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Alumnus Dean DuCray receives NIU Honorary Doctorate

January 6, 2020

Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram, Vice President of Research and Innovation Partnerships Jerry Blazey and Alumnus Dean DuCray.

Alumnus Dean DuCray (B.S. 1964 ACCY and pictured far right) received an honorary doctorate at the NIU graduate commencement ceremony on December 14. DuCray’s journey is summarized below, as conveyed in the nomination letter written by NIU Business Dean Balaji Rajagopalan. Portions from Dean Rajagopalan’s letter are reposted here, with the Dean’s permission.

DuCray started at NIU in 1960 as a poor, first generation college student. His father sent him off with ten dollars and wished him well in school. Tuition, at the time, was a little over one hundred dollars per semester and DuCray had to work several summer jobs to fund his own education. While in school, he was an active student, participating in the Psychology Club and several fraternity organizations. In fact, he was the President of Theta Chi and the Vice President of IFC, the Interfraternity Council. His professors described him as a slightly unique student, in that he brought energy and enthusiasm to class, as well as thinking outside the business norms. While he was respectful and humble, he was quick-witted, critical and even contrary. Always an insightful problem solver, he was a great benefit to the class.  Don Kieso, a professor in the Department of Accountancy at the time, secured DuCray an internship at Haskins & Sells (Chicago) during his senior year. So impressed were the partners with DuCray, that they promised him a full-time job after he graduated.

He finished his coursework in 1964 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy; however, DuCray felt a calling to enter the Peace Corps, a new volunteer program that President Kennedy launched to provide assistance to underdeveloped countries. Before leaving for the Peace Corps, DuCray had to attend classes, learn gardening and master basic handyman skills. His assignment was Liberia, where he spent the next two years teaching and assisting with civic and community development.

When he returned, DuCray once again put off Haskins & Sells to pursue his master degree and CPA certificate. While taking classes, DuCray worked for a local CPA firm in DeKalb. His boss reported that he was the hardest working and sharpest auditor he had known. After graduating with his master degree in 1969, DuCray finally went to work for Haskins & Sells, but not in the Chicago office; he went instead to the Los Angeles office where he did extremely well. The partners remarked that he was a unique auditor because he thought “outside of the box” and was known as a disrupter. They recognized his strategic ability and encouraged him to move to the New York headquarters where they housed a think tank and where his talents would be better utilized. So off DuCray went to New York.

While he was excited to work in New York City, DuCray was concerned that his degree from NIU wasn’t as good as his peers, who went to Ivy League schools. He found, however, that not only was his degree good enough for the east coast; many times, it was better than the pricier schools of his counterparts, due in part, to NIU’s practical, hands-on instruction. DuCray stayed at Haskins & Sells for several years before moving on to manufacturing companies.

Throughout his career, DuCray gave back to his alma mater. “I was able to compete with the ‘big boys’ right out of the gate, and for that, I am forever grateful,” he explains.

Dean DuCray came to NIU as a modest, first generation student who had to fund his own education. He left with much more and used his incredible business success to bolster corporations and enhance the lives of others. His strong will, tenancy and cerebral gifts allowed him to prosper. It also allowed many others after him to thrive by attending NIU and earning the same education he did.