Trinity graduate and former governor of Kansas Kathleen Gilligan Sebelius ’70 was confirmed today by the full U.S. Senate to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Just hours later, she was sworn into office by President Barack Obama in an Oval Office ceremony at the White House, and officially joined his Cabinet on the eve of his 100th day in office. Secretary Sebelius was nominated to the position on March 2; her confirmation hearing was held by the Senate Finance Committee on April 2. Dr. Shelley Tomkin, professor of political science, and six Trinity students attended the hearing: Rehana Athie, Gillian Bryant, Brittany Harlee, Tenisha Hill, Morgan Kellman and Sarah Mihalus.
Secretary Sebelius served as 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, Sebelius majored in political science, gained experience through several political internships and developed leadership skills on the Trinity basketball team. (Sebelius also earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas).
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 Sebelius and Pelosi in 2003, presenting them both with honorary degrees for their commitment to public service.