The following message was sent March 24 to alumni and friends registered for the 2020 Rock Chalk Ball.
Thank you for generously purchasing tickets and/or hosting a table for the KU Alumni Association’s 25th annual Rock Chalk Ball scheduled for Saturday, May 2, at the LEX event space in downtown Kansas City.
Unfortunately, the Association must cancel the event. As I shared in my March 13 message to all alumni, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic prevents us from gathering as a Jayhawk family. The Association has canceled all in-person events through May 12, in coordination with the University of Kansas and following the guidance of public health officials.
In addition to gathering Jayhawks to celebrate KU, proceeds from the Rock Chalk Ball allow us to make investments to strengthen the University of Kansas, connect a global network of Jayhawks, and sustain a strong, vibrant alumni association.
As we explore options for uniting Jayhawks online through a virtual event, we ask you that you choose one of the following options for your ticket and/or table purchase and send your request to Michelle Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Request a full refund of your purchase
2. Donate your purchase as a 100% tax-deductible gift to sustain the Association’s efforts to strengthen the University, including the Jayhawk Career Network, Student Alumni Network, Advocacy, Outreach in Kansas, and student recruitment
3. Forward your purchase as your reservation for the 2021 Rock Chalk Ball
If you have not submitted payment at this time, you do not need to reach out to Michelle. We appreciate your interest and hope you will join us next year.
As the Association’s senior staff team continues to work with the national Board of Directors and the Kansas City Network Board to determine next steps, we will post new information at rockchalkball.org and on our social media channels. Additional information on the KU community’s responses to the pandemic can be found at kualumni.org/coronavirus and coronavirus.ku.edu.
We deeply appreciate your KU loyalty, and we extend our warmest wishes to you and your loved ones at this difficult time.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
As a new decade approaches, it’s time to take a look back at the year with our top 19 stories of 2019. It’s a mix of our favorites, your most-read and the KU stories that shaped the year. Thanks for a great year, Jayhawks!
When Matt Lindberg reached out to us about a special 10-year anniversary surprise for his wife, Sarah, we couldn’t pass up the chance to give the Life Members a tour of campus to see their alma mater, old and new.
Half the battle of getting a job is putting in the hard work to be prepared and gain relevant experience. The other half is conveying that work and experience to prospective employers.
How do you effectively talk about yourself and your value? Bill Mar, a manager for site reliability engineering at LinkedIn, is involved with NOVA, a nonprofit employment agency that offers customized services to job seekers in Silicon Valley. Through his work, Mar has learned some tips and tricks to landing a job.
A June Flying Jayhawks trip brought KU alumni to Celtic Lands, visiting the ports of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and England. But the real treat came in the form of a front-row seat to history, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We would visit Normandy in the days leading up to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and our guide would be none other than David Eisenhower Jr., grandson of President Dwight David Eisenhower, who commanded the D-Day invasion.
An Olympic gold medalist and humanitarian, a former director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the CEO of a global scientific instrumentation company received honorary degrees from KU at the 2019 Commencement.
When Sarah James started blogging in 2005, she was searching for no more than a creative outlet to offset the somewhat draining days as a pharmaceutical sales representative, a role she held through most of her 30s. “I wasn’t looking to completely sidetrack my career,” says James, “but sure enough, that’s what happened.”
Using the Jayhawk Career Network’s mentoring platform, Jordan Kriete had the chance to go behind the scenes at the St. Louis Blues team headquarters to learn about a career in sports marketing firsthand.
KU basketball athletes become legends when they wear the crimson and blue in Allen Fieldhouse. But what they do with that fame is up to them. Since 2009, the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic has invited KU alumni back to Lawrence for a charity basketball game to raise money for local children fighting cancer.
Marcus Herford, Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year in 2007 and a member of KU’s victorious Orange Bowl team that season, is, more than a decade later, living his best life, coaching football and winning championships. That much is, more or less, going to script.
The University of Kansas has a long history of traditions at Commencement, but one tradition with a Jayhawk connection is celebrated at graduations everywhere. The regalia that graduates wear for their official conferral of degrees looks much the same no matter what college or university you visit.
On Monday, Sept. 23, the University of Kansas received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA enforcement staff regarding alleged violations of NCAA bylaws within the Kansas men’s basketball and football programs.
On the 70th anniversary of Rock Chalk Revue, learn the story of one of the nation’s largest student-run philanthropy events. The event has raised more than $1 million for community nonprofit organizations throughout its history.
