In Memoriam: Bob Dole

World War II veteran, longtime senator and former GOP presidential nominee earned an honorary degree from GW in 1998, the same year he delivered the university’s Commencement remarks.

In Memoriam: Bob Dole
December 06, 2021

The George Washington University remembers the life of Bob Dole, a World War II veteran, longtime U.S. senator and former Republican nominee for president of the United States. Mr. Dole died on Sunday at age 98. In February 2021, it was revealed Mr. Dole had Stage 4 lung cancer.

Mr. Dole received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from GW in 1998. He delivered the university’s keynote address at Commencement on the Ellipse in May of that same year.

"Senator Dole was a true public servant—principled in his values and brave in his service to our nation through World War II and decades of selfless bipartisan governing," President Thomas LeBlanc said. "That he was a recipient of a GW honorary Doctor of Public Service degree and Commencement speaker are testaments to the profound impact he had on our university community, the country and the world."

The longtime Kansas senator’s public service began as a young man, when he joined the Army’s Enlisted Reserve Corps in 1942 at the height of World War II. He would eventually serve as the second lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division. Mr. Dole was seriously wounded in combat by Nazi gunfire and was medically discharged from the Army as a captain in 1947. In 2019 Congress voted to promote him to Colonel to honor his service. Mr. Dole was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.

After the war, Mr. Dole established a legal career in his home state of Kansas and was eventually elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1960, which commenced his decades-long run in Washington, D.C. He was elected to the Senate in 1968 and chaired numerous Republican committees. He would serve as the Senate majority leader from 1985 to 1987 and again from 1995 to 1996.

Mr. Dole was the vice-presidential nominee for Gerald Ford during the 1976 election that Democrat Jimmy Carter eventually won. He campaigned for the Republican nomination for president in 1980, 1988 and 1996, securing the party’s nomination in the last of those years, when Democrat Bill Clinton won a second term.

In 1989, President Ronald Reagan awarded Mr. Dole with the Presidential Citizens Medal. In 1997, Mr. Clinton presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his military service the country.

Before his Commencement speech at GW in 1998, Mr. Dole sought student input and made an effort to get to know GW’s community before becoming an honorary graduate of it. He attended a breakfast at the F Street Club and met with GW students from the School of Media and Public Affairs in April 1998, prior to his Commencement speech.

In his speech, according to C-SPAN, Mr. Dole said the monuments in Washington, D.C., are timeless, “and so too are certain principles. Principles like perseverance and personal sacrifice and public service. And I was heartened to see that these principles, which define my generation and defined yours as well, are the topics most often mentioned as ones you would like to address.

“The difference between success and failure after…. Do you throw your hands up and do you take your lumps, learn your lessons and move forward? Make the most of what you have.”

Mr. Dole is survived in death by his wife, former cabinet member and former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Hanford Dole of North Carolina, who received an honorary doctorate from GW in 1995.

University News