WMU News

Sen. Gast and President Floyd to receive honorary degrees

Dec. 6, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University will confer honorary doctor of public service degrees on state Sen. Harry Gast and WMU President Elson S. Floyd during commencement ceremonies Saturday, Dec. 14, in Miller Auditorium.

Gast will be honored during the day's second ceremony, scheduled for noon, while Floyd's degree will be awarded during the 2:30 p.m. commencement ceremony.

Gast's 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. In addition, he 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. He 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.

Floyd, who is leaving WMU in January to assume the presidency of the University of Missouri system, will be recognized for his efforts to enhance the stature and further the progress of WMU during his tenure. He has served as president since August 1998.

Among his major accomplishments was a successful effort in 2000 that led to the University achieving top recognition from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as one of only 102 public universities in the nation to be classified as "doctoral/research-extensive" universities. Also during his tenure, WMU joined the ranks of the top-100 public universities in the nation, as listed by U.S. News & World Report.

Floyd's work to build research capacity and collaborate with the business community in Southwest Michigan to promote economic development resulted in WMU's central role in two Michigan SmartZones-one in Kalamazoo that revolves around the University's Business Technology and Research Park and a second in Battle Creek that focuses on aviation education and research, and online learning.

In addition, Floyd led the University in a series of accomplishments that included: three consecutive years of record private gifts to support WMU programs and initiatives; near completion of a $125 million capital campaign; completion of the University's campuswide wireless computing network that made WMU one of the first major research universities in the nation to offer such technology to faculty and students; and approval from the Michigan Legislature for a new $48 million home
for the College of Health and Human Services.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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