Two accomplished alumni will receive honorary degrees during CLAS commencements

Iowa alumni William Decker and Charles Ray will be honored during the spring 2024 commencement ceremonies on May 11.
Friday, May 3, 2024

Two accomplished Iowa graduates will be recognized with honorary degrees during University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

During the 9 a.m. ceremony, William "Bill" Decker will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science. Decker was instrumental in developing technology infrastructure both at the University of Iowa and on the national level.

At the 1 p.m. ceremony, Charles Ray will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Ray is recognized globally as one of the preeminent contemporary sculptors.

Meet William Decker 

Decker, a native Iowan, received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Iowa in 1966. He became one of the university’s first graduate students in the computer science department and graduated in 1968 with a master’s degree.

After graduation, Decker began working at the University Computer Center—later renamed the Weeg Computing Center—and eventually became assistant director. He then joined the Department of Computer Science in 1978 as an instructor and research scientist in the then-new Computer Science Research Laboratory. He managed the laboratory’s staff, researched computing support for the statistics and mathematics departments, and helped develop the computer science department’s curriculum.

In 1993, Decker became associate vice president for research and director of Information Technology Services. In the role, he began to receive national attention as a leader in internet infrastructure development and helped build the foundation of the university’s current ITS department.

“The people with whom I have worked, the students I’ve taught, and the extraordinary intellectual stimulation that has been a part of projects, responsibilities, and activities here at Iowa have all made my life very rich and enjoyable,” Decker says.

The recognition of his leadership in internet infrastructure at Iowa led Decker to the National Science Foundation, where he served as program director for Advanced Networking Infrastructure within the foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate from 1998 to 2000. He managed a $43 million grant portfolio for projects researching and developing internet infrastructure.

William Decker

Meet Charles Ray

Ray, who was born in the Chicago area, received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Iowa in 1975.

“I came to Iowa because I wanted to become an artist,” Ray says. “I had always drawn when I was a kid. Iowa admissions must have seen some potential and my ambition. It was really four years of extremely positive experiences. The art and art history department was just fantastic. Some of the work that I did at Iowa remains among some of the best work that I’ve done in my life.”

After his time at Iowa, Ray earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 1979. He joined the faculty of the University of California-Los Angeles, where he is now a professor emeritus, in 1981.

Ray’s work has been internationally renowned for more than 50 years. His peers say Ray has a vast knowledge of art history, and his work shows historical influence through a contemporary lens. Ray and the team in his studio, which is based in California, can spend years on a piece.

“This honorary degree means a lot, because Iowa means so much to me,” Ray says. “Nearly 50 years after I graduated, to be able to just say a few words and be part of this ceremony with the young people graduating now, I think it’s really terrific.”

Charles Ray

For more information about University of Iowa commencement, visit  

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers about 70 majors across the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. About 15,000 undergraduate and nearly 2,000 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by faculty at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all Iowa undergraduates through the college's general education program, CLAS CORE. About 80 percent of all Iowa undergraduates begin their academic journey in CLAS. The college confers about 60 percent of the university's bachelor's degrees each academic year.