WMU News

Longtime state legislator will receive honorary degree

Sept. 25, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University will confer an honorary doctor of public service degree on state Sen. Harry Gast during Dec. 14 commencement ceremonies.

The degree, approved by the WMU Board of Trustees at its Sept. 20 meeting the day after Gast's 82nd birthday, recognizes his many years of service as a state lawmaker. Gast has served as a state legislator for 32 years, eight as a representative and 24 as a senator.

As a state senator, Gast represents the 20th district, serving residents of Berrien and Cass counties and all of St. Joseph County except Park and Mendon townships. He is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and serves as chairman of both the capital outlay and community colleges subcommittees. He also serves on the agriculture, environmental quality and natural resources subcommittees and on the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Standing Committee. He also is chairman of the Senate Fiscal Agency Governing Board.

Gast was first elected to the Michigan Senate in 1978 and has been re-elected five times. He served in the state House of Representatives from 1971-78. Before entering the state political arena, he served in local government for 25 years, as township supervisor and treasurer of Lincoln Township and as a member of the County Board of Public Works and the County Board of Health.

Among his many legislative accomplishments, Gast was instrumental in making WMU-Southwest, the University's new facility at Lake Michigan College, a reality. Gast spearheaded efforts to fund the unique partnership, resulting in a new $8.4 million building on LMC's Napier Avenue campus. The project enhances educational opportunities for area residents and marks the first time a Michigan university has built an instructional facility on a community college campus.

Gast has received numerous awards as a lawmaker. In 1986, he was named Legislator of the Year by both the Michigan Agricultural Conference and the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. In 1988, he again was named Legislator of the Year by the Michigan Townships Association and was awarded an honorary doctor of public service degree by Northern Michigan University.

His other awards include Conservationist of the Year from the Michigan United Conservation Clubs and honorary doctor of law degree from Andrews University in 1989, a Meritorious Service Award from the Michigan Association of Agriculture in 1993, and Guardian of Small Business award in 1996.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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