Topeka, Kan. – Washburn will recognize the accomplishments of more than 1,000 students in a series of commencement ceremonies May 9 and 11. The university will begin with two ceremonies for the Washburn Institute of Technology (Washburn Tech) Thursday evening and four ceremonies Saturday for the remaining Washburn divisions: the School of Applied Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the School of Nursing and the School of Law. There are also two separate awards ceremonies. See complete details below.

      The university will also grant four honorary doctorates during Saturday’s ceremonies.  The four recipients – Richard Ross, Bette Morris, T.C. Broadnax Jr. and James Concannon - are being honored for their accomplishments in the community and their commitment to Washburn.

     “This is truly my favorite time of the year when we gather to celebrate our students,” said Dr. JuliAnn Mazachek, president, Washburn. “It is such a feeling a of pride as we watch each student cross the stage, knowing they worked diligently and have achieved so much. Each student started with a plan and a dream and now they cross the stage as new alumni, ready for their chosen career path, and forever part of the Washburn community.”


Thursday, May 9, 2024

Washburn Tech Commencement Ceremonies

- Ceremonies are at 5 and 7 p.m.

- Location: Lee Arena, in the Petro Allied Health Center


Saturday, May 11, 2024

Washburn University Award Ceremonies

- 8 a.m. -- School of Applied Studies Certificate and Awards Ceremony, in Lee Arena in the Petro Allied Health Center

- 11 a.m. -- School of Nursing Undergraduate Recognition and Awards Pinning Ceremony, in White Concert Hall


Washburn University Commencement Ceremonies

- 9:30 a.m. -- School of Applied Studies in Lee Arena, in the Petro Allied Health Center

- 12 p.m. -- College of Arts and Sciences in Lee Arena, in the Petro Allied Health Center

- 3 p.m. -- School of Business and School of Nursing in Lee Arena, in the Petro Allied Health Center

- 5 p.m. -- School of Law in White Concert Hall


Livestreaming and Parking

      The commencement ceremonies will be livestreamed and can be viewed the day and time of the ceremonies at

      Petro Allied Health Center, home of Lee Arena, is on the east side of the Washburn University campus. White Concert Hall is on the west side of campus. Those with questions on the building or the closest parking lot location can view a campus map here. Parking on the Washburn campus is free.


Honorary Doctorate Recipients

Presented at the School of Applied Studies Ceremony – 9:30 a.m.

Richard D. Ross, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

    A graduate of Topeka West High School and a member of the Topeka West Graduate Hall of Fame, Richard Ross earned his Bachelor of Arts with honors in English and political science from Washburn in 1971. While an undergraduate he was active in Alpha Delta fraternity and attended a formative semester abroad at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He continued his studies at the Washburn University School of Law, earning his Juris Doctor degree in 1975.

    Upon graduating law school, Ross was appointed second assistant to the official reporter of the Kansas Supreme Court and by 1978 was appointed to the top constitutional office of reporter of judicial decisions, Chief Justice Harold Fatzer. Ross would serve in this role for nearly 40 years, working for 57 Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges, publishing 81 volumes of the Kansas Reports for Supreme Court Decisions and 51 volumes of the Kansas Court of Appeals Reports for Court of Appeals decisions before retiring in 2016. During his career, he also co-founded and served as president of the international Association of Reporters of Judicial Decisions.

    Ross became a Washburn University Foundation trustee in 1990 and served on the foundation board of directors from 2006-17. He is past president of the Washburn Alumni Association board of directors and received the Alumni Association’s Ruth Garvey Fink Award in 2007, their Distinguished Service Award in 2017 and was named an Alumni Fellow for the Washburn College of Arts and Sciences in 2019. He serves on the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center advisory committee, served 10 years on Washburn's International House advisory committee and is the founder, past president and current board member of Alpha Delta fraternity's MacVicar Educational Foundation.

