Bloomsburg University to award Kerby Confer and Ronn Cort honorary degrees at Spring Commencement
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania will award honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degrees to Kerby Confer and Ronn Cort in recognition of their creative leadership in commerce, trade, industry, and the field of business during commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 15.
Confer will be the commencement speaker for the 10 a.m. ceremony for the College of Education and College of Liberal Arts. Cort will be the speaker for the 3 p.m. Zeigler College of Business and College of Science and Technology ceremony. Both ceremonies will be held at Redman Stadium on BU's upper campus.
"Kerby and Ronn have been extraordinary supporters of Bloomsburg University," said Bloomsburg University President Bashar Hanna. "Our highest priority is the success of our students, and both Kerby and Ronn have been wonderful partners in helping our students achieve their professional aspirations. On behalf of our university and our Council of Trustees, it will be my privilege to present these well-deserved honors to Kerby Confer and Ronn Cort."
Since 1969, Confer has owned an interest and operated over 200 station licenses and is still active in 70 properties, including Altoona, Johnstown, State College, Meadville, Franklin, and Pittsburgh. Confer was inducted into the Pennsylvania Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2003.
Cort is President and COO of SEKISUI KYDEX, a Bloomsburg-based manufacturer of high-performance thermoplastic materials to create lightweight, safe, and sustainable components for aviation, space, mass transit, medical devices, and emerging industries.
Confer's interest in radio was kindled at age 13 when he earned the Boy Scout Radio Merit Badge. At 15, he earned his first job as a DJ in his hometown of Williamsport by promising to help in the building of a new radio station in exchange for a part-time job when the station went on air.
Gradually, Confer moved into larger markets as an on-air personality, including Harrisburg, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Syracuse.
In his twenties, Confer worked in the Baltimore-Washington markets as on-air talent. He pioneered the first integrated TV dance show in America, which has been satirized in the movie and Broadway productions of "Hairspray." He hosted major stars, including the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, and The Supremes. From 1964 to 1974, Confer was Baltimore's highest-rated local media personality.
In 1969, Confer became general manager at an Annapolis radio station WYRE and eventually retired from on-air work as his other responsibilities grew.
After selling WYRE, Confer purchased a turnaround station, WILQ in Williamsport, and introduced the first country FM format in the market, which spawned a similar turnaround in Reading. In 1978, Confer founded KSSN, the first country FM station in Little Rock, Ark., that grew to number one in the market.
Attracting the attention of investors, Confer formed Keymarket Communications and rapidly repeated a series of dramatic turnaround successes in the 1980s. The purchase of stations in Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina was followed by WNNK in Harrisburg, WKRZ in Wilkes-Barre, and stations in Houston, St. Louis, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Confer also created the "Froggy" brand for his country stations during this era and most recently helped with the rebranding of BU's radio station into WHSK-FM.
Since 2013 Confer has led the Confer Radio Talent Institute held at BU each summer for budding radio stars. Confer is also focusing his creative energy on creating a new legacy with a $5.3 million gift to the BU Foundation designed to support and inspire the next generation of students to become professionals in the broadcasting industry. The Kerby Confer Media Center, located in the soon-to-be renovated McCormick Center for Human Services, will include a fully renovated radio station, TV studio, newsroom, and interactive collaboration space.
Cort's background includes dropping out of college, quickly recognizing the mistake in that decision, working several blue-collar jobs to pay off debt, developing a growth mindset, and committing to a lifelong journey of learning. Those years in the wilderness found him traveling the planet in international business development roles for several global companies, ultimately becoming President of SEKISUI KYDEX in 2012.
After visiting Bloomsburg University's campus, Cort was inspired by the Husky spirit and discovered his purpose: helping others become lifelong learners and recognizing that a business without purpose is like a business without profit — unsustainable.
Cort's most recent educational journey includes degrees in "Strategic Leadership" and "Organizational Design for Creativity and Innovation" from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. However, his most meaningful educational journeys come from investing time with future leaders, asking, "what if ... what do you think ... and why?" Cort loves to explore the compounded power resulting from collaboration between private and public partnerships and is a proud Bloomsburg University Foundation Board member.
In 2019, with Cort as the driving force, SEKISUI SPI made a $500,000 gift to construct a state-of-the-art professional experience workspace for students in downtown Bloomsburg. The SEKISUI Professional Experience Lab (PEL) is located on the third floor of the Greenly Center. It includes five individual soundproof rooms designed to provide students and community members with the opportunity to practice, record, and receive feedback on professional interactions via in-person interviews and virtual interviewing and meeting tools such as Skype and Zoom. These facilities provide students with resources to help them train in several areas, including job interviewing, virtual presentations, competitions, and conflict resolution.
Confer and Cort will be the 19th and 20th individuals to be recognized with an honorary doctorate by Bloomsburg University. Criteria for honorary degree recipients include having made noteworthy contributions to Bloomsburg University, to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or society in general, and having demonstrated either meritorious achievement or scholarship in the arts and humanities, science and technology, the social sciences, education, the health profession, commerce, trade or industry.