TOPEKA — An anonymous donor has agreed to match each donation the public makes — up to a total of $1 million — to create a plaza to be named in honor of Sen. Bob Dole, a Washburn alum, outside the Washburn School of Law building that will be constructed at the southeast corner of campus, the university announced this week.

“I am humbled to be recognized in this way,” the 96-year-old Dole said in a statement emailed Wednesday to Washburn students, faculty and staff. “Washburn University provided me with a firm foundation for a life of public service, and I am excited for the future of Washburn Law with this new building.”

Washburn began accepting donations for the plaza project on Thursday, which was the university's "Day of Giving" and the 155th anniversary of Washburn's having been founded on Feb. 6, 1865.

"We are very grateful for this challenge gift to enhance the area outside of the new building in honor of Sen. Dole and his service to our country," Washburn University President Jerry Farley said in Wednesday's statement. "We are proud to continue to celebrate his life and his distinguished career with this space dedicated to him.”

The Washburn Board of Regents in December approved plans to construct the new law school at an anticipated cost of $33 million at the southeast corner of S.W. 21st and Washburn Avenue. The plaza being named in honor of Dole will provide an area for entertaining outside that building, according to Wednesday's statement.

“We are thrilled to have a part of the new law school building project celebrate the life and legacy of Senator Dole,” said Carla Pratt, dean of the Washburn School of Law, in that statement.

Donations toward the challenge may be made at wualumni.org/doleplaza, and the anonymous donor will match those dollar-for-dollar up to a combined total of $1 million.

"We look forward to completing this generous challenge as quickly as possible as we know so many alumni, friends and Kansans know and admire Sen. Dole and all he has done for the American people," said Marshall Meek, president of the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation, in Wednesday's statement.

Dole earned bachelor’s and law degrees from Washburn, which later awarded him two honorary doctor of law degrees.

A Republican, Dole served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 and in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1996. He was leader of the Senate's Republicans from 1985 to 1996.

Dole ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 1976 on a ticket headed by incumbent President Gerald Ford, and lost the 1996 presidential election to Democratic incumbent President Bill Clinton.

In January 2018, Dole received the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress' highest civilian honor.