Marlin Fitzwater to receive K-State Alumni Association’s Alumni Excellence Award

Posted July 19, 2019

The K-State Alumni Association will honor Kansas State University alumnus Marlin Fitzwater as the 2019 recipient of the Alumni Excellence Award. He will receive the award at a banquet on Thursday, Oct. 17, at the K-State Alumni Center.

The Alumni Excellence Award is an annual award recognizing an alumna or alumnus of K-State whose career, service and achievements exemplify the spirit, values and excellence of the university.

"We created the Alumni Excellence Award to showcase and celebrate our K-State alumni for their contributions to society," said Amy Button Renz, president and CEO of the Alumni Association. "Marlin Fitzwater's commitment and service to our country as press secretary for two U.S. presidents is truly a testament to what K-Staters can accomplish."

Fitzwater is the only press secretary to be appointed by two presidents. He spent a decade in the White House working as press secretary for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Reagan referred to Fitzwater as "his great communicator."

While in the White House, Fitzwater gave more than 850 press briefings in six years earning a reputation among the media for his honesty and humor. In the 1990s, Fitzwater regularly appeared on national television including Meet The Press, Face The Nation and Larry King Live, among others.

Aside from his service as press secretary, Fitzwater has been a businessman, journalist, civil servant and presidential adviser.

His first book, Call The Briefing, is a best-selling memoir of 10 years in the White House, and is often referred to as the "textbook" of White House press relations. His first novel, Esther's Pillow, is based on a true story of a small town in Kansas. Additional works include, Death In The Polka Dot Shoes, a mystery novel about watermen on the Chesapeake Bay, and Sunflowers, his first book of short stories. He also published a book of short stories and his White House diaries in 2018, titled Tales from Holland Creek, and revised the book for general release in 2019 as Calm Before The Storm.

Fitzwater was a consultant/writer for the television show The West Wing for two seasons. He was president of Fitzwater & Tutwiler Inc., a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.

He grew up on a small farm near Abilene, Kansas, and started his career as editor of a weekly newspaper, the Lindsborg News Record. He also worked for the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle, Manhattan Mercury and Topeka Capital Journal.

In 2002, Fitzwater founded the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire. The center graduates more than 100 communications majors each year. Fitzwater spends considerable time at the university, advising the center, lecturing, attending special programs, and developing programs such as the Presidency and the Press summer camp.

He graduated from K-State in 1965 with a degree in journalism and was later awarded an honorary doctorate by the university in 2015. Fitzwater gave a Landon Lecture in 1996.

He was named an Outstanding Civil Servant in government in 1981; received the nation's second-highest civilian honor, the Presidential Citizens Medal, from President Bush in 1992; served on the Board of the Woodrow Wilson School for International Scholars and has received numerous other awards and honorary doctorate degrees. In 1987, he was named Kansan of the Year by the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Fitzwater served on the Advisory Council of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation and the Franklin Pierce University Board of Trustees. He received the 2004 William Allen White Citation for Journalism from the University of Kansas, and the 2004 New Hampshire Political Library Award for "a decade of service with integrity to the Presidency."

Fitzwater's White House papers are housed at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Center in College Station, Texas, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. His personal papers were donated to the Morse Department of Special Collections housed in K-State's Libraries.

The Alumni Excellence Award is made possible by the generosity of the Curt and Sherry Frasier family of Beloit, Kansas. Both are 1973 graduates of K-State.