Kate Maehr Honorary Degree Presentation

Presented by Knox College Trustee Charles F. Smith '84

June 04, 2011

Mr. President: It is my honor to present to you Kate Maehr as a candidate for the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Those of us who spend time on the Knox campus, including the students and families present here today, take certain things for granted. One of those things is that Helmut Mayer and the wonderful Dining Services staff of this College will make sure our stomachs are filled regularly with great-tasting, healthy, creatively prepared food. And when we leave this place, most of us don't think twice about the fact that we will always have food on the table.

That is not true for many people in our country, particularly over the past several years. Galesburg lies in the long shadow of Chicago, the city of big shoulders, formerly hog butcher for the world and stacker of wheat, as Galesburg's own Carl Sandburg so famously put it in his poem. But in that same poem, Sandburg wrote: "On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger."

As of 2010, twenty-five percent of Chicagoans, mostly women and children, live below the poverty line. Many of those families struggle to put a meal on the table for their children. For the past five years, Kate Maehr has led the nation's premier food bank, the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Through her work, her staff and many volunteers, the Food Depository distributes food through 650 food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters to help more than 670,000 people per year. Last year alone, the Food Depository distributed 66 million pounds of food to families in Chicago. Of equal importance, her team runs programs for children, older adults, and the unemployed or underemployed to address the root causes of hunger.

Ms. Maehr's leadership has earned her recognition in Crain's "40 Under 40," which recognizes rising corporate and business leaders who make Chicago a better place to live for all its citizens, and as a Leadership Greater Chicago fellow. Her work to get resources to people on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 won her national acclaim. And she is a leader among food banks nationwide through the Second Harvest network.

Kate Maehr is a graduate of Macalester College, one of Knox's sister liberal arts college in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and has her master's degree in public policy and administration from the University of Wisconsin.

Mr. President, Kate Maehr's life serves as a shining example of how a liberal arts education can serve as the foundation for a career serving others. Her energy, thoughtfulness, and leadership on one of the most important issues that faces the least fortunate among us every day is a model for us all. Her service to her community is emblematic of the commitment that a Knox education prepares students for personal and professional success that improves the lives of others in their communities.

It is my profound honor and privilege to present Kate Maehr for the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Presented by Knox College Trustee Charles F. Smith '84