Posted on Jun 15, 2020
in Campus News
On June 15, the University of Kansas shared the following announcement with students, faculty and staff:
Last month, we shared with you a document titled Guidance on Reopening Campus, which detailed our guiding principles for reopening campus in a measured, stepwise fashion. Today we write to share the newest components of our plans for the fall semester on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses.
Our goal is to welcome back as many students as we can while continuing to prioritize the health of our community. To do this, we must continue preparing a dynamic and flexible educational experience that accounts for the realities of life during and after a pandemic. This means rethinking everything from how we design classes, to how we deliver housing and dining services, to how we accommodate extracurricular activities and events.
Undoubtedly, the fall semester will be unlike any in history. It will require flexibility, compassion and resilience. And it will require each of us to behave responsibly and in a way that benefits the entire community. If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that we are all in this together.
The academic calendar will change to minimize potential health hazards. Fall classes will begin as planned on August 24, and classes will conclude before Thanksgiving, at which point students are encouraged to leave campus for the semester. After Thanksgiving, there will be a study week, followed by a week of final exams conducted remotely. There will not be a Labor Day holiday or Fall Break.
Pending approval by the Kansas Board of Regents, the first day of the spring semester will change from January 19 to February 1. Stop Day and Finals Week remain unchanged. Spring Break will not occur midway through the semester as it typically does; rather, it will be added to the Winter Recess, resulting in the later-than-normal February 1 start.
Course scheduling and classroom configuration
Our goal is to maximize the in-person classroom experience to the greatest extent possible. KU is committed to ensuring the majority of students, if they choose, have the majority of their courses with in-person instruction in whole or in part. In-person scheduling will prioritize typical freshman courses, labs or courses that are most effective in-person, courses involved in the KU Core, and courses that are required to complete a degree.
To ensure flexibility and meet the specific needs of students and instructors, we will provide support this summer for faculty to design and develop fall courses so the same section can be offered in multiple formats— i.e. in-person, online and/or a hybrid approach — while ensuring that each format is a highly engaging experience for our students no matter where they may be.
To help limit the density of students in classrooms and allow for frequent cleaning, we will schedule classes from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, though most courses will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday will be utilized as a last resort.
Additionally, we will modify time between MWF classes to 15 minutes to avoid congestion in buildings, walkways, buses and other areas. We are piloting a health monitoring app that allows each Jayhawk to check symptoms and access secured buildings based on health status on a daily basis, and we are marking each building to change traffic patterns to help de-densify campus.
Students, as we finalize the class schedule this summer, those of you who have already enrolled can expect there may be some adjustments to your fall schedules. We will reach out to you in July with more information about how your schedule may change.
Testing and contact tracing
Testing and contact tracing will be key to a thoughtful and science-based return to campus. Through our on-campus Watkins Health Services, we will be partnering with The University of Kansas Health System and LMH Health to coordinate our testing and contact tracing efforts, in conjunction with Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. This partnership will enable KU to access our partners’ medical expertise, technology and data in ways that will benefit both our campus and the broader Lawrence community. We will provide further details later this summer with guidance for how our students, staff and faculty will participate in testing activities.
On-campus housing and dining
On-campus residential facilities and dining centers will be open for the fall, and modifications will be made to promote physical distancing and other health and safety measures in each building. Most facilities will operate near capacity, with additional shared community expectations in place to prioritize the health and wellness of students who live – and staff who work – in these facilities. The move-in process will be spread over a longer period of time to reduce congestion and allow for physical distancing. More information from KU Student Housing will be shared soon with students.
Faculty and staff who are at-risk and unable to return to campus
We know some of you have underlying health conditions – such as asthma, hypertension, diabetes, chronic lung disease, or weakened immunity – that may put you at higher risk if exposed to the virus. We are ready to work with you to make reasonable accommodations. We will use the same process for COVID-19 as we use for other ADA accommodation requests. Details are available at https://humanresources.ku.edu/employee-accommodations. Please fill out your forms as soon as possible so we can ensure your work is covered appropriately. Per federal guidelines, please be prepared to provide documentation from your physician when you apply. Contact our ADA Resource Center for Equity and Accessibility at firstname.lastname@example.org or 785-864-7416, and they will help you make plans. If it is the case that you are not eligible for an accommodation, we will work with you to determine what options may be available to meet your needs.
