COLUMBIA — MU Chancellor Brady Deaton addressed the audience in the Thai language, then in English, after receiving an honorary doctorate degree in public affairs on Thursday from Khon Kaen University in Thailand.
Accompanied on stage by five representatives from Khon Kaen University, Deaton was recognized during a ceremony in Reynolds Alumni Center at MU for his career in public service, which began with a stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand.
“I feel deeply humbled to have the delegation from Khon Kaen University — a university we are very proud of here at the University of Missouri for the partnership that we have developed,” Deaton said during his speech.
Deaton’s relationship with the country dates to 1962, when he served a two-year tour as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nan, Thailand. He taught vocational agriculture in the Thai language.
“It was education that took me to Thailand and a commitment to developing an educational framework in Thailand in 1962,” Deaton said.
Deaton reflected on a visit to Khon Kaen University in 1963. “There was a vision for education,” he said. “They knew that education would lead to the future.”
He called MU's ties to Khon Kaen University "a very profound historical partnership that we cannot back away from or we do so certainly at our own peril.”
A passion for education has been with Deaton since his volunteer work in Thailand. He has gone back from time to time to see the progress there.
“It is that power of education and that devotion to reason and to rising to a level where we can resolve our understanding of each other and our differences, so that we can make progress instead of impairing our ability to move forward,” Deaton said.
Deaton received an honorary degree from another Thai university, Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai, in 2009.
In an interview after his speech, Deaton pointed out the similarities between MU and its partner in Thailand.
“It is very much a frontier university like the University of Missouri was,” he said. “They were put in the frontier of the nation to help develop the country and move it forward just as Missouri was.”