K-State awards Kansas farmer who sent mask to New York a long-awaited degree

Dennis Ruhnke is applauded by Gov. Laura Kelly and President Richard Myers after receiving his honorary Bachelor's Degree in Agriculture from K-State. (Photo Courtesy of Gov. Laura Kelly)

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Dennis Ruhnke received an honorary degree. He received a true degree from Kansas State. The Collegian congratulates Ruhnke and regrets this mistake.

Dennis Ruhnke, the retired farmer from Troy, Kansas, who sent his extra N95 mask to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was awarded a long-awaited degree from Kansas State.

Ruhnke had five N95 masks left over from when he was a farmer — four of which were distributed to his close family members. In April, he sent his extra mask to the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. He asked Cuomo to distribute the mask to a doctor or nurse who needed it.

“How beautiful is that. I mean, how selfless is that,” Cuomo said at the time. “It’s that love, that courage, that generosity of spirit that makes this country so beautiful.”

In New York, thousands have died from complications associated with COVID-19, and the healthcare system has been overwhelmed by the demand.

Ruhnke was two credit hours away from obtaining a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from K-State when he left in 1971 after his father passed away. He returned home to take care of his family and maintain his family’s farm.

“Dennis’ kindness and lifelong career in agriculture make him more than qualified to receive a degree,” Gov. Laura Kelly said on Facebook.

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the ex-managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.