Safety is each of our responsibility
While no one can ever promise complete safety to another – this was true prior to COVID-19 and will be true after – we are so appreciative of all the people who are giving tireless effort in campus workgroups to explore options that support greater safety for our campus. In sum, it is because you – students, staff and faculty – are KU’s greatest assets that we are taking a comprehensive and coordinated approach to provide for your health and wellness when you are on campus this fall.
While we are providing for your safety, we need to also ask that each of you provide for the safety of your fellow Jayhawks, as well as for your own, when you return this fall. You can expect to be asked to: sign a social responsibility pledge and commit to the actions it describes; wear a mask when you are in a space with others who may be closer than six feet apart; and adhere to social distance guidelines according to public health guidelines. You’ll learn more about our asks of you as we get closer to the fall semester.
More information to come
Of course, all of this is subject to change based on the latest medical guidance and evolving circumstances. Again, we will continue to partner with – and rely on – each of you to help us continue to develop our plans in the weeks ahead.
Thank you for all you do on behalf of KU.
Doug and Barb
Douglas A. Girod
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Posted on May 7, 2020
in Campus News
On May 7, The University of Kansas Office of Public Affairs issued the following statement regarding the NCAA reply to the Notice of Allegations. More at: publicaffairs.ku.edu/noa
“The NCAA enforcement staff’s reply does not in any way change the University of Kansas’ position that the allegations brought against our men’s basketball program are simply baseless and littered with false representations. As the federal trial proved, adidas employees intentionally concealed impermissible payments from the University and its coaching staff. The University has never denied these impermissible payments were made. For the NCAA enforcement staff to allege that the University should be held responsible for these payments is a distortion of the facts and a gross misapplication of NCAA Bylaws and case precedent. In addition, the enforcement staff’s assertion that KU refuses to accept responsibility is wrong. The University absolutely would accept responsibility if it believed that violations had occurred, as we have demonstrated with other self-reported infractions. Chancellor Girod, Jeff Long and KU stand firmly behind Coach Self, his staff and our men’s basketball program, as well as our robust compliance program.”
Read more on the University’s response at publicaffairs.ku.edu/noa.
Posted on Apr 7, 2020
in Campus News
Chancellor Girod shared the following message on Tuesday, April 7.
I am writing to let you know we have filled a key position on our senior leadership team.
I am pleased to announce Dave Cook, vice chancellor of the Edwards campus and dean of the School of Professional Studies, will become our new vice chancellor for public affairs and economic development. He will begin his new role May 1.
As vice chancellor for public affairs and economic development, Dave will serve as senior advisor to me and the university’s leadership team on issues of communications, public affairs and economic development. He will oversee all messaging, outreach and government relations to advance KU’s interests at the local, state and national levels. He will have responsibility for internal and external communications and message integration across all KU campuses, affiliates and partners. And he will coordinate our economic development efforts with an initial focus on chamber and industry relations and workforce development issues.
You will note the phrase “economic development” is new to this vice chancellor title. This change reflects my belief that economic development, broadly defined, must continue to be elevated as a priority for KU.
Dave’s background in higher education policy, public affairs and workforce development make him an ideal fit for this position. Moreover, his experience across multiple KU campuses and his relationships with key partners enable him to immediately advance our efforts to elevate KU’s status, attract top students and scholars, and improve in every aspect of our mission.
As vice chancellor of the Edwards campus since 2014, Dave has been chief executive officer of the campus, launched a new instruction site in Leavenworth, and overseen Professional & Continuing Education. Additionally, he has developed extensive relationships with industry leaders, workforce development groups, elected officials and community colleges. Under his leadership, the campus increased enrollment by 36 percent and launched 16 new academic degree programs and 21 new academic certificates leveraging traditional, hybrid and online models.
