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Retired Kansas farmer gets honorary degree after his touching gesture toward NYC medical professionals



Photo by Lambert/Getty Images

Dennis Ruhnke, a retired farmer from Kansas, has been awarded an honorary degree from Kansas State University after his gesture toward New York City medical professionals went viral last month.

Ruhnke first made the news when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) tweeted out a picture of a letter Ruhnke wrote along with an enclosed unused N95 mask that he had kept from his days as a farmer. Cuomo's tweet has had more than 40,000 retweets and 200,000 likes.

In the letter, which Cuomo praised as "humanity at its best," Ruhnke says, "I seriously doubt that you will read this letter as I know you are busy beyond belief with the disaster that has befallen our country. We currently (as of March 26, 2020) are a nation in crisis. Of that there is no doubt."

Ruhnke states in the letter that he is "hunkered down in N.E. Kansas with my wife who has but one lung and occasional problems with her remaining lung. She also has diabetes. We are in our 70's now and frankly I am afraid for her."

Ruhnke went on to state, "Enclosed find a solitary N-95 mask left over from my farming days. It has never been used. If you could, would you please give this mask to a nurse or doctor in your city. I have kept four masks for my immediate family. Please keep on doing what you do so well, which is to lead."

Ruhnke's story came to the attention of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D), who attended a presentation Tuesday in which Ruhke was awarded an honorary degree from Kansas State University.

According to a post on Kelly's Facebook page, "In 1971, [Ruhnke] was two credits away from earning his degree in agriculture when his father passed away. He chose to leave school to take care of his mother and the family farm. Dennis' kindness and lifelong career in agriculture make him more than qualified to receive a degree."

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