Ken Hush 1977

Ken Hush graduated Emporia High School in 1977, his senior picture can be found in the high school yearbook, archived in the Lyon County History Center.

Ken Hush, his gray suit framing an Emporia-State-gold tie, addressed the world for the first time as the 18th president of ESU on June 22. 

Standing behind the podium at the front of a full room, his good morning was followed by a smile and a quip about his job–“I didn’t see this one comin’!”--which triggered a small wave of laughs. 

These laughs would quickly end six weeks later when he said “I laugh” at community members concerned over the university ending on-campus childcare services. His reaction sparked a question for many in the campus and Emporia community: Who is Ken Hush?

Hush grew up in Emporia and graduated from Emporia High School in 1977 and ESU in 1982 with a double major in business administration and marketing. Hush played tennis in the community and at the university level, earning a place in the ESU Athletics Hall of Honor, according to the ESU athletics official website

Between graduating from the university and serving as its head, Hush was CEO of Koch Minerals and Carbon in the early 2000s. In 2022, Koch Industries stands as America’s second largest private company, according to Forbes. In 2020, Forbes cited Koch Industries as the largest private company in the U.S. 

During his time at Koch, Hush donated $43,385 to their political action committee – KochPAC – between 2004-2013, according to Federal Election Commission records. 

For the 2022 cycle KochPAC’s top contribution was $20,000 to Brad Finstad, a republican representative candidate in Minnesota, according to Open Secrets. Finstad is now a U.S. representative. In a Dec. 9 press release on Finstad’s official website, he is quoted saying he voted for the National Defense Authorization Act. 

“I am proud that the House defeated provisions that would further the Left’s extremism,” Finstad said in the release. “Such as requiring women to register with Selective Service, spending Department of Defense resources on climate change, and expanding availability of abortion services on military bases.”

KochPAC also gave $10,000 this cycle to Kansas’s Amanda Adkins, who ran for - and lost to Sharice Davids- 3rd congressional district as a republican, according to Open Secrets. According to Adkins’ official website, issues she supports include: managing federal spending, “defending against the threat from China” citing COVID-19 and China’s alleged gathering of US healthcare information, building a border wall to protect jobs in the US, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade

Difficult to find online except for a short Wikipedia article, most information about Hush is found in court files from previous marriages.

In 2014, Hush divorced Michelle Morris, his wife of 28 years, with whom he had two daughters. In December 2015, he received an annulment five weeks after his marriage with Patricia Miller, according to Sedgwick County court records. 

Miller did not answer any phone calls or messages asking her to comment on this story. 

In the 2015 annulment court records, Hush listed over 2.7 million dollars in total assets, including his Lake Kahola home, valuing $750,000. The current value of the home is $593,530, according to the Chase County appraiser's office. 

Also included in the forms was a line listing Hush as retired, followed by a statement of monthly income of $25,000 from Koch. 

Hush is a Lake Kahola resident and officer on the Lake Kahola Homeowners association. Lake Kahola is a privately owned lake, closed to the public, on the Chase and Morris county line, about 30 minutes northwest of Emporia.

Hush was elected president of ESU in June, 2022.While short biographies were posted on both the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) and ESU websites outlining his educational and professional past as well as his tennis credentials,neither organization has released an official resume or CV for Hush. 

Renee Burlingham, records custodian for KBOR, declined a request for these documents on behalf of KBOR citing them as “personnel records.”

“Honestly, the bio that I have seen written about him, I believe is, to my knowledge, very accurate,” said Gwen Larson, director of media relations at ESU. “There's a difference between someone working for the same company for decades, then there is somebody that moves jobs every five or 10 years.” 

When asked whether Hush has experience teaching or working in an academic setting, Larson said, “Not to my knowledge.”

While there is no evidence of Hush having past professional, academic experience, Larson described him as skilled and experienced. 

“From what I've seen working with Ken Hush and watching him more, he is a very skilled business person,” Larson said. “(He) has quite a bit of experience at the highest level of operating a business and he has brought those skills to Emporia State University which seems unusual to people who do not believe that Emporia State University is a business.” 

Larson went on to say ESU is the third largest employer in Lyon County and there are sections of the university that do function as a business, allowing his experience to be a benefit. 

“Ken Hush is a natural leader,” Larson said. “He is also very humble, he does not do things to be in the spotlight and have the accolades.”

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