Prior to his role at Edwards, Dave served for 14 years in multiple administrative and faculty positions at KU Medical Center. From 2008-13, he was associate vice chancellor of the Institute for Community Engagement and associate director of the Institute for Community & Public Health. From 2008-11, he was executive director of the Midwest Cancer Alliance. Before that, he was assistant vice chancellor for public affairs from 2005-08 and director of Health and Technology Outreach from 2002-05.
In addition to his time at KU Medical Center, from 2011-12 he completed an American Council on Education fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dave first earned tenure as a faculty member in the KU School of Medicine. He is now a full professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Like many universities, KU faces challenges in enrollment and funding — and that was before the unprecedented challenges we now face as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Now more than ever, KU needs to be innovative in how we recruit students, develop new teaching models, partner with industry, serve an increasingly diverse population, and align our campuses for maximum impact. Dave has expertise in all of these areas, and as such, he is a great fit for this position.
Of course, Dave moving into this new role means we will also have a change in leadership at our Edwards campus. Provost Bichelmeyer will provide additional detail about our plans for the Edwards campus within the next few days.
I want to thank Julie Murray for serving as interim vice chancellor for public affairs for the past four months while continuing her role as my chief of staff. She has guided us through a legislative session, helped frame our Strategic Planning 2020 process, and been central to our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am grateful for her leadership during this transition period.
Please join me in welcoming Dave to his new role. I know he can count on your support as we work together to move KU forward.
Douglas A. Girod
University of Kansas
Read more updates from Chancellor Girod at chancellor.ku.edu/news.
Posted on Apr 2, 2020
in Campus News
On Thursday, April 2, the University of Kansas released the following statement.
- Commencement will be postponed until late summer or early fall.
- A strategic hiring freeze and salary-increase freeze will help the university prepare for recovery.
- Business travel in Kansas and Missouri is discontinued.
- Summer semester courses will be presented in an online format.
- A KU team is working on plans to offer redress for certain services such as housing, parking and dining.
- Issues surrounding finals are still being reviewed.
- Please take all health and wellness recommendations seriously. It matters to all of us.
Students, staff and faculty,
We hope you’ll join us later today for an online University Update, during which we will discuss the issues, circumstances and opportunities facing the University of Kansas Lawrence and Edwards campuses. We have a lot to share and hope you will make time to join us. The program will be recorded if you aren’t able to watch the livestream.
In the meantime, we want to first respond to some questions and issues you’ve shared with us and introduce some new considerations for our institution.
Based on projections for the COVID-19 pandemic as well as student input, we have decided to postpone our 2020 Commencement. The timing of our ceremony – which had been scheduled for May 17 – is uncertain enough that it would be imprudent to bring together thousands of friends and family members in close proximity. There will be no in-person, Commencement-related activities in May.
Students who meet graduation requirements will still have their degrees certified. The only thing that will be delayed is the ceremony – our unique celebration of student achievement.
Last Friday we surveyed our graduating students and asked them what they preferred we do for them if it was determined we couldn’t hold Commencement on May 17. The response was phenomenal, and students overwhelmingly expressed support for an alternate date later in the year. Thus, we will work to honor their wishes and begin preparations for a ceremony in late summer or early fall. There are many details we still need to address, so we will continue to communicate with you on this topic. While we remain hopeful a summer or fall event will be possible, we must also recognize the reality that the pandemic may again impact this event.
Even though we’ve taken great measures to ensure the university continues to operate and students continue to learn under these extraordinary circumstances, the pandemic has already had a significant financial impact on our institution. The uncertainty of these times requires us to take precautions that will help us weather what we can expect will be a continuing hardship.
Until further notice, the University of Kansas is implementing a strategically focused hiring freeze that will serve as an initial step to address financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. A hiring freeze will help us begin to re-establish our financial footing as we map out a structured recovery plan.
