Two alumni and top tennis star to receive honorary doctorates

May 30, 2002

Kettering will award three honorary degrees at commencement Saturday, June 15, in the Connie and Jim John Recreation Center.

Kettering will award three honorary degrees at commencement Saturday, June 15, in the Connie and Jim John Recreation Center. The event is at 2 p.m. Presiding at ceremonies will be President James E.A. John.

To be honored will be:

  • Omer Miller '39 of Myrtle Beach, S.C., retired owner and president of Porta-Soft Company and co-owner of Heather Glens and Possum Trot Golf Courses. Due to Mr. Miller's health, he received a Doctor of Engineering degree in April during special ceremonies in South Carolina.
  • Ivan Deveson '59 of Malvern, a suburb of Melbourne, Austrialia, will receive a Doctor of Management degree. He is former Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Australia, former national president of the Australian Institute of Management, and an international automobile executive.
  • MaliVai Washington of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters. He is a professional athlete and ESPN sports analyst and founder of the MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation.

MaliVai Washington

MaliVai Washington was five years old when his father, William, introduced him to tennis. Living in the shadow of General Motors Institute in Flint, the young boy used the GMI courts in his neighborhood to set big dreams for himself on the tennis courts.

He and his family often used the old GMI gym to hit tennis balls against the wall.

He was Big Ten Freshmen of the Year at the University of Michigan in 1988 and Big Ten Player of the Year at the University of Michigan in 1989. "Tennis Magazine" called him its Rookie of the Year in 1990.

He was on the professional tennis tour for 10 years, twice being ranked #11 in the world. His first victory over a player ranked in the top 10 was in 1990, when he defeated Ivan Lendl at the Volvo International in New Haven, Conn. His first pro tournament win was the Federal Express International in Memphis, Tenn., in 1992. His first career grand slam final was the Wimbledon Championships in London, England, in 1996. He represented the U.S. and won the Davis Cup in Brazil in 1997.

A right-handed player, his career prize money totaled more than $3.2 million. His career match record was 254-185 (.579).

A bad knee finally forced the talented athlete to set different career goals. Today, he is a sports analyst for ESPN and spends his time as an avid Jacksonville Jaguars fan, playing golf, conducting real estate investments and working with youth through the foundation that bears his name.

The MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation was formed in 1994. Partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Florida, the organization provides tennis opportunities to area youth and develops life skills such as teamwork, determination and sportsmanship. More information is available on the foundation at

He won the Boys and Girls Club Man and Youth Award, the Arthur Ashe Athletic Association Leadership Award (1998), Boys and Girls Club CARE Award (1997), Sports Image Award (1997), Otis Smith Foundation Role Model of the Year (1996), and was one of "People Magazine's" 50 Most Beautiful People in the World (1994).

He and his wife, Jennifer, live in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Ivan A. Deveson '59

Born in Feb. 18, 1934, Ivan A. Deveson studied at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and commenced as a Manufacturing Cadet at General Motors in 1955. In 1957, he was awarded a scholarship to General Motors Institute, where he gained a degree in Industrial Engineering.

During his years at GMI in Flint, he met Mary Ellen Perez, an employee of GMI, whom he married in 1959. The couple has five children, including Greg Deveson, who graduated from GMI in 1984.

In 1976, Mr. Deveson was awarded a Sloan Fellowship and obtained a master's degree in Management at Stanford University.

In a career spanning more than 40 years, he worked with General Motors in Australia, the United States, Europe and Africa. In 1987, he joined Nissan Australia as managing director/CEO, a position he held until his retirement from the automotive industry in 1991. He was chairman of the Seven Network from 1991 until 1995.

Mr. Deveson was named Victorian of the Year in 1991 and received an Order of Australia (AO) in the same year for service to the automotive industry and to business.

He was foundation chancellor from 1992-95 and chairman of the Graduate School of Business in 1996-97 at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He has been chairman of the United Group Limited since 1994 and a director of Crane Holdings Limited. He is chairman of Avanteos and Cool or Cozy.

Mr. Deveson was the Lord Mayor of Melbourne from 1996 to 1999, the longest serving Lord Mayor in more than 40 years.

In addition to membership on the boards of several community-based associations, Mr. Deveson is president of the Australia-Japan Society, chairman of the Mary of the Cross (Drug) Centre and patron of Melbourne Citymission. He is an adjunct professor and director in resident at RMIT School of Management.

He and his wife, Mary Ellen, make their home in Malvern, a suburb of Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, Australia.

Omer Miller '39

Born June 14, 1914, in Dayton, Ohio, Omer E. Miller attended a cooperative high school where he studied two weeks and worked two weeks at Inland Manufacturing Company, a facility of General Motors (GM). Following graduation from high school, Inland sponsored him to attend Kettering/GMI.

During his college career, Miller was a member of Sigma Tau Alpha (now SAE) fraternity, played on the golf team, earned election to the Robot Society for outstanding students and won the presidency of the student body his senior year.

With the eruption of World War II in Europe, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a flying cadet. The Army sent him to Purdue University for a course in aeronautical engineering. After the attack on Pearl Harbor and a commission as second lieutenant, Miller was sent to the Pacific Theatre, where he served in New Guinea, the Philippines, Okinawa and Japan. He completed his military career by achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Following the war, Miller began a career in the water conditioning industry and founded a company in Westfield, N.J. This company evolved into the Porta-Soft Company. He also helped revolutionize the water conditioning industry through the development of 12 patents, most of which are essential to water softening systems used today.

During his distinguished career, he was co-owner of two golf courses in South Carolina: Heather Glens and Possum Trot. In honor of his hard work in revitalizing these courses, Heather Glens won the Best New Public Course award from "Golf Digest" in 1987. In addition to his love and work with the game of golf, Miller won three patents for devices that help improve the play of golfers.

His support and involvement with Kettering/GMI exceed many years. Some of his honors as an alumnus and supporter include membership in the President's Council, winner of the University's 75th Anniversary Award and the Alumni Association Entrepreneurial Achievement Award in 1989. Mr. Miller and his wife Joan also sponsor the Omer and Joan Miller Fund, which supports Kettering students who pursue ideas considered innovative and creative in the business world.

He and his wife live in Myrtle Beach, S.C. They have four children, several grand and great grand children.