The K-State Alumni Association on Thursday evening honored Marlin Fitzwater, who is the only press secretary to have served under two U.S. presidents, as the recipient of the 2019 Alumni Excellence award.
Fitzwater, a 1965 graduate and Abilene native, wrote for five newspapers, including The Mercury, while in college before moving to Washington, D.C., to work for several federal agencies. President Ronald Reagan tapped him as his press secretary in 1983, and he would remain in that role over the next decade and through President George H.W. Bush’s tenure.
Introducing Fitzwater, K-State president Richard Myers said they both shared similar college careers.
“We both came here in 1960,” Myers said. “We both took five years to graduate, for various reasons. While we both had to work our way through school, he did it in an honorable way through journalism. I played in a rock band.”
But Myers also likened Fitzwater to U.S. President and fellow Abilene native Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was honored Thursday afternoon with the dedication of the Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower Bedroom in the K-State president’s residence.
“As I think about it, there must have been something in the water in Abilene, because you and Ike seem to me to be a lot alike,” Myers said. “There’s a great deal of humility, a great deal of competence, a great deal of feeling for your roots and what that taught you, and how that shaped your life. You are the epitome of excellence, which is what this award is about.”
Fitzwater shared several stories of his time at K-State and as press secretary, thanking everyone who helped him reach success, but he said he wouldn’t go “on and on” like President Bush, who would make sure to thank everyone starting with the band’s trombone section.
“I realized, everyone at K-State gets help, because it’s a helping place,” Fitzwater said. “People get it from their professors, they get it from their friends and that was true with my presidents as well.
“I would say that K-State and the presidency are the two greatest institutions of my life in terms of influence and impact,” he said. “The most important and incredible things that I have done and seen and said are all really all wrapped up in this plaque, so I thank you so much, the Alumni Association, for recognizing all those years.”
Fitzwater, who previously received an honorary doctorate from the university in 2015, is the third recipient of the association’s Alumni Excellence award, following Reagan and Obama presidential photographer Pete Souza and K-State first lady Mary Jo Myers.