K-State awards honorary doctorate to former U.S. senator, celebrates graduates

K-State Alumni Communications

Former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker speaks at Kansas State University's Graduate School commencement ceremony May 15 and receives an honorary doctorate. (Photo: K-State News and Communications)

Former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker encouraged this year’s graduates to seek positive change and bravely face the challenging issues ahead of them. She received her honorary doctorate at the Kansas State University Graduate School commencement ceremony May 15. 

“It starts within our communities, it starts where we live, it starts where we’re willing to engage ourselves,” she said during her commencement address. "It’s a challenging time, but I am confident you know how to provide the leadership necessary.” 

Kassebaum Baker’s recognition was part of a weekend of graduation celebrations at the university. K-State commencement ceremonies included: K-State Salina, May 9; Graduate School and Veterinary Medicine, May 15; and all remaining colleges on the Manhattan campus, May 16. 

The class of 2015 is the 148th to graduate from K-State since the first class graduated in 1867. The university awarded more than 2,600 bachelor's degrees; 734 master's degrees; 124 doctoral degrees; 108 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees; and more than 30 associate degrees. K-State Global Campus graduated its largest class ever, with more than 260 students earning their degrees through distance education.

Kassebaum Baker encouraged the class of 2015 to stay involved in politics and to make their voices heard. 

“We have a responsibility to be participating in government at all levels — local, state and federal,” she said. 

Kassebaum Baker’s ties to K-State date from 1966, when the Landon Lecture Series on Public Issues was inaugurated as a tribute to her father, former Kansas Gov. Alfred Landon. Her four children are Wildcats and graduated in the 1980s. 

K-State football's Marquel Bryant graduates from Kansas State University on May 16. Forty-four K-State student-athletes received degrees in May. (Photo: K-State Athletics)
Elected in 1978, she was the first woman to represent Kansas in the U.S. Senate. During her tenure, she served on the Foreign Relations Committee, the Budget Committee, the Commerce Committee and the Labor and Human Resources Committee. In 1996, she married Howard Baker, former U.S. senator from Tennessee and Senate majority leader, who also served as chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan.

"Nancy Kassebaum Baker's nearly two decades of leadership as a U.S. senator are evidence of her dedication to service and diplomacy," said Kirk Schulz, university president. "We want to honor her distinguished career. Through scholarships and the Landon Lecture Series, Kassebaum Baker and her family have maintained strong ties with Kansas State University. Their support, leadership and example of service play an essential role in helping Kansas State University become a Top 50 public research university by 2025."

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