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Former US press secretary Marlin Fitzwater receives honorary doctorate from Kansas State University

Friday, Oct. 16, 2015


MANHATTAN — A Kansas State University alumnus and one of the longest-serving presidential press secretaries in history is receiving an honorary doctorate from Kansas State University.

Marlin Fitzwater, who served as assistant to the president and press secretary for Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1989 and for George H. W. Bush from 1989 to 1993, will be honored at Kansas State University's Graduate School commencement at 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, in Bramlage Coliseum. He also will serve as the commencement speaker for the ceremony.

The awarding of the honorary doctorate follows the approval by the Kansas Board of Regents. It is one of the highest honors the university can give. Fitzwater will be awarded the honorary doctorate and also will receive a medal at the commencement ceremony.

"Marlin Fitzwater is a political figure that I and millions of other Americans remember well throughout some of our nation's biggest historical moments," said Kirk Schulz, Kansas State University president. "We want to honor his distinguished career in both Kansas media and national media as well as his ties to Kansas State University, wherein he returned as a speaker for the Landon Lecture series in 1996. It is through the leadership of such distinguished alumni that will help Kansas State University be recognized as a Top 50 public research university by 2025."

Fitzwater grew up on a small farm near Abilene, Kansas. In 1965, he earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from Kansas State University. While attending Kansas State University, Fitzwater worked on five newspapers: Manhattan Mercury, Topeka Capital-Journal, Abilene Reflector, Lindsborg News-Record and the Collegian, the university's student newspaper. In 1965, Fitzwater was named the Outstanding Male Journalism Graduate.

Fitzwater worked for several federal agencies in Washington, D.C., severing as director of press relations for the Environmental Protection Agency and deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Beginning in 1983, he served in the White House for a decade as an assistant to Presidents Reagan and Bush.

As the only press secretary in history to be appointed by two U.S. presidents, Fitzwater gave more than 850 press briefings in six years, earning praise from the news media and the public for his honesty and humor. For millions of Americans, he was recognized as a calm and knowledgeable voice for the American government through two recessions and eight military conflicts, as well as the voice of the 26-nation coalition in the Persian Gulf War to liberate Kuwait.

In 1992, Fitzwater received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation's second highest civilian achievement award.

In 2002, Fitzwater founded the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire. He was a writer/consultant for the television show "The West Wing" and wrote a stage play about the Bush and Gorbachev Cold War diplomacy. He also authored several books, including "Call the Briefing," a memoir of his White House years, and "Esther's Pillow," about a small town in Kansas.

Fitzwater's presidential papers now are part of the Reagan and Bush Presidential Libraries, and his personal papers are housed in the Morse Department of Special Collections at Kansas State University's Hale Library.

Fitzwater and his wife, Melinda, live near the Chesapeake Bay in Deale, Maryland.

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Honorary degrees

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Marlin Fitzwater

Kansas State University alumnus Marlin Fitzwater will receive an honorary doctorate from the university at the Graduate School commencement at 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, in Bramlage Coliseum.

Written by

Greg Tammen
785-532-4486
gtammen@k-state.edu