The KU Alumni Association receives hundreds of letters from Jayhawks across the globe, but it was an ominous note from Brooke Collison, a Corvallis, Oregon, alumnus, titled “Insidious KSU Plot” that recently caught the attention of several staffers. Curious what Collison had uncovered about our pesky neighbors to the west, we read on.
Since 1952, Joe’s Bakery served the people of Lawrence with delicious sub sandwiches and fresh donuts, served up 24 hours a day except Sundays. The 24 hours were necessary, as a hot, fresh glazed donut from Joe’s was a staple of the KU student nightlife.
Hailey Solomon, a senior from Oswego, nominated her civil engineering professor, Matt O’Reilly, for the H.O.P.E. Award. When he was selected as a finalist, Solomon attended the Oct. 5 KU-OU football game to support her mentor. Uninterested in the game itself, Solomon brought her crocheting and presumed her presence had gone unnoticed. Four million Twitter and Facebook views later, she had become a social media sensation.
The plaza in front of Wescoe Hall has been lovingly referred to as Wescoe Beach for decades. This year, a group of KU students are making a splash with a proposal to turn the classic building into a real beach party with a rooftop pool.
And there you have it — our most popular stories of 2019! Thank you for a great year, and Rock Chalk!
Thanks to the more than 800 alumni, friends and University partners who participated in the 2019 Hawks & Highways events! The ongoing series supports Chancellor Douglas Girod’s priority to strengthen KU’s statewide outreach.
The KU Alumni Association and Kansas Athletics coordinated this year’s events, which featured the chancellor, athletics director Jeff Long, head football coach Les Miles and leaders from KU Endowment, KU Admissions, KU School of Medicine-Wichita, the Spencer Museum of Art, the KU Medical Center Alumni Association, the schools of Journalism and Social Welfare and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
We’re grateful to Alumni Association members and donors and Williams Education Fund donors whose support is critical to this program. Together we will continue to bring the best of KU to communities throughout Kansas.
Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09
See pictures from the Hawks & Highways events in the slideshow below, or click here to view or download them from Flickr.
For the second consecutive year, alumni donated their time and treasure for the Alumni Association’s KU Cares Month of Service campaign, which encourages Jayhawks nationwide to give back to their communities during the month of November. Nearly 350 volunteers—more than double last year’s participation—from 24 alumni networks generously gave more than 100 hours of service to:
Organize blood drives
Collect food, clothing and personal hygiene supplies
Prepare and serve meals for families in need
Restore and enhance neighborhood parks
Make sleeping bags for homeless individuals
Clean beaches in seaside communities
Gather pet supplies for local animal shelters
Raise money for national and local nonprofit organizations
Overall, the University community received 30 awards for programs, events and communications from the Office of Marketing Communications, KU Endowment, the KU Cancer Center, The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the William Allen White School of Journalism. The awards will be presented Jan. 15 at the annual CASE District VI conference in Denver.
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.”
New national board members are (l to r): Jay Kerutis, Portia Kibble Smith, Janet Murfin and Ryan Colaianni.
New officers and four new directors were among the University of Kansas alumni who gathered Sept. 9-10 at the Adams Alumni Center for the fall meeting of the KU Alumni Association’s national board of directors.
The national chair for 2016-’17 is Scott Seyfarth, Hinsdale, Illinois, and the chair-elect is Kevin Carroll, Johns Creek, Georgia. Both took office July 1. The new directors are Jay Kerutis, Mesa, Arizona; Janet Lusk Murfin, Wichita; Ryan Colaianni, Arlington, Virginia; and Portia Kibble Smith, Overland Park. Their five-year terms on the board began July 1.
Seyfarth earned his KU degree in accounting and business administration in 1983. A longtime volunteer leader for the Association’s Chicago Network, he joined the national board in 2010. He owns Hipskind Seyfarth Risk Solutions LLC in Chicago. He is an Association life member, and he and his wife, Eileen, are donors to the Presidents Club.
Carroll became part of the Jayhawk community in 1983, when he was hired as the first director of the Adams Alumni Center and manager of The Learned Club for the Association. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, he is now chief operating officer and general manager of the Atlanta Athletic Club.
He joined the Association’s national board in 2012. He and his wife, Lisa, have hosted KU student recruitment events in Atlanta and Florida. They are life members and donors to the Presidents Club.
Colaianni completed KU bachelor’s degrees in political science and journalism in 2007. Following graduation, he returned to his hometown of Arlington, Virginia, and began his career in Washington, D.C., where he is now vice president of Edelman public relations. He leads the Washington Network as president and has hosted numerous events to support the Association and student recruitment. He received the 2011 Dick Wintermote Award for his leadership. His wife, Erinn, earned her KU bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2007 and her master’s in 2008. The Colaiannis are Alumni Association life members and Presidents Club donors.
