In honor of his work at Washburn University, leadership skills that bring change to campus and amazing bow ties, Washburn President Jerry Farley was named “Distinguished Kansan of the Year” on Jan. 29.
Every year, the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas organization names a “Kansan of the year” to give an award to. But some years, they give a second award which they call the “Distinguished Kansan of the Year” award, and this year, that award went to Farley.
On Jan. 29, the annual Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas banquet was held at the Ramada in downtown Topeka. The event featured a social gathering before the dinner so that attendees could greet one another as well as look at the artwork entered in the high-school arts competition that the organization holds every year on display.
The competition featured multiple categories that allowed for both black and white photography as well as color photography, mixed media, drawing, painting, pastels, portraits and even a category simply entitled “Freedom.” Awards for the art competition, as well as an all-ages essay competition and a grades 8-12 competition, were handed out during the dinner by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Then, the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas honored Washburn University with a Distinguished Service Citation based on the university’s 150 years of excellence. Dinner guests got to watch a video about Washburn’s founding as Lincoln College and how it became Washburn University. It talked about the 1966 tornado and how Washburn went about recovering after the disaster. Then it went to talk about modern day Washburn, its many degrees, service projects and activities. The award was given to the Washburn Board of Regents by Brownback.
Following directly after his university, Farley received his award as the “Distinguished Kansan of the Year.” Before Farley had even gotten up to the podium, the audience had been introduced to his antics via several other presenters, one of whom was a recording of Washburn alum Bob Dole. The audience then watched a comedic video about Farley, which featured him running around on campus and in his own home with a tracksuit and shades on for a good portion of the video. While the video was all in good fun, the end of the video featured praise from the board of regents about them choosing Farley to be Washburn’s president back in 1997.
Of course, the video showed quite a bit of Farley’s fun and playful side.
“I like doing it,” Farley said. “I hope this crowd tonight was ready for that. It’s a good bit different as you saw from most of the presentations that were made.”
When Farley got up to speak the crowd grew silent. He spoke of his wife Susan and the various projects springing up around Washburn such as the KBI building, the union renovations and the new dorms. He even took a moment to make an aside about balancing Kansas’ finances, if the governor would let him. Overall, his speech was certainly the liveliest of the night, earning him a full-fledged standing ovation.
Because of Farley’s involvement with the event, about a dozen students were given free tickets to the event, which regularly cost $75 per person to attend.
“The fun part for me tonight,” Farley said, “was to look out from up here on the stage and see all the students.”
Some of the students that came to the event were some of the WSGA senators, as well as the Washburn Student Body President, Blake Porter.
“We’re really excited that Dr. Farley is receiving this award. It’s certainly warranted. It comes as no surprise to me that he is being honored with this award,” Porter said.
“Dr. Farley does so much for our community, and so much for Washburn in general, especially student government and everything we do,” said Leah Coons, a WSGA senator.
After Farley’s award, the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas gave out their Kansan of the Year award to Jim Hoy, who taught at Emporia as the chair of their English department. A rancher and a part of the Cowboy Hall of Fame, Hoy gave a speech about the history of Kansas and what makes Kansas so unique.
Hoy’s speech led into the audience singing “Home on the Range” together to end the night.