Former first lady Nancy Reagan, center, was awarded an honorary degree from Eureka College on March 31. Pictured with her are, from left, former Eureka College trustee Richard Owen, Fran Owen, Eureka College President J. David Arnold and Katherine Arnold.
EUREKA – Eureka College President J. David Arnold presented an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Nancy Davis Reagan on March 31, telling the former first lady, “President Reagan often said that everything good in his life began at Eureka College, but we know that everything wonderful and great in his life began with you.” The degree, which recognizes Mrs. Reagan’s distinguished record of public service, was presented in the late president’s office in the private quarters at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif. After the presentation, Arnold; his wife, Katherine; and former Eureka College trustee Richard Owen and his wife, Fran, of Bloomington, who accompanied the Arnolds to California, were dinner guests of Mrs. Reagan.
Before the degree presentation the group attended a speech by Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, which was a part of the Reagan Forum speakers’ series sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. The speech was attended by approximately 400 people, Arnold said, and the Eureka group was introduced to the crowd by foundation executive director Duke Blackwood, who noted that the degree would be presented to Mrs. Reagan later that night. “The announcement prompted a collective ‘ooh’ from the audience,” Arnold said. “Guest after guest remarked how appropriate it was for the college to honor Mrs. Reagan in this way.”
“Mrs. Reagan is so charming and engaged, with a great sense of humor, and she was very appreciative of the honor,” Arnold said.
Mrs. Reagan established the Nancy Reagan Foundation to educate people about the dangers of substance abuse. She also has worked with the Foster Grandparent Program and the Alzheimer’s Association.
Ronald Reagan received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and economics from the college in 1932. He returned to the college a dozen times, and Mrs. Reagan accompanied him on six of those visits.