stone. While McClurg often portrays roles as a neighborly, Midwestern figure, she has also played highly complex roles where she has received notable recognition. For her portrayal of a mentally disabled woman in “Bill: On His Own” (1983), she received a National Media Award. For the film “Hanging Up” (2000), McClurg was named Best Actress of the Chicago Alternative Film Festival for her portrayal of famed Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s mother.

In 2004, McClurg returned to Kansas City to perform her one-woman 45-minute show at the New Theatre Restaurant to raise awareness of and money for the UMKC Theatre Alumni Association.

William Reinert

Reinert is a Vietnam War veteran and UMKC alumnus (B.A. ’74) who, throughout his career, has used his skills to solve environmental challenges and make a difference in energy-efficient technologies. He is best known for his role in heralding the era of the hybrid vehicle with the Toyota.

Before his retirement in 2014, he was a nationally recognized expert on energy and resource management. Prior to his career with Toyota, Reinert worked as an energy engineer for Bell Labs, where he developed alternative energy solutions, and Hewlett Packard, where he was responsible for the design and construction of clean labs. His work involved developing advanced neural network applications and advanced energy systems.

In 1990, Reinert took a job with Toyota as the National Manager of Advanced Technology. In this position, he coordinated Toyota’s various developmental and marketing activities related to alternative fuel vehicles and emerging technologies. Reinert helped to develop and design the second generation Prius, a groundbreaking, fully hybrid electric vehicle.

The Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle in the world, was made available for sale for the first time in 1997. Among his other accomplishments, Reinert is credited with helping produce Toyota’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and Toyota’s first hydrogen fuel vehicle. Reinert’s commitment to the intelligent use of energy resources led to the U.S. Secretary of Energy naming him chair of the Electric Subgroup for the Future Transportation Fuels study as part of the National Petroleum Council’s research on fuel availability.

Reinert’s passion for the environment took him to the Galapagos Islands, the second largest marine reserve in the world. In partnership with Toyota, the World Wildlife Fund and the government of Ecuador, he and a colleague developed a 10-year project that has transformed energy use within the archipelago and has helped save a precious and fragile ecosystem. In 2013, Reinert was selected as the Alumni Achievement Award winner for the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences.

Chely Wright

Wright is an unwavering advocate of the LGBTQIA community and a supporter of U.S. military veterans. She was born in Kansas City and raised in Wellsville, Kan. At 4 years old, she knew that she wanted to be a country music performer and at the age of 8, she realized that she was gay.

After graduating from high school, Wright moved to Nashville, and worked in a musical production at Opryland USA. In 1994, she released her first album and over the course of her career has released a total of eight studio albums, three compilation albums and three extended plays. The song “Shut Up and Drive” from her third album reached the top 20 country list in 1997. Her fourth album, released in 1999, produced numerous hit songs and she received her first gold album certification.

Throughout her career, Wright struggled with her sexuality. In 2007, she chose to reveal her sexual orientation publicly and released an autobiography. She became one of the first members of the country music community to come out. In 2011, a documentary detailing her coming out story was released and premiered at the 35th annual Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco.

In addition to her musical career, Wright is the founder of Reading, Writing and Rhythm, a charity dedicated to keeping musical education alive in schools and helps supply instruments and equipment. Wright founded her second charity in 2010; the LIKEME Organization provides assistance, resources and education to LGBT individuals, their family and friends. An important mission of the organization is the Chely Wright LIKEME scholarship for graduating high school seniors who have actively advocated for LGBT issues, awarded to up to five individuals per year.

Wright is recognized for her support of military service members, their families and veterans. She has performed for deployed troops in Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wright has received 25 awards for her music, her documentary and her charity work. These awards include, among many others, the 1995 “Top New Female Vocalist Award” from the Academy of Country Music.

Wright has used her celebrity status to build awareness around LGBT issues around the world, and here in Kansas City. In 2011, she was the PRIDE Lecture Series keynote speaker at UMKC; in 2014, she was a keynote speaker at the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference hosted by UMKC; and in 2015, she was the keynote speaker at the UMKC Diversity and Inclusion Summit.

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