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SPOTLIGHT
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Changing lives for 150 years and counting

Published on -2/25/2013, 9:09 AM

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Historian James Truslow Adams once wrote: "There are two types of education. One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live." Kansas State University and Emporia State University have been highly successful at doing both for more than a century.

This year marks the 150th anniversary for both Kansas State University and Emporia State University. Throughout the decades, the universities have made a significant impact on our state and changed lives for the better.

In 1863, K-State opened its doors as America's first land grant institution. Classes began with 52 students, but the university did not remain small for long. Today, nearly 24,000 students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries attend K-State. Students can choose from more than 250 undergraduate majors and participate in more than 475 student organizations.

Recognized by the Princeton Review as one of our nation's best colleges, K-State has a reputation of academic excellence. Wildcats are also known for their commitment to one another. In 2006, students created K-State Proud to raise funds for fellow students who are struggling to remain at school. Over the last 6 years, students have raised more than $550,000 to help their peers continue their studies.

If you ask any K-State alum what they love most about their school, they will probably tell you it's the K-State family. The spirit of camaraderie between alumni across generations is remarkable. Among the thousands of K-State alumni are Olympic gold medalists, accomplished scientists and successful businessmen. The names of several alumni are familiar to most Kansans, including Gov. Sam Brownback, Gen. Dick Myers (former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and perhaps the most proud Wildcat I know, my friend and colleague, Sen. Pat Roberts.

In the last few decades, I have witnessed incredible growth and success at K-State, which can be largely attributed to the strong leadership of former President Jon Wefald, who served as president for 23 years. In 2009, President Kirk Schulz began his tenure at K-State, and has continued to lead the university on to new heights. Under Schulz's leadership, I know K-State will thrive for years to come.

For the past 150 years, Emporia State University has also been changing lives. ESU was founded in 1863 as Kansas' first school for training teachers and originally known as Kansas Normal School. In its first year, the president and only teacher, Lyman Kellogg, taught 18 students on the second floor of the district school house.

Today, 6,500 students from 45 states and 55 countries are enrolled at Emporia State University. Consistently ranked as a Tier 1 Regional University by U.S. News & World Report, ESU offers students a wide range of academic programs to choose from and the opportunity to participate in more than 130 student organizations.

Whether ESU students pursue a career in education or another field, many students continue their studies or return to Emporia State for graduate work. Among the Kansas Regents universities, ESU students earn the highest percentage of graduate degrees -- one-third of all the degrees earned annually.

Emporia State students are also well prepared to make a difference after college because many spend time giving back to the local community. Throughout the region, students have cared for the elderly, provided food for the hungry, mentored children, and built homes for the homeless.

Today, more than 75,000 alumni from 50 states and 80 countries are proud to be called Emporia State Hornets. Alumni from Emporia State have gone on to accomplish great things. Among the many distinguished alumni are Minnie Grinstead, who was the first woman elected to the Kansas state legislature in 1918, and Robert Mott, a World War II veteran who later helped create National Public Radio.

One alum said this about the impact ESU had on her life: "I was told by a high school guidance counselor that I would never make it in college. ESU gave me an opportunity to 'try.' Not only did I earn a bachelor's degree, I earned a masters, and Ph.D. Thank you ESU, you changed my life in a positive way." I am confident the new President, Dr. Michael Shonrock, will make certain ESU continues to impact the lives of students for years to come.

To commemorate this historic anniversary, Senator Pat Roberts and I introduced two resolutions, which were both approved by the U.S. Senate, to congratulate the students, faculty and alumni of K-State and Emporia State University for 150 years of excellence in higher education. Happy anniversary to the Wildcats and the Hornets -- may the next 150 years be even brighter than the last.

Sen. Jerry Moran is a Republican representing Kansas in the U.S. Senate.

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