The program, which has honored 323 people, began in 1941. Nominations are solicited from alumni and faculty members.
What do a NASA astronaut, a retired professor, a university president and a retired chief justice have in common?
All have been named recipients of Distinguished Service Citations by Kansas University and the KU Alumni Association for their ``significant contributions to humanity,'' KU officials announced Thursday.
Those receiving the citation are: Steven Hawley, NASA astronaut, Francis Heller, KU professor emeritus of law and political science, Ivory Nelson, president of Central Washington University, and Rosalie Erwin Wahl, retired chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The citations will be awarded May 15 at KU's annual all-university supper.
The Distinguished Service Citation program, which has honored 323 people, began in 1941. Nominations are solicited from alumni and faculty members.
Hawley, a KU graduate in physics and astronomy, is deputy director of flight crew operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He has flown on four space shuttle missions and will be a member of the Columbia shuttle's crew scheduled for December.
He was aboard 1984's maiden flight of the shuttle Discovery and deployed the Hubble Space Telescope as flight engineer for Discovery's 1990 mission. He received NASA's Distinguished Service Medal this year for outstanding contributions to the space program.
Heller, a native of Austria, joined the KU faculty 50 years ago. As a teacher, administrator and scholar, he helped shape the university and even assisted Harry S. Truman in writing his memoirs and recording his presidency.
He served as acting provost, vice chancellor for academic affairs, director of the Western Civilization Program and director of the College Honors Program.
Heller taught political science until moving to the law school in 1972 as Roy A. Roberts distinguished professor.
In 1996, he received the Harry S. Truman Public Service Special Recognition Award.
Nelson was the first black student to earn a doctorate in analytical chemistry from KU.
He came to KU from Grambling State University. After leaving KU, he taught at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., and then spent 15 years teaching and serving in administrative posts at Prairie View A&M; University, Prairie View, Tex.
Since 1992, Nelson has been president of Central Washington University. And in 1996, he was featured among the 100 scholars chronicled in the Distinguished African-American Scientists of the 20th Century.
Wahl, a KU graduate, was the first woman to: serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court; chair the American Bar Assn.'s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar; and to chair the association's Accreditation Committee of the Council.
She earned her law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn., at age 44, 20 years after her graduation from KU.
She was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1977, spending 17 years on the bench. During that time, she chaired the court's task forces on racial bias and gender fairness.