A retired Kansas farmer who mailed New York Gov. Cuomo an N-95 mask is given bachelor's degree

Dennis Ruhnke holds two of his remaining N-95 masks as he stands with his wife, Sharon, at their home near Troy, Kansas. By Christina Walker, CNN

(CNN) -- When Gov. Andrew Cuomo held up a letter and N-95 mask sent to him by a retired Kansas farmer, he called it humanity at its best.

"If you could, would you please give this mask to a nurse or doctor in your state?" read the March letter from Dennis Ruhnke.

Now, Ruhnke has been given a bachelor's degree from his state.

"Dennis' kindness and lifelong career in agriculture make him more than qualified to receive a degree," Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said in a Facebook post.

Kelly and Kansas State University President Richard Myers presented Ruhnke with the degree Tuesday during a ceremony.

Ruhnke was two credits shy of earning his degree in 1971 when his father passed away, according to Kelly's post. He decided to leave school to look after his mother and the family farm.

The N-95 mask was one of five left over from Ruhnke's farming days, he said in the letter. He and his wife, who are both in their 70s, sent the unused mask to Cuomo amid a medical supply shortage. New York has been the hardest hit state during the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 321,000 reported cases and at least 25,124 deaths.

After Ruhnke donated the mask, Kelly called to thank him for being such an exceptional ambassador for the state.

Cuomo praised the selfless act, noting that Ruhnke's wife has diabetes and only one lung.

"How beautiful is that," Cuomo said of their sacrifice. "It's that love, that courage, that generosity of spirit that makes this country so beautiful."

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the type of degree received.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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