McPherson College has conferred honorary doctorates on Melanie and Richard Lundquist to recognize the couple’s significant body of work in driving systemic change in K-12 public education, health care delivery and innovation as well as the environment. The Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD) degrees are awarded by McPherson College’s Board of Trustees and faculty, who voted unanimously to recognize the Lundquists with the honorary degrees. A special ceremony is being planned on campus for October 2021, contingent on COVID protocols.
In awarding honorary degrees, McPherson College aims to recognize and honor individuals who have distinguished themselves for their achievement and efforts that align with the college’s mission of developing whole persons through scholarship, participation, and service.
“McPherson College is proud to honor Melanie and Richard Lundquist for their body of work that has driven systemic change in so many ways,” said Michael P. Schneider, president of McPherson College, who conferred the degrees virtually earlier this month.
“The Lundquists bring joy and possibility to our life’s work at McPherson College and the work of so many others. They have carved out a path less traveled – helping to improve outcomes for people, especially those living at the margins. While they have created significant and positive impact through their philanthropy, especially in California, their reach touches us in Kansas and in so many other parts of our country. They have been invaluable members of the McPherson College community for years, providing counsel on many matters and expanding our network through their vast connections. We’re truly lucky to have Richard and Melanie as members of the McPherson College family and this conferral recognizes that,” said Schneider.
Melanie and Richard Lundquist are agents of change and two of California’s most significant philanthropists. Their gifts have created the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a sustainable, national turnaround model for underserved non-charter K-12 public schools that works within the Los Angeles Unified School District. They have also helped transform health care delivery and spur biomedical research and innovation. They committed $70 million in February 2019, as an unrestricted gift, to the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed), which was renamed The Lundquist Institute. The institute has more than 120 medical researchers working on 600 studies, including therapies for multiple orphan diseases.
The Lundquists have also led efforts to invest in solutions to climate change through AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles and critically important marine mammal research at the Marine Mammal Center, the largest marine mammal hospital in the world, located in Sausalito, Calif.
The Lundquists are signatories of the Giving Pledge, the movement where some of the world’s wealthiest individuals and couples commit to give more than half their wealth away. In June 2018, the Chronicle of Philanthropy featured the Lundquists in a profile story titled “A Lifetime Commitment: LA couple, who have signed the Giving Pledge, donate to groups that need them the most.” They have appeared four times on The Philanthropy 50, the annual list of America’s 50 most generous philanthropists, published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The conferral of the honorary doctorates recognizes the Lundquist’s unique mission to leverage their philanthropic commitments to affect significant and measurable impact through driving systemic change, focusing on areas where their gifts can change systems as well as fortunes, not just make incremental progress. They choose not to follow the crowd; instead, they seek to kick off a virtuous cycle that attracts other donors.
“This is humbling for Richard and me. We are especially touched that the honorary degrees are being conferred by McPherson College, a place that for over 130 years has been educating students with a special focus on service. That commitment to others is what inspires us as well. We have had the pleasure of getting to know many McPherson College students and hosting them in California. They are indeed special. Additionally, it takes smart leaders to move a college ahead, and we appreciate the good work of President Schneider and his team. Richard and I look forward to visiting campus in October. We are proud to be Bulldogs,” said Melanie Lundquist.
Founded in 1887, McPherson College is set on a 27-acre campus in McPherson, Kan., one of the top 100 small towns in the U.S. and offers 30 majors and pre-professional programs. US News & World Report ranks McPherson College as one of the top colleges for “social mobility,” enrolling and graduating large proportions of disadvantaged students and as one of the region’s most innovative colleges for innovative improvements in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life and technology or facilities.
The Lundquists’ relationship with McPherson College started in 2014. They were introduced by Paul Russell, chair of the Automotive Restoration National Advisory Board, and since then, have committed well over $1 million to the college’s auto restoration program, the only award-winning four-year bachelor’s degree program for automotive restoration technology in the country.
“The Lundquists are champions for McPherson College’s mission, and more importantly, they are role models for our students – they are people of passion and commitment, focused on improving humanity. We are proud to recognize them with these honorary degrees,” said Amanda Gutierrez, vice president for the college’s auto restoration program. “Their work has created measurable results everywhere they go, and it proves that thoughtful philanthropy can lead to meaningful change.”
Melanie holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Southern California in communicative disorders/speech pathology and audiology, as well as a credential as a specialist in special education. Richard holds an undergraduate Bachelor of Science from the University of Southern California.