    He volunteers for Washburn’s Mulvane Art Museum, creating partnerships between the museum, artists, sponsors and donors, and is instrumental in bringing in major exhibits like “I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.” In 1993, he founded what has now become the annual Mulvane Art Fair and has served on its steering committee since its inception. On the Art Fair’s 25th anniversary in 2017, the Richard Ross Mountain Plains Award was created by the museum to annually recognize an outstanding Mulvane Art Fair volunteer— Ross was the inaugural recipient. Outside of Washburn, he is a volunteer for the Humanities Kansas Oral History Project, a trustee on the board of the Friends of the Free State Capitol, on the advisory board of the Stormont-Vail Foundation and has served in numerous leadership roles at Topeka First United Methodist Church. 

     One of the university’s most visible, engaged and tireless advocates, Ross is often described as an opinion leader and a connector, bringing significant attention and contributions to Washburn and meeting with leaders to discuss ideas, solve problems and build relationships for the advancement of the university. He resides in Topeka and has a son, a daughter and a grandson.


Presented at the College of Arts and Sciences Ceremony – 12 p.m.

Bette Morris, Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts

      Known for her work promoting the well-being of children and their families, Bette Morris has been a staunch humanitarian, distinguished by her volunteer engagements in the city of Topeka and beyond. 

      Originally from Texas, Bette earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Tech University in 1956. The next fall, she went to Cornell University’s Graduate School of Nutrition for a master’s degree program. While registering for her first semester at Cornell, she met a young veterinary student named Mark Morris, who changed the direction of her life. They were engaged in the spring, married in August, and returned to Cornell in the fall to complete their degrees. After Mark completed a tour of duty in the Army and a PhD program in pathology and biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Bette and Mark settled with their children in Topeka. They became involved in local organizations. Mark’s primary interest was education, and he served on the Topeka 501 School Board. Later, he became a regent for Washburn University. 

      Bette was appointed to lead the Kansas Governor’s Commission on Education for Parenthood in 1977 and 1981 and spent decades working with the Kansas Children’s Service League, Kansas Action for Children and other organizations that were focused on improving the outcomes for children.  She earned a doctorate in family studies and child development from Kansas State University in 1991, and she was commended by Kansas Gov. Kathleeen Sebelius in 2004 for her leadership in promoting the welfare of Kansas children and her “unwavering commitment to and compassion for children and their families.”

      In 1948, Mark’s parents created what was to become the Morris Animal Foundation. It has since grown to become the largest non-profit, non-governmental sponsor of animal health studies in the world. Bette, who serves as trustee emeritus, has been involved in its far-reaching work, including helping create the Mark L. Morris Jr. Investigator Award, which makes annual grants to support impactful companion animal research, and the foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, one of the largest, most comprehensive prospective canine health studies ever.

      In addition to the Morris Animal Foundation and the Kansas Children’s Service League, she has been a stalwart supporter of other nonprofits including the Kansas Children's Discovery Center, Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, the University of Kansas Cancer Center, the Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center and Friends of the Free State Capitol. Bette has also been a great friend to Washburn, including serving as a key partner for the Mulvane Art Museum, helping them make a number of notable acquisitions, including the “I Dream A World” exhibit by Brian Lanker in 2020, and by establishing the Bette M. Morris Art Conservation Fund, which works to conserve paintings in the museum’s permanent collection.


Presented at the School of Business Ceremony – 3 p.m.

T.C. Broadnax Jr., Honorary Doctor of Public Service

      A Kansas native, T.C. Broadnax was a standout student-athlete at Topeka High School as an all-state guard who helped the school win the state basketball championship in 1986. He was named homecoming king in 1987 before coming to Washburn, where he continued playing basketball. It’s at Washburn where he first became interested in public service. Broadnax took an internship in the City of Topeka mayor and city manager’s office and was encouraged by Loran Smith, Washburn political science professor, to pursue his growing interest in that field. He graduated in 1991from Washburn with a bachelor’s degree in political science and communication studies, and then earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Texas in 1993.

