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Nonprofit founder to receive 2017 honorary degree

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

LAWRENCE — The creator of a nonprofit agency that recruits military veterans to provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid around the world will receive an honorary degree from the University of Kansas.

William McNulty, an Iraq War veteran and co-founder of Team Rubicon, will be awarded an honorary degree at KU’s 145th Commencement on May 14, 2017, in Memorial Stadium.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little recommended McNulty for an honorary degree to the Kansas Board of Regents. The board approved the chancellor’s recommendation during its meeting today, Jan. 18.

McNulty – himself a KU alumnus – created Team Rubicon to provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid to communities hit by natural disasters. The organization grew out of McNulty’s desire to continue serving his country when his enlistment in the United States Marine Corps ended. After organizing a team of veterans to help with disaster response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, McNulty recognized that military veterans’ unique skills offered a model for a disaster-response organization that would bridge the gap between the immediate aftermath of disasters and the arrival of large-scale relief efforts from governments and aid organizations.

As the organization grew, McNulty realized it could play a major role in veteran reintegration, easing the transition to civilian life. Today Team Rubicon has a volunteer army of 50,000, 75 percent of whom are military veterans who are helping themselves by helping others. McNulty also recently founded Team Rubicon Global, which focuses on exporting the Team Rubicon model of disaster relief service and veteran reintegration to 12 countries around the world.

“William McNulty has turned his experience in war-torn areas of the world into a global effort to aid similar communities, while at the same time easing the transition of military veterans to civilian life by offering a sense of community, identity and purpose,” Chancellor Gray-Little said. “His innovative and meaningful work is making our world a better place, and for that, he is an inspiration to the entire KU community. We look forward to awarding him his honorary degree in May 2017.”

McNulty will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters for outstanding contributions to global humanitarian and relief efforts.

McNulty earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and his master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.

KU awards honorary degrees based on nominees’ outstanding scholarship, research, creative activity, service to humanity or other achievements consistent with the academic endeavors of the university. Recipients do not need to be KU alumni, and philanthropic contributions to the university are not considered during the process.

Nominations are sought from inside and outside the KU community and reviewed by a committee. This year’s committee includes Edmund Russell, history (committee chair); Judy Wu, physics and astronomy; Joe Lutkenhaus, microbiology, molecular genetics and immunology; Mabel Rice, speech-language-hearing; Debra Sullivan, dietetics and nutrition; Jeff Briley, representing KU alumni; and Christina Amaro, a KU graduate student.

Read more at KU’s Honorary Degrees website.


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times