These decisions are never easy and often raise new questions. We’ve worked with several campus leaders to develop guidelines that help us remain true to our mission while also being fiscally responsible:
- Our practice, until further notice, is a freeze on all new hiring, with exceptions considered for positions directly related to:
- Critical campus and community safety
- Continuity of critical research mission
- Continuity of critical education mission
- Continuity of critical business functions
- Contribution to critical healthcare / clinical mission
- All above exceptions will be subject to approval by central institutional leadership.
- Senior area leader (such as a dean, vice chancellor, vice provost) approval will be required before consideration by institutional leadership
- A documented process will be defined for exception requests; identifying for example, information to be submitted by requestors, identification of central leaders to consider exception requests, etc.
- Positions fully funded on external grants or contracts do not need central approval.
- Written employment offers already made to, and accepted by, job candidates will be honored.
- Written employment offers already made to a candidate, but not yet formally accepted by the candidate, must be reviewed by the hiring area. The review process will consider pushing out the proposed start date, rescinding the offer, or moving forward as offered assuming the candidate moves quickly to accept the written offer.
We also are adopting a salary increase freeze until further notice. As with the hiring freeze, we have developed guidelines, which will help ensure we approach mission-critical salary adjustments as transparently and fairly as possible.
- The default practice until further notice is a freeze on all salary increases, with exceptions considered for:
- Adjustments to minimum salary of applicable pay range, with approval of Human Resource Management
- Adjustments to meet KU-defined, living wage goals, with HRM approval
- Other critical adjustments for retention, equity, and other factors
- These exceptions will be subject to approval by central institutional leadership
- Senior area leader (such as a dean, vice chancellor, or vice provost) approval will be required before consideration by institutional leadership
- A documented process will be defined for exception requests, identifying for example, information to be submitted by requestors, identification of central leaders to consider exception requests, etc.
- Faculty promotion and tenure adjustments are exempt from these salary freeze guidelines.
Recent updates from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have led us to review our university sponsored travel guidelines. Business-related travel within Kansas and Missouri is discontinued for the time being. This is in addition to previously announced discontinuation of university sponsored domestic and international business-related travel at meetings, conferences, etc. Now is also an appropriate time to encourage you to exercise extreme caution around your personal travel as well, as many areas of the country are seeing a rapid rise in identified cases.
Faculty and students should plan for all courses to be presented in an online format. We will continue to monitor conditions to determine the potential to return to in-person instruction during the summer.
The summer months are also a busy time for units across campus that host youth programs, activities and camps, as well as outreach and engagement events. Deans and other unit leaders will have discretion regarding whether to continue these efforts, and they’ve been asked to explore opportunities to engage virtually and to prioritize the health and welfare of participants in their decisions.
Many have asked about the potential for refunds on unused services, such as for housing, parking or dining plans. We have a team of staff finalizing plans to offer redress for certain services. We hope to offer more detailed information to students and parents as early as Friday.
Before we go further, we want to commend KU Student Housing staff for the hard task they’ve undertaken. During the past two weeks, KU Student Housing has facilitated move-out of thousands of students while following CDC recommendations for social distancing. Staff continue to support more than 500 students, many of whom relocated within KU Student Housing.
We know many of you have thoughts about finals. This is on our radar and will be addressed in the near future. Just as with our recently announced grading options for students on the Lawrence and Edwards Campus, these seemingly simple parts of our operations can have far-reaching impact and deserve thoughtful attention before making a university-wide decision.
Please join us online for the University Update at 4:30 this afternoon. We’ll share updates about COVID-19’s impact on KU. We’ll offer updates and reminders on key areas of campus and let you know more about what we think we can expect in the weeks and months ahead.
