Weber State to honor 4 inspiring Utahns with honorary degrees

OGDEN, Utah — For their achievements in education, business, government and community leadership, Weber State University will recognize four outstanding Utahns with honorary degrees during its 160th commencement ceremony April 28. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Dee Event Center. 

One recipient, Steve Starks, is also this year’s commencement speaker. Starks is a Weber State alum who once served as WSU student body president. 

Starks is the CEO of The Larry H. Miller Company. He also served as president of the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment. Active in the community, Starks works as Gov. Spencer Cox’s Olympic and Paralympic advisor and is the chair of EDCUtah. He was appointed to the Utah Board of Higher Education in 2022, is a past chair of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Directors and served on the WSU Board of Trustees. 

Javier Chavez Sr.

Founder and owner of Javier’s, Inc., a chain of seven restaurants that serve authentic Mexican food, Chavez says his story proves the American dream. He grew up poor on a small ranch near Zacatecas, Mexico, where he learned hard work and overcame challenges, which would carry over into his pursuit to become an American entrepreneur. Before his award-winning achievements in dining, Chavez was a student-athlete at WSU, who recruited him after noticing his track talents as a national 1500-meter champion in Mexico. He graduated from WSU in 1984 and was inducted into the WSU Hall of Fame in 2001. 

Forrest Crawford

Crawford served in faculty and staff roles at WSU for 44 years. He graduated from then-Weber State College with a degree in sociology and subsequently earned his Master of Social Work from the University of Utah and Doctor of Education from Brigham Young University. He has served as a licensed social worker, clinical counselor and vocational education instructor. Crawford has earned numerous accolades for his efforts in civil rights and diversity initiatives, establishing the Utah Coalition for the Advancement of Minorities in Higher Education and co-founding the Ogden Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. He also co-founded and served as Gov. Michael Leavitt’s appointed chairman of the Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission. In 1992, he became the first assistant to the president for Institutional Diversity at Weber State. 

Karen Mayne

State Senator Mayne served Utahns from 2007 to 2023, rising to the rank of minority leader. She passed 247 bills during her tenure, impacting safety, worker’s compensation, occupational licensing, numerous professions and trades, apprenticeships, municipalities, unemployment, driver licensing, criminal statutes, domestic violence and gang prevention. She also facilitated and championed Senate Bill 172, which created a historic partnership between WSU and the University of Utah in overseeing the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health. She has been recognized with countless awards for her work in the community. 


Bryan Magaña, public relations director