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MEDIA CONTACT: Kristine M. Gobbo

Former Keetoowah Cherokee Chief Jim Henson to be Awarded Honorary Doctorate by FAU

BOCA RATON, Fla. (August 4, 2014) – Florida Atlantic University will bestow an honorary doctorate on Jim Henson, a former tribal chief of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, for his extensive work promoting the health and wellbeing of Native Americans and indigenous people worldwide at the summer commencement ceremony on Tuesday, Aug. 5 at 9 a.m. at the Carole and Barry Kaye Auditorium, FAU Student Union, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton campus.

Most recently, Henson collaborated with a Native American professor, John Lowe, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, of FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing in securing a $2.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a five-year research project to test the effectiveness of the Native American Talking Circle approach in preventing substance abuse in Native American youth. The project will focus on sixth graders in three tribal communities: the Ojibwe/Chippewa in Minnesota, the Choctaw in Oklahoma and the Lumbee in North Carolina. Project sessions will work toward increasing students’ cultural identity as Native Americans while decreasing substance abuse. Tribal personnel in the three regions will be trained on implementing the Talking Circle as a permanent intervention tool in their communities.

Annually, about 150 FAU nursing students engage with Henson during their intensive clinical practicum rotation in the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians’ capital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Henson is also a frequent guest lecturer at the College, presenting to faculty and students on Native American culture and consulting on various research projects. During a visit to the Boca Raton campus, he conducted a Talking Circle for members of the FAU community.
“We are so pleased that the University is recognizing Chief Jim Henson with an honorary doctorate,” said Marlaine Smith, Ph.D., dean of FAU’s College of Nursing. “His tireless effort and expertise in working with indigenous populations around the world has been an asset to the College.”

Henson has worked for more than four decades fighting substance abuse in the Native American community, beginning his career as a community empowerment specialist for the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in Tahlequah, Okla. Later, he worked as a halfway house manager and substance abuse counselor. He also served as a Cherokee language and culture educator at Gans Public Schools in Sallisaw, Okla., lead counselor at the Harbor House Treatment Center in Fort Smith, Ark., and vice president of the Clinical Council on Practice of Native American and Ethnic Issues for the Oklahoma Drug/Alcohol Professional Counselors Association.

Henson attended the University of Oklahoma, and is an internationally certified drug and alcohol counselor. In addition to his work at FAU, he has collaborated with indigenous community researchers around the world, including colleagues at the University of Southern Queensland and Queensland University of Technology in Australia; the Taupua Waiora Centre for Māori Health Research at the Auckland University of Technology School of Public Health in Auckland, New Zealand; the Department of Community and Family Health at the University of South Florida; the College of Public Health and Social Work at Florida International University; the University of Arkansas; and the Health Science Center at the University of Texas.

Henson is the producer of a documentary for the National Park Service titled “Keetoowahs Come Home,” and the co-founder of the Arkansas Native America Center Turtle Island Hall of Honors along with Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Since 1999, he has served as a Native American historian for the Arkansas Educational Television Network.



Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit

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