Be Part of the Solution
Jayhawks, we can’t stress enough how important it is that you each take seriously social distancing and stay-at-home measures, as well as hygiene and cleaning recommendations. We want you back with us in person, not just on a screen. Our road to renew campus, to hold Commencement, to revitalize our operations – it all depends on you, your classmates, your colleagues, and your friends and family members being active participants in efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Please be a part of the solution and encourage others to be part of our recovery efforts, too.
Doug and Barb
Douglas A. Girod
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the Jayhawk community, many people are wondering what they can do to help. In response, KU Endowment is establishing a COVID-19 Emergency Relief fund.
“From the student senate to alumni to faculty and staff, we’ve heard from many who want to help,” said Dale Seuferling, KU Endowment president. “The fact that people are thinking about how they can help others in their time of need assures me that we will get through this. I’m encouraged and inspired.”
Anyone can give to the fund by visiting https://www.kuendowment.org/Your-Gift/COVID-19-Relief-Fund. As with all donations to KU Endowment, 100% of funds raised will go to support KU. KU Endowment will work closely with Chancellor Douglas A. Girod and others to determine areas of greatest need that the fund will support.
KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.
Posted on Mar 26, 2020
in Alumni News
Leaders from the University of Kansas, the KU Alumni Association and KU Endowment shared the following message on Thursday, March 26.
Dear KU Alumni,
Our thoughts are with the worldwide Jayhawk family as we all navigate these uncertain weeks. Thankfully, our sadness, loss and fear are tempered by compassion, dedication and hope. In the midst of crisis, alumni and donors have reached out asking how they can help. We’ve seen students volunteer to help our most vulnerable citizens, and Jayhawks everywhere are connecting with and supporting one another and their larger communities as we all rapidly adjust our daily lives. We are grateful for your genuine concern and spirit. In response, we’ve identified three meaningful ways to help in the short term:
Nationally, regionally, and locally there is a shortage of N95 respirators, isolation gowns, isolation masks, surgical masks, and eye protection. If you or someone you know lives near KU and has access to personal protective equipment (PPE) or manufacturing expertise in plastics, textiles and/or 3D printing, please contact: COVID19supplies@kumc.edu. Your contribution and assistance during this critical time will help keep our healthcare workers safe and decrease the spread of COVID-19.
Also, a COVID-19 Emergency Relief fund has been established by KU Endowment to help meet the University’s most pressing needs during this crisis. As with all donations to KU Endowment, 100% of funds raised will go to support KU.
Finally, we’ve been humbled and heartened by stories of hope and resilience from throughout our KU family. We want to hear what you and others are doing to make a difference in the lives of those affected. Please send your stories to email@example.com.
In closing, we hope you’ll enjoy this video message that was shared with the University community today at coronavirus.ku.edu, and please remember: As we come together to lift our communities, we show the world what it means to be a Jayhawk.
Chancellor, University of Kansas
President, KU Endowment
President, KU Alumni Association
Posted on Mar 16, 2020
in Alumni News
Amid the challenges and uncertainty related to the coronavirus (COVID-19), and in keeping with the evolving recommendations issued by the University and public health agencies, the KU Alumni Association is operating with a minimal staff. We also are limiting physical access to the Association’s headquarters in the Adams Alumni Center in Lawrence.
If you have an urgent need, please call 785-864-4760 to leave a message, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Someone will respond as soon as possible.
The decision to limit operations follows the changes we announced to alumni Friday, March 13. Visit kualumni.org/coronavirus for information and resources regarding Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
We apologize for any inconvenience, and we look forward to serving and uniting the Jayhawk community after the virus is no longer a public health crisis. We hope you and your loved ones remain healthy and safe.
Posted on Mar 13, 2020
in Campus News
On Friday, March 13, Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, KU Alumni Association President shared the following message with the KU Alumni community.
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread worldwide, our thoughts go out to all who have been affected by the pandemic. Unfortunately, these uncertain times require us to forgo opportunities to gather as a Jayhawk family in order to protect the health and safety of all. In coordination with the University of Kansas, and following the guidance of public health officials, the KU Alumni Association will cancel in-person events, including:
- all official alumni network activities nationwide
- Student Alumni Network events
- Adams Alumni Center activities
In addition, Alumni Association staff members have canceled all business-related travel outside Kansas and Missouri.
