The University Record, February 20, 1996

Kassebaum honored with first U-M Distinguished Legislator Award

By Bernie DeGroat
News and Information Services

Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., has received the first University of Michigan Distinguished Legislator Award. It was presented at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in January.

Modeled after the national service academy scholarship programs, the award enables a chosen U.S. senator or House member to select a constituent in their state or congressional district to receive a four-year undergraduate scholarship to study at the U-M.

Rebecca Ihrie of Topeka, Kan., was selected by Kassebaum to receive this year's scholarship.

The award, which will be given every other year to a legislator, and the scholarship, given to an incoming LS&A first-year student, are made possible by a gift from Bertram J. Askwith, a U-M graduate and CEO of Campus Coach Lines, a charter bus company in New York City.

"LS&A has so many fine donors, and among them are but a handful, including Bert, who put a signature touch on their gift," says LS&A Dean Edie N. Goldenberg. "In Bert's case, he pulled together three programs---the service award for a distinguished legislator, the scholarship and support for one of our first-year seminars."

Askwith says he established the award to call attention to the "Michigan reputation," especially that of its highly ranked political science department, which will offer a first-year seminar on the legislative process and will include a visit by the legislator.

He adds that in an era of increasing ill-will toward legislators, it is important to reward those who have made exemplary contributions to the nation, while at the same time providing financial support for outstanding young students.

Kassebaum was selected for the award by a panel that included Charles Eisendrath, director of the Michigan Journalism Fellows program and panel coordinator; Neil Skene, publisher of Congressional Quarterly; and Martin Tolchin, editor and publisher of The Hill.

"This award," Eisendrath says, "could well become a national model for cooperation among public universities and the federal government. I can't think of a better way to underline the importance of good citizenship, good scholarship and the relationship between them."

The award ceremony, coordinated by the Michigan Journalism Fellows program, was well-received by Washington insiders who attended.

"I think this was one of the best things I've taken part in since I came to Washington," Skene says. "It was a marvelous idea superbly executed."

Nancy Barbour, a major donor to the University, agrees. "I've been to a million Washington events over the last 30 years, but this was one of the best. It was intimate and so exciting and I left the luncheon feeling very happy I attended."

Adds Tolchin: "(ABC News' Cokie Roberts) echoed my view that the event was indeed inspirational. With all the criticism of politicians and Congress, it is almost unique to single out a lawmaker who has served faithfully and well."