      His career in local government management began as a budget and management analyst for Broward County, Florida, before moving on to city government in Pompano Beach, Florida, eventually serving as the assistant city manager there. From Pompano Beach, he served as assistant city manager in San Antonio, Texas, before becoming city manager for Tacoma, Washington, 2012-17. Broadnax then became city manager for Dallas, Texas, 2017-24. In Dallas, Broadnax was responsible for more than 15,000 employees and a budget of $4.6 billion with an emphasis on the core values of service—empathy, ethics, excellence, engagement and equity. Among his accomplishments in Dallas were the adoption and implementation of several firsts: a racial equity policy, a comprehensive housing plan, an economic development policy and incentive policy, a strategic mobility plan and a comprehensive environmental & climate action plan. On April 4, 2024, Broadnax was appointed the next city manager of the capital city of Austin, Texas effective May 6, 2024.

     In the often-rough-and-tumble world of city politics, Broadnax’s approach to public service has stood out for his dedication to transformative change and commitment, with a focus on equity and inclusion. He is recognized throughout the country for his significant contributions in the public sector, tackling issues relating to community and economic development, housing and homelessness, transparency and equity, financial management and organizational leadership.

      Broadnax is an International City/County Management Association credentialed manager, a board member of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators, board member of the National Civic League and a National Academy of Public Administration fellow. In 2019, he served as an executive in residence at Washburn University and was inducted that same year into the Topeka High School Hall of Fame. In 2020, he began serving on the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation board of trustees.


Presented at the School of Law Ceremony – 5 p.m.

James M. Concannon, Honorary Doctor of Law

        James “Jim” Concannon grew up in Finney County, Kansas, graduating from Garden City High School in 1964. He attended the University of Kansas (KU), and even as an undergraduate his academic gifts were evident. While earning his bachelor’s degree in 1968, he was a Summerfield Scholar, received the International DeMolay of the Year award and was a member of both the mathematics and political science honor societies. Concannon stayed at KU to earn his Juris Doctor degree, graduating second in his class in 1971. He was recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Kansas School of Law and was inducted into the Garden City High School Hall of Fame.

      While working as a young attorney for Kansas Supreme Court Justice Alex Fromme, Concannon taught his first class at the Washburn University School of Law as a lecturer in the summer of 1972. He was asked to join the faculty full time the next year. By 1977, he had been named Professor of the Year by students and would go on to teach at Washburn for nearly a half a century, including serving as dean from 1988 to 2001. At his retirement in 2020, he was The Senator Robert J. Dole Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and the longest serving faculty member in the history of the school.

      Concannon was a preeminent scholar on the subjects of evidence, civil procedure and appellate practice. He was known as an engaging instructor who challenged his students, many hundreds of whom would go on to become distinguished lawyers in Kansas and around the world. He is remembered by his students for the advice "Don't think great thoughts, read the statute,” words which now adorn the Washburn School of Law’s dean’s office. He also wrote the book on the definitive history of Washburn Law titled "The Ideal Place . . . for the Establishment of a Great Law School: History of Washburn Law School, 1903-2003."

      Concannon’s service to the legal profession extended beyond Washburn. He served as a Kansas delegate, and later chair of the Style Committee, of the Uniform Law Committee, the national organization responsible for providing non-partisan model legislation. In 2012, the Kansas Supreme Court awarded him the prestigious Justice Award, which is given infrequently to recognize the achievements of highly deserving persons who have contributed significantly to the improvement of justice in Kansas. He was a staunch defender of the rule of law and a strong public advocate for the non-partisan selection of judges. He also served on many non-profit boards, including the Topeka Youth Project, Kansas Legal Services for Prisoners, Inc. and Kansas Appleseed.

      He was proud of his spouse Melissa Porter Masoner, who earned her doctorate in education from KU, his son Christopher Masoner, an attorney in Kansas City, and his three grandchildren - James, Paul, and Maggie. He was a beloved colleague, mentor and friend to countless others. Jim passed away in June 2023.

- 30 -

For further information, contact:
Joy Bailes
Director of Internal Communications and Brand Management
Telephone: (785) 670-2153
Cell: (785) 230-1648
back to top button