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K-State Today

April 24, 2013

A distinct honor: Former Cargill Inc. CEO and university alumnus Warren Staley to receive honorary doctorate

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

An alumnus and former CEO devoted to increasing educational opportunities, student success and philanthropic ventures will receive an honorary doctorate from Kansas State University.

Warren Staley, Edina, Minn., will be recognized with the honorary degree at the Graduate School's commencement ceremony, which begins at 1 p.m. Friday, May 17, in Bramlage Coliseum. Staley also is the commencement speaker.

"Warren and his wife, Mary Lynn, have continued to build on the legacy that they began as undergraduates at Kansas State University," said Kirk Schulz, university president. "Their support with university scholarships, education and creating opportunities for K-State students to become future leaders will benefit students for generations to come. Dr. Staley is a remarkable example of what it means to be a part of the K-State family."

The honorary doctorate follows the approval by the Kansas Board of Regents. The honor is one of the highest the university can award.

"I am very pleased and honored to be recognized by Kansas State University, an institution Mary Lynn and I support and care about," Staley said. "I've always felt like Kansas State was the right choice for my undergraduate education. I'm glad that Mary Lynn and I have been able to help make it the right choice for many current and future students."

Staley earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from K-State in 1965. As an undergraduate he was president of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and the Interfraternity Council, and was active in Blue Key, the senior honor society. Staley went on to receive a master's degree in business administration from Cornell University in 1967.

In 1969, Staley joined Cargill Inc., the largest privately held, international company that provides food, agriculture and risk management products and services. He served in various positions until being elected president and chief operating officer in 1998. A year later he was named CEO of Cargill, and in 2000 was named chairman of the board. Under his direction, Staley led the company to record performances until his retirement in 2007.

The Staleys have been major benefactors to Kansas State University for various academic programs, scholarships and facilities improvements across campus. Their generosity provided the leadership gift to build the university's Leadership Studies Building -- a LEED gold certified facility. Similarly, Cargill made a gift to honor Staley's career and retirement, which established the Cargill Center for Ethical Leadership in the building.

Staley also gives his time to the university community. When he visits campus, he interacts with students in the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture, sharing his experiences and learning about the concerns, dreams and experiences of the students.

The Staleys also advance education and outreach on a global scale. Both travel internationally for Habitat for Humanity and Opportunity International, a micro-financing nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by providing small business loans, financial services and training to those in need. Additionally, they are the major benefactors for the first high school under construction in Mamponteng, a town in Ghana, Africa.

Staley is in the College of Engineering Hall of Fame at Kansas State University, a member of the Seaton Society Founders, and the Staley's were honorary chairs of the university's Changing Lives Campaign.

Mary Lynn Staley earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Kansas State University in 1965. She was a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority; Chimes, the junior honorary; and was involved in the university's student government. She currently serves on the international Habitat for Humanity board of directors.

The couple met at Kansas State University.