At 100, Dick Schiefelbusch evinces the art of aging gracefully

Posted on Jul 30, 2018 in Campus News and News

Dick Schiefelbusch's 100th birthday

Distinguished service

Sheer joy and gratitude beamed from University legend Richard Schiefelbusch and the faces of more than 100 celebrants July 28, when KU’s guiding light of teaching and research in human development marked his 100th birthday. His daughter Jeanie Schiefelbusch and the Alumni Association hosted the afternoon event at the Adams Alumni Center.

Dick Schiefelbusch, g’47, became a pioneer in the study of speech, language and hearing after surviving two years in a World War II German prison camp, where he found his calling: a life and career dedicated to helping others. He established KU’s Speech Language Hearing clinic, which bears his name, and for more than 50 years served as a mentor to some of KU’s most accomplished researchers, many of whom attended the party. Schiefelbusch, who grew up on an Osawatomie farm and attended a one-room schoolhouse, earned numerous honors throughout his career, including the Distinguished Service Citation from the Alumni Association and KU. The University’s renowned Institute for Life Span Studies is also named for him.

Seated in front of an array of flags presented by KU’s ROTC units, Schiefelbusch laughed, smiled and made silly faces for countless photos as well-wishers took turns greeting him. A sign on the dessert table hailed him as “The Wise Man of the Prairie” as his three children and representatives from KU’s Veterans Alumni Network (VAN), the Kansas National Guard, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Haskell Indian Nations University shared tributes. Mike Denning, c’83, director of military graduate studies at KU and president of the VAN, presented Schiefelbusch a framed commemorative challenge coin, and Randy Masten, g’03, assistant director of military graduate studies and secretary of the VAN, read a congratulatory letter from fellow WWII veteran Sen. Bob Dole, ’45, who turned 95 the day before Schiefelbusch turned 100.

Dick Schiefelbusch's 100th birthday

Daughter Carol Schiefelbusch McMillin, ’79, said Dole’s letter was especially touching because the longtime Kansas senator, who suffered grave battle wounds in Italy during WWII, had long championed the research led by Schiefelbusch and other KU scholars. “It just means the world, because his support was so important to Dad’s work and the work of so many others,” she said. In the 1980s, Dole helped secure federal research funding for KU, including a pivotal $9 million grant, and later that decade KU dedicated the Robert J. Dole Human Development Center on Sunnyside Avenue to honor his leadership.

Jeanie, d’80, g’90, said she is grateful “every single day” to her dad, and her brother, Lary, c’65, g’65, described his father’s gratitude to the German citizens who rescued him from the Baltic Sea after his fighter plane was shot down. He echoed his sister’s praise for their dad. “I never knew him to fail me, and I never knew him to falter in his support,” he said. “He gave us something to reach for, but there was never pressure. … He always spoke well of the people he worked with, and he always taught us the importance of collaboration, collaboration, collaboration.” As he repeated one of his father’s favorite words, the crowd joined in the refrain.

When it was his turn to speak, the guest of honor heaped praise on others. “It seems to me that I’ve arrived in the right place in the United States and this world to live my life,” Schiefelbusch declared, “in the company of such helpful people, such rewarding people, such creative people. It is a privilege to be right where I am.”

Sir, the privilege is all ours.

–Jennifer Sanner

Dick Schiefelbusch graced the cover of Issue No. 6, 2009 of Kansas Alumni magazine for a feature story by Julie Mettenburg titled The Particular Genius of Richard Schiefelbusch.

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