Alumnus displays Jayhawk spirit on exotic adventures

Posted on Dec 11, 2014 in Alumni News and News

Jake Vander Velde and Brad Thies atop Huayna Picchu in Peru | (photo courtesy Jake Vander Velde)

When it comes to travel, Jake Vander Velde, d’07, favors adventure. Forget Vegas—he’s been to his fair share of bachelor parties in Sin City. He’d rather head out to parts unknown: Peru or, most recently, Tanzania. And, as a fifth-generation Jayhawk and a descendant of David Robinson, one of KU’s first professors, he always packs KU keepsakes to distribute as a self-appointed ambassador for his alma mater.

This fall, Vander Velde and fellow KU graduate Braun Ricci, c’04, spent two weeks in Tanzania, including a day in a Maasai village, where they distributed pairs of running shoes, a Russell Robinson basketball jersey and a KU flag. “Everyone talks about the magnificent geography of Africa, but the people of Africa just steal your heart,” he says. “They are the nicest, most welcoming people.”

Jake Vander Velde and Braun Ricci with a Maasai village chief | (photo courtesy Jake Vander Velde) A Maasai village chief in Africa wears a KU flag as a cape | (photo courtesy Jake Vander Velde)
He and Ricci spent time in a classroom with young children who are learning English, so they shared the cherished Rock Chalk Chant. Vander Velde’s KU flag became a cape for a chief in the village, where residents favor clothing in hues of crimson and blue.

Vander Velde lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he manages trade marketing for R.J. Reynolds, and Ricci lives in Newport Beach, California, where he is a claims manager for Liberty Mutual Insurance. Exotic travel is difficult, especially as a young professional with limited vacation time, but after his successful 2012 adventure to Machu Picchu in Peru, Vander Velde says he is determined to continue his adventures, and he’ll make sure to pack his suitcase with KU mementos to share.

—Jennifer Jackson Sanner

Photos courtesy of Jake Vander Velde.
Top photo: In 2012, Vander Velde and Brad Thies, b’05, g’06, traveled to Peru. They unfurled the flag atop Huayna Picchu, a peak that overlooks the Machu Picchu Inca site. Thies, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., is owner and principal of Barr Assurance & Advisory.
Bottom photos: Vander Velde, left, gave his KU flag to the Maasai chief’s son, who proudly displayed his new cape.

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