Stories of the Decade

Posted on Dec 31, 2019 in Alumni News, Campus News, and News

In the grand scheme of our 155 year-old University, a decade is barely a blip. But that doesn’t mean the past 10 years have gone without notable accomplishments.

We welcomed presidential visits, brought the original rules of basketball home and said farewell to a home on Daisy Hill. We revered Jayhawks who won the Nobel Peace Prize, Rhodes Scholarships, MacArthur fellowships and an Academy Award.

Jayhawks have much to be proud of.

KU Cancer Center achieves NCI designation

“I am here,” said Kathleen Sebelius, g’80, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “to formally award the University of Kansas Cancer Center with the prestigious designation as a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center.” With that proclamation on July 12, 2012, the University succeeded in its longtime quest for NCI designation, transforming cancer research and care for Kansas and the region to a gold standard.

Alumnus wins Nobel Peace Prize

Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, received an honorary degree from KU

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his efforts at ending a civil war that ravaged his country for more than 50 years. Santos, b’73, visited KU in 2012 and returned in 2017 to receive an honorary degree. The Colombian leader was not the only sitting president to visit KU during the last decade: In 2015, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit KU in more than a century. 

Rock Chalk Champions

Fans celebrate on Mass Street after KU beats Duke to advance to the Final Four | 2018

It was a decade of dominance for KU men’s basketball, including 14 straight Big 12 titles and Final Fours in 2012 and 2018. Allen Fieldhouse hosted numerous legendary players and performances, including an overtime classic against Missouri in 2012 and Frank Mason III’s National Player of the Year season in 2017.

The women’s outdoor track and field team won the national championship in 2013, and KU’s volleyball team reached its first final four in 2015. KU Debate also won the 2018 National Debate Tournament—its sixth national championship.

Honors and Awards

KU students, faculty and alumni won numerous prestigious awards during the past decade.

The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and most celebrated fellowship in the world, and each year just 32 students from the United States are selected. Two Jayhawks received the coveted award: Kelsey Murrell, c’12, became KU’s 26th Rhodes Scholar in 2011, and Shegufta Huma, c’17, was named a Rhodes Scholar in 2016.

Two Jayhawks were named MacArthur Fellows in the past ten years. Often called “genius grants,” the fellowship provides a $500,000 no-strings-attached grant that helps exceptional artists, scholars, scientists and teachers to pursue projects.

Marla Spivak, PhD’89, was named a 2010 MacArthur Fellow. She is a McKnight Distinguished Professor in entomology at the University of Minnesota and an international leader on honey bee research.

Sarah Deer, c’96, l’99, was a winner of the MacArthur fellowship in 2014. Deer is a legal scholar, strategist and advocate for policies and legislation designed to help Native American tribal courts more effectively address violence against women. She returned to KU in 2017 as a professor in the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies and the School of Public Affairs & Administration.

In 2012, the University began awarding honorary degrees at Commencement to recognize intellectual, scholarly, professional, or creative achievement, or service to humanity. It is the highest honor bestowed by the University.

Kevin Willmott, a KU professor of film & media studies, was nominated for and won his first Academy Award in 2019. Willmott was a co-writer on Spike Lee’s film “BlacKkKlansman,” which won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The rules come home

The original rules of basketball, penned by James Naismith in 1891, were brought to a public auction in December 2010. Jayhawk David Booth, c’68 g’69, spent a record $4.3 million to bring the rules home.

“[The rules are] incredibly important and they should be at the University of Kansas,” Booth said. “Naismith was there 40 years. He invented basketball and Phog Allen was one of the key figures in making it so popular.”

The DeBruce Center opened in 2016 to host the historic rules, along with other basketball history exhibits and a cafe.

Far Above: The campaign for Kansas raises more than $1.6 billion

Far exceeding its original goal of $1.2 billion, Far Above, The Campaign for Kansas, had raised $1.66 billion when it ended June 2016. The campaign, which began in July 2008 and was managed by KU Endowment, boosted support for students, faculty, facility and programs, creating 735 new scholarships and fellowships, 53 new professorships and 16 new buildings or major renovations. During the campaign, the University also celebrated its sesquicentennial, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first day of classes on September 12, 1866.

Changing campus

The implosion of McCollum Hall in 2015 changed the Lawrence campus skyline, as KU witnessed unprecedented building and expansion over the past decade. KU Housing alone saw several buildings built or renovated, including Self, Oswald, Downs and McCarthy halls, Stouffer Apartments plus Corbin and GSP. The KU School of Pharmacy received a state-of-the-art home on West Campus, and the school’s expansion in Wichita was made possible thanks to state support. The KU School of Business moved from Summerfield into beautiful new Capitol Federal Hall, while the KU Medical Center welcomed the new Health Education Building to its Kansas City campus. A new KU School of Medicine Salina Campus grew, along with major projects in Lawrence, including Rock Chalk Park, Central District, KU School of Engineering expansion, Spencer Museum of Art renovation and more.

Chancellor transition

The 2010s were a decade of unprecedented growth at the University under Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little’s leadership. In 2017, Gray-Little stepped down as chancellor of the University, a position she held since 2009.

Douglas A. Girod, formerly executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center, was named KU’s 18th chancellor in July 2017. At the KU Medical Center, he oversaw the educational, research, patient care and community engagement missions of the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions.

Association news

Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, succeeded Kevin Corbett, c’88, as Alumni Association president in 2015, continuing a decade of sustained growth and impact, including the creation of the KU Mentoring program and the Jayhawk Career Network. During that time, the Student Alumni Association became the Student Alumni Network (SAN), eliminating dues for student members. The group quickly grew to become the largest student organization at KU and the biggest of its kind in the Big 12. Similarly, loyal alumni fueled the growth of the Presidents Club to record numbers, allowing the Association continue its vital work to advocate for the University of Kansas, communicate with Jayhawks in all media, recruit students and volunteers, serve students and alumni, and unite Jayhawks worldwide.

Legends lost

The University lost some of its top Jayhawks including chancellors Robert Hemenway, in 2015, and Del Shankel, in 2018. Several other beloved Jayhawks left us in the last decade, including Max Falkenstien, c’47, the voice of the Jayhawks for more than 60 years; the legendary Coach Don Fambrough, d’48; and Hal Sandy, j’47, creator of our smiling Jayhawk, plus too many more to name. These incredible Jayhawks will forever be remembered fondly by alumni who love KU.

Bonus: Your favorites

To cap off this list, we had to include some of your favorites. Here are some of our readers’ most popular blog posts:

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