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April 2014 News Releases

Four to receive honorary degrees at spring commencement

Four honorary doctorates will be conferred at the Washburn University commencement exercises on Saturday, May 17.

The Honorable J. Patrick Brazil, Topeka, doctor of law

The Honorable J. Patrick Brazil grew up in Chanute, Kan., and received a bachelor of business administration degree from Rockhurst College in 1957 and a juris doctor degree from Washburn University School of Law in 1962. Brazil practiced law in Pratt and Eureka until 1972 when he was appointed judge of the Kansas District Court for the 13th Judicial District by Governor Robert Docking. He served as a district judge until 1985 when he was appointed to the Kansas Court of Appeals by Governor John Carlin. In 1995, Brazil was appointed Chief Judge of the Court and served until his retirement in 2001. He continued to sit with the appellate courts until 2012.

Brazil is an associate with the firm of Associates in Dispute Resolution, LLC, specializing in mediations and arbitrations involving commercial transactions, employment law, insurance law, medical/legal malpractice, product liability, tort and personal injury law.

He is a member and past secretary of the National Conference of Chief Judges, is a past president of the District Judges Association and is a former member of the advisory committee of the Kansas Judicial Council for Civil and Criminal Pattern Instructions. Brazil is a fellow of the Kansas Bar Foundation and the recipient of the Outstanding Service Award from the Kansas Bar Association. He is a member and served as chairman of the Commission on Judicial Qualifications and is a charter member and past president of the Sam A. Crow American Inn of Court.

Brazil is a member and Paul Harris Fellow of the Topeka South Rotary Club and served as a trustee of the Topeka and Shawnee County Library Foundation. He also held a seat on the Washburn Law Alumni Board of Governors and was a recipient of the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2012.

Beth Fontron Fager, Topeka, doctor of humane letters

Beth Fontron Fager was born in Hutchinson, Kan. She is a graduate of Topeka West High School and received a bachelor’s degree in French and English in secondary education from the University of Kansas. She taught French in USD 501 before becoming a full-time mother.

Fager has been a member of the Washburn University Foundation Board of Trustees since 2002 and served on the board development committee. She has been involved in numerous Washburn projects, including the Dr. Jerry and Susan Farley Professorship in Leadership, establishment of Carole Chapel, renovation of White Concert Hall, Washburn Women’s Alliance Endowed Scholarship Fund and the Mulvane Art Museum.

Her community involvement includes the $5 million fundraising campaign that transformed the former Union Pacific Railroad Station into the Great Overland Station, for which she currently serves as campaign director.  She also was active in the development of Topeka Performing Arts Center (TPAC), for which she raised $2.7 million to renovate the former Municipal auditorium. Fager serves as chairwoman of the Topeka Shawnee County Riverfront Authority as co-chairwoman of the Arts and Culture Alliance of the Heartland Visioning project.

Fager has served in a number of fundraising roles in the Topeka community including director of development for both the Ronald McDonald House and Brewster Place Retirement Center; task force chairwoman and board president for the Topeka Performing Arts Center; and president of Junior League of Topeka. She was a commissioner for the Kansas Arts Commission and chairwoman of the Client Protection Fund of Kansas.

She received recognition at the Washburn University Foundation’s annual meeting in 2009, and was the Topeka Career Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association’s Woman of Distinction in 2011.

Steven S. Martin, Omaha, Neb., doctor of public service

Steve Martin was born in Horton, Kan. He received a bachelor of science in nursing degree from Washburn University in 1979 and a master of arts degree from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 1992. While at Washburn, he was a member of the football team and served as co-captain in 1976. After working at Saint Francis Medical Center and the Menninger Clinic, he co-founded HealthCheck, Inc. in Topeka and served as vice president from 1980 to 1982. He later held management positions at the Upjohn Company, American HomeCare, Inc. and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska before becoming founding president and CEO of Prime Therapeutics Company. Since 2002, he has served as the president, CEO and board director of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska.

At the invitation of Senator John McCain, Martin testified before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation regarding the McCain-Schumer legislative proposal for generic drugs. He also received appointments from members of Congress to serve on the Medicaid Reform Task Force, the Health Reform Task Force and the Interim Study Commission on Genetics.

Martin serves on the board of directors for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and is the chairman of the BCBSA Brand Enhancement and Protection Committee, which oversees over 100 million American members. Other board membership including Blue Health Intelligence; Prime Therapeutics, LLC; American Medical Association Foundation; Wellness Councils of America; Children’s Scholarship Fund of Omaha; Travel and Transport, Inc.; and Council of Economic Advisors of the Federal Reserve Bank/Kansas City Region.  He also is a trustee of the Washburn University Foundation.

In 1992, Martin was in the inaugural class of Washburn University Alumni Fellows as the recipient from the School of Nursing. In 1979 he was inducted into Sigma Theta Tau, Eta Kappa Chapter, International Nursing Honor Society and Foundation. He was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa, National Leadership Society in 2008.

John Edgar Tidwell, Lawrence, doctor of literature

A native of Independence, Kan., John Tidwell received a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1969, a master of arts degree in English from Creighton University in 1971 and a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota in 1981. He began his career in academia at the University of Nebraska Omaha, followed by the University of Kentucky and Miami (Ohio) University. He was named the Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship at the University of Kansas in the 1994 and has held the title of professor since 2008.

A number of awards, including fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and National Endowment for the Humanities, has enabled him to establish a stellar publishing record in his chosen research fields of American and African American literatures.  Tidwell has written more than 50 critical essays, book reviews, interviews, bibliographies and literary dictionary entries.  He also has published seven books, including editions of the collected poems, memoirs and selected newspaper writings of Arkansas City-born poet and journalist Frank Marshall Davis.

Tidwell served as resident scholar for the Kansas Humanities Council project "Crossing Boundaries/Making Connections: African American and American Culture," and is a member of the KHC Speakers’ Bureau and Talk About Literature in Kansas program.  He served as visiting scholar at Kansas State University and Johnson County Community College and represented the Kansas Center for the Book series on “Dreams from My Father,” written by President Barack Obama.  He has been honored as a Washburn University Alumni Fellow and an Alumni of Notable Achievement from the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota.

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EDITORS: Photos available upon request.   Contact: Dena Anson, university relations, 785.670.1711

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