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University Relations

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May 11, 2005
Contact: Crystal Mai, KU School of Law, (785) 864-9208.

KU law school honors Brownback, Murguia, Wheat, Waldron as distinguished alumni


LAWRENCE -- The University of Kansas School of Law will present awards to four distinguished alumni at its hooding ceremony for 2005 graduates on May 22.

The KU Law Society Distinguished Alumnus/na Award is presented annually to KU School of Law graduates who have distinguished themselves through exemplary service to the legal profession, their community, the university, and the state or country. The citation is the highest honor given by the law school to its alumni.

This year's alumni honorees are U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, Washington, D.C., who received his law degree from KU in 1982; Janet Murguia, president and chief executive officer of the National Council of La Raza in Washington, D.C., who received her law degree from KU in 1985; Gary Waldron, an attorney in Newport Beach, Calif., who received his law degree from KU in 1979; and Douglas D. Wheat, co-founder and president of Haas Wheat and Partners in Dallas, who received his law degree in 1974.

Brownback grew up on the family farm near Parker. In 1986, he became the youngest secretary of agriculture in Kansas history. He was secretary of agriculture until 1993, with a one-year sabbatical to serve as a White House fellow in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In 1994, Brownback was elected to Congress to represent the 2nd District of Kansas. He was elected to finish Sen. Bob Dole's term in 1996 and was re-elected in 1998 and 2004. Brownback co-wrote two books and numerous articles. He maintains strong ties to the KU law school and has served as a member of the Board of Governors of the KU Law Society.

Raised in Kansas City, Kan., Murguia worked at the White House from 1994 to 2000, including roles as deputy assistant to President Bill Clinton and deputy director of legislative affairs. She served as deputy campaign manager and director of constituency outreach for the Al Gore/Joseph Lieberman 2000 presidential campaign. In 2001, Murguia returned to KU to serve as its first executive vice chancellor for university relations. In 2004, she was chosen to lead the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States. She has been named by Hispanic magazine as one of the "100 Top Latinas" and by Hispanic Business magazine as one of the "100 Most Influential Hispanics." Earlier this month, Murguia was named as one of the headlined speakers for the NAACP National Leadership Summit for emerging leaders to set the U.S. civil rights agenda for the rest of the 21st century.

Lawrence native Waldron began his legal career with Stinson, Mag & Fizzell in Kansas City, Mo. He and his wife, Carol "Sunny" Foster, then moved to Orange County, Calif. He eventually partnered with fellow law school classmate John Olson to form the law firm of Waldron & Olson. Waldron has earned a reputation as a lawyer who actually takes cases to trial and who shares his expertise and love of trial work with others, teaching at the College of Trial Advocacy. Waldron was selected as a Southern California Super Lawyer for 2004 and is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. He serves as vice president and president-elect for the Orange County Chapter of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers.

Wheat, who was raised in Liberal, moved to Dallas following his graduation from law school and practiced securities law for 10 years. He joined Donaldson Lufkin and Jenrette Securities Corp. in 1983 and became a founder of the firm's successful merchant banking practice. He is president and co-founder of Haas Wheat and Partners, a Dallas-based investment firm. He has served on the boards of directors of major corporations and serves as chair for Playtex Products Inc. He supports a broad range of causes and established the Douglas D. and Laura L. Wheat Law Library at KU. He is a James Woods Green Medallion honoree.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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