These cancellations will remain in effect until May 12 per University guidelines as we explore additional ways to connect Jayhawks online. Our senior staff team will meet weekly to monitor developments and adapt event schedules as needed, and we will continue to share those decisions, posting updates on our website at kualumni.org/coronavirus. We truly appreciate our loyal volunteers’ efforts to unite Jayhawks in their communities, and we look forward to the time when we can resume our regular activities.
The University announced March 11 that the resumption of all in-person classes would be delayed until March 23. Beginning the week of March 23, all courses will be taught remotely using online tools, and beginning March 28, the University each week will re-evaluate the need to continue remote-only instruction. KU’s web page, coronavirus.ku.edu, will continue to be a helpful resource in the weeks ahead.
The University of Kansas community extends worldwide, and many Jayhawks no doubt are coping with personal and professional challenges. We extend our warmest wishes to you and your loved ones.
Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09
Posted on Mar 13, 2020
in Campus News
On Thursday, March 12, Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, KU Alumni Association President and Megan McGinnis, Assistant Director of Student Programs, shared the following message with Student Alumni Network members.
Our thoughts go out to all who have been affected by the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). In coordination with the University’s decision to conduct classes online, we will cancel all Student Alumni Network events for the next 60 days to further protect our Jayhawk community. These include the Mocktails & Mingle for Architecture on March 18, Wine & Wax on March 19, and Big Jay’s Recess on April 2.
In addition to continuing your classes online, you can stay connected to Jayhawk alumni through KU Mentoring.
Please do all you can to remain healthy and safe. Watkins Health Services offers helpful guidance for reducing your risks and taking steps if you experience symptoms.
Your well-being remains our top priority during this challenging time.
Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09
KU Alumni Association President
Assistant Director of Student Programs
Posted on Mar 12, 2020
in Campus News
On Wednesday, March 11, Chancellor Douglas A. Girod and Provost Barbara A. Bichelmeyer shared the following message to students, faculty and staff.
KU leaders have been closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19. We know that some members of the Jayhawk community have been in areas with reported cases, and we don’t expect to be immune from this virus. We have a strong team that is assessing conditions regionally and across the nation and is making recommendations guided by the following principles:
- Keep KU open so it can provide services to the fullest extent possible given unprecedented circumstances.
- Maintain continuity of operations that support the academic and research missions of the university.
- Prevent the spread of the disease at KU and beyond.
- Protect members of the KU community through self-quarantine and social distancing, especially the three groups at greatest risk:
- those who may have been exposed,
- those who have chronic health challenges,
- those who are currently sick.
- Encourage all members of the KU community to be informed and practice healthy behaviors by following CDC recommendations.
- Protect equity for our most vulnerable employees and students, as much as possible, as we respond to the situation.
- Respond with agility to the fluid and changing nature of the situation.
- Provide clear communications to all members of the KU community.
- Provide exceptions for mission-critical activities on a case-by-case basis.
Delayed Resumption of In-person Classes Until March 23
To help protect the health of all members of our community, including those who may be at higher risk of the effects of COVID-19, the resumption of in-person classes will be delayed until March 23.
Next week, March 16-22, we ask that faculty prepare to transition their course content, including lectures, to online instructional platforms, such as Blackboard. Every KU course already has an existing Blackboard shell available for faculty to start the process. Beginning the week of March 23, courses will be taught remotely using online tools. We anticipate needing to stay online for several weeks, however, our team will reassess the need to continue remote-only instruction each week, starting March 28. There will be no schedule change to courses already online.
This approach limits in-person exposure after spring break to align with the estimated COVID-19 incubation period, and allows faculty members a modest amount of time to prepare and begin the transition to online instruction. It also keeps the university functioning and helps students continue toward their educational goals.
