KU News Release


Dec. 14, 2011
Contact: Jack Martin, Office of Public Affairs, 785-864-7100

KU names inaugural honorary degree recipients

LAWRENCE – A former Senate leader, the current Ford Motor Company CEO, a former FDIC chairwoman and a noted choral composer are the University of Kansas’ first four honorary degree recipients.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little today recommended to the Kansas Board of Regents that Robert J. Dole, Alan Mulally, Sheila Bair and Kirke L. Mechem be awarded honorary doctorates. The Board unanimously approved the degrees, which will be presented at KU’s Commencement on May 13, 2012.

“These four individuals are truly worthy of being the inaugural recipients of this honor. Their contributions to our world embody the mission of the University of Kansas, and they serve as outstanding role models for the leaders we’re educating at KU,” said Gray-Little.

Nominations were sought from members of the KU community and beyond. These nominations were reviewed by a committee chaired by Susan Kemper, the Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Psychology.

“We had a strong pool of more than 100 nominees, but these four exceptional individuals stood out for their contributions and achievements. We hope that their examples will inspire all our graduates to use the skills and knowledge they acquired at KU to aim for the stars,” said Kemper.

2012 University of Kansas honorary degree recipients:

• For the degree of Doctor of Laws: Robert J. Dole for notable contributions as a statesman and advocate for the rights of all

• For the degree of Doctor of Science: Alan Mulally for notable contributions to
engineering and the transportation industry

• For the degree of Doctor of Laws: Sheila Bair for notable contributions to financial
policy

• For the degree of Doctor of Arts: Kirke L. Mechem for notable contributions to
choral music and opera

In 2010, the Board of Regents changed its policy in order to allow honorary degrees to be awarded.

KU awards its degrees based on nominees’ outstanding scholarship, research, creative activity, service to humanity or other achievements consistent with the academic endeavors of the university. Recipients do not need to be KU alumni, and philanthropic contributions to the university are not considered during the process.

Members of the nominating committee were Professor Geraldo de Sousa, English; Professor Steve Hawley, physics and astronomy; Professor Chet Johnson, pediatrics; Emily Pabst, student representative; Fred Six, alumni representative; and Professor Lisa Stehno-Bittel, physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences.


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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