Richard "Dick" L. Ferguson understands firsthand the value of a quality education—and though he is not an Iowa graduate, he has dedicated his career to investing in the UI and its broader community.
For more than two decades, Ferguson served as chief executive officer and chairman of Iowa City-based ACT, one of the most successful and respected education companies in the nation. There, he helped nurture the ongoing friendship between ACT and the University of Iowa, where the company first began. In fact, he was instrumental in establishing the ACT Scholars Program for underrepresented students wishing to attend the UI, a contribution that will make it possible for many young people to follow their dreams.
After receiving a 1962 bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a 1966 master's degree from Western Michigan University, and a 1969 doctorate degree from the University of Pittsburgh, Ferguson worked as a high-school math teacher in Pennsylvania and as a lecturer and research associate with the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center.
In 1972, he joined ACT, serving as president and C.E.O. from 1988 to 2002 and as chairman and C.E.O. from 2002 until his retirement in 2010. In 1975, he became an adjunct assistant professor in the UI College of Education Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, a position he still holds today.
Under Ferguson's leadership, ACT became an internationally recognized innovator in, and authority on, educational testing and measurement—a reputation that, in turn, has significantly enhanced the UI's standing. During his tenure, Ferguson never forgot that the roots of the company can be traced back to the UI College of Education, and he always sought ways to help the UI fulfill its educational mission.
Along with making a gift of $5 million to establish the ACT Scholars program, the company has employed hundreds of UI students as research assistants and interns—and had hired countless Iowa graduates. ACT staff members and UI faculty often collaborate, and ACT and the College of Education regularly partner to host academic conferences.
Though Ferguson retired from ACT in 2010 and accepted a new role as vice chairman of Dallas-based Best Associates, a private equity firm dedicated to the accessibility and affordability of higher education, he has not left Iowa behind. He remains a loyal volunteer, serving many UI boards, including current roles on the advisory board of the Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and the Executive Committee of the UI Medical Center Council.
Such dedication has earned him many awards and honors. Ferguson received a Distinguished Alumnus Award (1996) and a Distinguished Fellows Award (1997) from the University of Pittsburgh and a Distinguished Alumni Award from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2009. He also received an honorary degree from Iowa Wesleyan College in 2005, and he was a Business Hall of Fame Inductee for Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa in 2010.
E.F. Lindquist, the legendary UI professor of measurement and statistics who helped found ACT, surely would have been proud of Ferguson. Not only does Richard L. Ferguson embody the spirit of innovation and generosity that defined Professor Lindquist's illustrious career, but he is also a true friend of Iowa education.
Ferguson is a member of the UI Foundation's Presidents Club.
Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.