For more of the University’s statement and resources from professional health services, visit coronavirus.ku.edu.
Update regarding Big 12 and NCAA Championships
From Kansas Athletics:
In addition to the actions taken today by the Big 12 Conference and NCAA, Kansas Athletics will cancel all planned fan activities surrounding the men’s and women’s Big 12 and NCAA Basketball Championships, including pregame parties and pep rallies.
If you purchased Big 12 Tournament tickets through the Kansas Athletics Ticket Office, you will receive a refund for games impacted by the Big 12 Conference’s decision.
Read more of the statement from Kansas Athletics, as well as the statements from the Big 12 Commissioner and the NCAA president.
Posted on Feb 11, 2020
in Campus News
Pyramid Pizza, a popular local pizza joint that endured various iterations, closed its doors last fall. Alumni and Lawrence residents mourned its passing and reminisced about Pyramid in a popular local Facebook group. Sean Williams, j’78, photographed many of Pyramid’s quirky advertising campaigns and shared some of his memories with us.
I had a photography business shooting party pics for organized living groups on the KU campus. I also did ad shoots for Litwin’s, Pyramid and general mercenary work, including various KU political groups or individuals.
The photos for Pyramid merged my immersion in the fraternity, sorority and dorm life party pics business with pizza sales targeting that demographic. I frequently had extra photos from parties, and they would end up under glass at the Pyramid Pizza desk in the lower level of the Wagon Wheel Cafe.
“We get it …”
I was studying advertising (and any photo course offering available), and Mark McKee, ’87, former owner of Pyramid, was practicing business and marketing. We collaborated on the “We get it …” ad campaign and had a blast imagining how to advertise Pyramid’s unique sales points as a way to “get it.” It seemed a relatively bold theme and we got a few clucking tongues from the administration, but we smiled and suggested that they get their minds out of the gutter because we were obviously talking about multiple methods of getting yummy pizza.
“Tan Man” was featured in the first ad, as I recall, due to his enormous acceptance and fame with students, townsfolk, faculty, and all ages and persuasions. Tan Man “gets it whenever the sun shines …” Of course.
I can’t remember all the other themes, but the “late-night operators” was my favorite. We staged the photographic shoot in a local veterinarian’s office (tight quarters) and used studio lights and detailed direction for the illustration (tilting the pizza and using a scalpel) to trumpet the availability after bar-closing hours.
Mark’s chutzpah was most impressively displayed when he walked on stage at Allen Field House to deliver a pizza to Bob Hope, who was performing the KU Homecoming show in front of a packed house. Officials, audience members, and Hope himself thought that it was a planned part of the show, but it was just Mark, promoting that you could get it for a big event. Hope didn’t skip a beat, added a few jokes, and smoothed along. Mark and I both regretted that I didn’t have my camera in the audience and wasn’t assigned to shoot pics for KU that night.
I think KU officials reprimanded him for the photo of the KU cheer squad, taken before or after an organized practice (posing in a full squad pyramid with Pyramid Pizza boxes, they “get it in front of thousands …”). KU officials didn’t want the ads interpreted as an implied endorsement from the University, so I think he tamped that approach. In the meantime, the pizza’s popularity had taken off, Mark hired “Pizza Pete,” the locally famous manager of Pizza Hut, and advertising shifted to coupons and other themes.
Mark was an energetic, aggressive, positively ebullient and engaging personality driven to provide a great product in a popular fast food market in Lawrence. The Campus Hideaway, Green Pepper Pizza and other mom-and-pop shops arrived and disappeared while Pyramid expanded to Westport and multiple locations in Lawrence and elsewhere. Mark’s enthusiasm and drive for excellence prompted the success of the company, but as he launched into other ventures, quick-food competition exploded to put pressure on the Lawrence originals. Mark’s ardent promotion of Pyramid Pizza was truly the strong catalyst to Pyramid’s popularity as the primary meal choice for students who wanted to get it their way—one way or another.