The 2018 recipient of the Fred Ellsworth Medallion for extraordinary service to the University of Kansas is Bernadette Gray-Little, the University’s 17th chancellor, who retired in 2017 after eight years of leadership. The KU Alumni Association will honor her Sept. 14 during the fall meeting of the Association’s national board of directors. Since 1975, the medallions have recognized KU volunteers who have continued the tradition of service established by Ellsworth, a 1922 KU graduate who was the Association’s chief executive for 39 years, retiring in 1963.
During her tenure as chancellor, Gray-Little led the record-breaking $1.6 billion Far Above fundraising campaign and led the successful proposal and implementation of new admissions standards and the launch of a new undergraduate curriculum, KU Core, both aimed to increase student retention and graduation rates. From 2012 through 2016, KU’s freshman class experienced growth for five straight years.
Gray-Little oversaw the physical transformation of the University in 50 capital improvement projects totaling $700 million in Lawrence as well as on the Edwards Campus in Overland Park and KU Medical Center campuses in Kansas City, Wichita and Salina. Most notable is the Central District in Lawrence. Other highlights include the expansion of the schools of Engineering and Medicine, including the construction of the new Health Education Building at KU Medical Center; a new home for the School of Business; new residence halls; and the restoration of Jayhawk Boulevard.
KU also made historic strides in research, achieving National Institutes of Health designations for the Alzheimer’s Disease Center, the KU Cancer Center and Frontiers, the KU Clinical and Translational Science Institute. KU is one of only 26 U.S. universities to house three NIH-designated research centers. The research enterprise also expanded with the recruitment of 12 Foundation Distinguished Professors, a key component of the Bold Aspirations strategic plan to enhance research initiatives on campus.
“We are pleased to recognize Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little with the Fred Ellsworth Medallion,” said Heath Peterson, president of the KU Alumni Association. “One of the most visible and important parts of her legacy at KU was making a commitment early in her tenure to establishing a strategic enrollment management plan. The plan was anchored by a data-driven, highly customized approach to recruitment and supported by a new and very robust four-year renewable scholarship model. The results from this transformation over the previous eight years speak for themselves. Of course, there are many other significant milestones, but enrollment growth stands out for me because it is incredibly important to the health of the entire institution.”
Since 1975, 157 KU alumni and friends have received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion.