President Barack Obama nominated Trinity graduate Kathleen Gilligan Sebelius, the Governor of Kansas, to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Kathleen Sebelius has a remarkable intellect, unquestioned integrity, and the kind of pragmatic wisdom you’ll tend to find in a Kansan,” President Obama said as he announced her nomination on Monday, March 2. “I know she will bring some much-needed grace and good humor to Washington, and she will be a tremendous asset to my cabinet.”
“As the two-term Governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius already blazed a trail where few women have served before — in the state executive mansions — and she was the first Trinity alumna elected as a governor,” said President Patricia McGuire. “She now becomes the first Trinity alumna to serve in the President’s Cabinet, a great distinction that reflects all of her superb leadership qualities. Perhaps her greatest strength in this role will be her great commitment to justice along with a political pragmatism that leads her to negotiate solutions with many different people at the table. She’s incredibly smart (of course, she’s a Trinity Woman) and also has clear vision about what must be done. She also has political courage, a quality essential to moving the reform agenda from paper to prescription.”
Secretary-designate Sebelius has been the governor of Kansas since 2003; her election marked the first time in 60 years that a Democrat won state-wide election in Kansas. She has a reputation for reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats and Republicans alike and for achieving results through her bipartisan approach. In 2005, TIME magazine named her one of “America’s Five Best Governors” and praised her strong leadership and fiscal management of the state of Kansas. In 2007, she served as chair of the Democratic Governors Association, the first woman in history to be elected to that position. Before she was elected governor, she served as the Kansas Insurance Commissioner from 1994 to 2002.
At Trinity, Secretary-designate Sebelius majored in political science, gained experience through several political internships and developed leadership skills on the Trinity basketball team. (Governor Sebelius also earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas).
Governor Sebelius credits her Trinity experience with reinforcing important messages about public service. In a profile of Kathleen Sebelius in the TRINITY magazine during her first campaign for governor, she reflected that “I had several internships while at Trinity. I worked at a school on North Capitol Street and we used to do basketball clinics with the kids; I played basketball at Trinity, and that was an ongoing project. I think there was a sense at Trinity, living in northeast Washington, that you were very much a part of that community and to open your eyes and get involved was a message that a lot of people gave us.” Read the full profile.
Trinity, with just under 14,000 graduates, has a remarkable track record in educating women leaders in public service. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the highest ranked woman in political office, is a 1962 graduate of Trinity. The Honorable Barbara Kennelly ’58 served in the U.S. Congress and is currently president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Maggie Williams ’77 served as chief of staff to First Lady Hillary Clinton, was a special advisor to President Bill Clinton, and was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in her run for president. More recent Trinity graduates are working on Capitol Hill and running for elected office.
Trinity honored Governor Sebelius and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in 2003, presenting them both with honorary degrees for their commitment to public service.