Videos & Speeches

It is true our State places a high priority on education—certainly K-12 but universities, public, private, community colleges, technical colleges, and today we honor one of those universities in this milestone in its history, Emporia State University, Emporia , KS, and its 150th anniversary.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I will remember. Involve me and I learn.” Through learning, students’ lives have been changed for the better for more than a century at Emporia State University. This is a historic occasion, 150th anniversary, and I want to recognize the significant impact Emporia State has had on our state and on our nation.

1863, Emporia State was founded as a school for training teachers. Back then it was known as Kansas Normal School, and in its first year the President and only teacher, Lyman Kellogg, taught 18 students on the second floor of a district schoolhouse. At the university's first commencement on June 28, 1867, President Kellogg presented diplomas to its two graduates, Mary Jane Watson and Ellen Plumb.

In the years that followed, Emporia State was faced with many challenges, tornadoes, fires, a lack of funding, but the university survives and continued each and every year to change the lives of its students.

Today 6,500 students from 45 States and 55 countries are enrolled at Emporia State University. Consistently ranked as a tier one regional university by U.S. News and 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.

But Emporia State also remains fully committed to its original mission of training teachers through a nationally acclaimed teacher education program. If you ask somebody who made a difference in their life, nobody ever says: my Senator. But they will say if it’s not mom and dad and if it is a teacher.

Educating teachers is a noble calling. In fact, the Teachers College holds the International Reading Association Award and Certificate of Distinction for the Reading Preparation for Elementary and Secondary Teachers—one of only five programs honored internationally in 2009. In a national study of teacher education programs, Emporia State was named one of only four postsecondary institutions in the nation to be identified as an exemplary model teacher education.

I congratulate Emporia State for their success in equipping our nation's educators. As we know, the work of a teacher impacts the lives of every American now and in the future. Given Emporia State's long history and dedication to training teachers, the university, as you might expect, now hosts the National Teacher Hall of Fame. Each year five of the Nation's most outstanding educators are recognized and honored for the jobs they do. By recognizing the difference one teacher can make, the National Teachers Hall of Fame works to promote education and inspire a new generation of teachers.

Whether ESU students pursue a career in education or another field, many students continue their studies or return to ESU for graduate work. Among the Kansas regents’ universities, ESU students earn the highest percentage of graduate degrees. On average, one-third of the degrees earned annually are graduate degrees. So whether a student leaves Emporia with an undergraduate or graduate degree, they are well prepared in the field they have chosen.

Students today are involved in community service, and Emporia State exemplifies that. Students at Emporia State spend much time giving back to the local community. Through the Community Hornets Department students have cared for the elderly, provided food to the hungry, and built homes for the homeless. They have also spent their free time mentoring younger students through a program called YouthFriends. Currently, about 50 Emporia State students are involved in volunteer work once a week with children.

One of the teachers at a local elementary school said this about that program: “It is great for children to have a young adult role model to look up to. I have two kids in my class who have YouthFriends, and they both have benefited greatly. Their attitudes about school and life have been changed for the better. What a great way to make a difference in the development of lifelong compassion for others.”

The alumni of Emporia State University now numbers more than 75,000.  They’re from 50 States and 80 countries, and they’re all proud to be called Emporia State Hornets. Alumni from Emporia State have gone on to accomplish many great things. Among the many distinguished alumni: 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.

For the past 150 years, Emporia State has been changing lives. One alumni said this about the impact 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!”

On this historic anniversary, it is with great pleasure that I join my colleague from Kansas in submitting a resolution to congratulate the students, faculty, alumni, the new president of Emporia State University for 150 years of excellence in higher education. May the next 150 years be even brighter than the last.