Fort Hays State University will award its first-ever honorary doctorate in May to Robert J. “Bob” Dole, a western Kansas native who earned national and international acclaim over a lifetime of public service. The doctorate will be presented during the university’s two Commencement ceremonies on May 13 and 14, where Sen. Dole will be the keynote speaker.
The Kansas Board of Regents voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the honorary Doctor of Arts degree.
“First as a grievously wounded soldier in World War II and then throughout a lifetime of community service, Sen. Bob Dole has served Kansas and the nation as the consummate model of good citizenship,” said Dr. Mirta M. Martin, FHSU president. “Dole hails from Russell, less than 30 miles from the FHSU campus, so those of us in the Tiger family have a special appreciation for what Sen. Dole has accomplished. He is part of the Tiger family.”
Saying that it would take many pages to list all of Sen. Dole’s accomplishments, President Martin focused on just a few that are deserving of special notice: “Sen. Dole served 35 and a half years in Congress. He was elected Senate majority leader in 1984 and was our nation’s longest-serving Republican leader. He has earned national acclaim for his leadership on behalf of the disadvantaged and disabled, serving as one of the most powerful advocates for the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also has been a major spokesman on issues involving veterans, hunger and nutrition, agriculture, and men’s health. And, Sen. Dole was the 1996 Republican nominee for president.”
President Martin said that perhaps most importantly, Sen. Dole was the very definition of a statesman. “He is respected on both sides of the aisle for his views on bipartisanship, deficit reduction, economic growth and health care, and for his mastery of foreign affairs.”
The president emphasized that even with his worldwide fame, Sen. Dole – as a native son of western Kansas – holds a special place in the hearts of the FHSU family. She recalled that just a year ago, Fort Hays State was honored to have Sen. Dole speak at the dedication of a lobby on campus in memory of his two sisters. He donated $100,000 to honor his sisters – Norma Jean Steele and Gloria Nelson -- who both passed away in 2012. He said it was important to recognize the value they placed on education.
“Sen. Dole has agreed to give the address at Commencement in May,” President Martin said. “It is a most fitting and appropriate tribute for Fort Hays State, with the unanimous endorsement of the Kansas Board of Regents, to bestow this honorary Doctor of Arts degree on a great Kansan.”