Kerutis earned his KU bachelor’s degree in personnel administration in 1982. He devoted his career to computer software, rising through the ranks at Digital River Inc. to become president of the software and digital commerce services division. Now retired, he is president of the Las Sendas Golf Club. He competed for KU as a swimmer and, as captain, led the team to two conference championships and organized a 25-year reunion of his teammates. He is a life member and Presidents Club donor. He is married to Pat Caldwell.
Murfin, a 1975 KU graduate in elementary education, helped create the annual Jayhawk Roundup in Wichita and with her husband, David, a 1975 KU graduate, has hosted the event every year at Murfin Stables. She is a member of the Wichita Network board and has volunteered for numerous programs. The Murfins are life members and Presidents Club donors. David Murfin is a member of the Kansas Board of Regents.
Kibble Smith earned her KU degree in personnel administration in 1978, and she owns PKS Executive Search & Consulting. She serves on the Kansas City Network board, and she has participated in numerous events, including the Rock Chalk Ball and ’Hawks, Helmets and Handlebars. She personally recruits students through her involvement in the local KU network as well as the Black Alumni Network, and she is an annual member of the Association.
The Alumni Association accepts nominations for the national board from January 1 through March 1 each year. The board’s nominating committee selects a slate of nominees in April, the board considers each member of the slate for election at its spring meeting. The board meets in the fall, winter and spring.
It’s Cheese Ball Day here at the Adams Alumni Center. Not that we need an excuse for snacks, but today we have a good one: celebrating what would have been our dear Miss Betty’s 50th work anniversary.
Records specialist Betty Howe Otto started working as a graphotype operator for the KU Alumni Association on Feb. 3, 1965, back when we were headquartered in Strong Hall and people still knew what a graphotype machine was. (I once asked Betty to explain the mysterious contraption, which she patiently did, and I still didn’t have the slightest clue, so please don’t ask me to explain it here.)
And then every year afterward, Betty on Feb. 3 celebrated her Alumni Association anniversary by bringing in one of her famous, ginormous, nut-encrusted cheese balls and a big box of crackers.
Don’t like cheese balls, you say? Then you never had one of Miss Betty’s.
“This date was very special to her. She absolutely loved working at KUAA,” records specialist Julie Lowrance wrote this morning in an email to her colleagues here on Oread Avenue. “While I’m sure this store-bought cheese ball won’t be nearly as delicious as hers, I wanted to do something to honor her.”
True, the energetically orange ball-o’-cheese nested in a bed of crackers is not as good as Betty’s. But it is delicious, if only for the memories.
Over the course of her 47 years at the KU Alumni Association, Miss Betty installed herself as the keeper of traditions within our wacky warren: hand-crafted Christmas decorations for everybody in the building, for instance, and our ritual of bringing in treats to celebrate work anniversaries and birthdays. Munchers minis, cinnamon twists, even the occasional veggie-and-dip platter are standard fare, and now the back counter also includes a well-stocked tray of healthy-ish snacks, available for inexpensive purchase, as well as a huge, seemingly bottomless tin of spiced popcorn from a local barbecue restaurant.
The cheese ball, though, that’s the golden ticket, and we’ve gone too long without one.
Miss Betty retired in June 2012; we lost her for good on July 23, 2014.
We’ve hired quite a few new staff members since Betty left, and whenever we welcome them to the crew I feel a fleeting dash of melancholy. As good as their experience will hopefully be here, they’ll never know Miss Betty. Well, that’s how the wheel turns, and our new colleagues will surely create and cherish their own Alumni Association rituals, traditions and memories.
Just do us old-timers one favor: Go ahead and forget all about us, we know you will, but don’t forget the Feb. 3 cheese ball, eh? It’s not for us. It’s for Miss Betty, and honoring her is worth the effort.
Because nobody ever, ever loved the KU Alumni Association and all that it represents—alumni members, Jayhawk traditions, the great good fortune of finding oneself associated in any manner with this university on a Hill—more than Betty Howe Otto.
The “Millie” recognizes Jayhawks who have served KU as ambassadors in their local communities for 10 years or more and honors the memory of Clodfelter, b’41, for her 47 years of service to the University, including 42 years working at the Association.
Clifford is a Path to Life Premium member who has been active in the Las Vegas, Nevada alumni network since retiring in the area in 2005; she currently serves as the network leader. She was the watch site coordinator and helped the local KU Jayhawks grow from a handful of participants to about 200 faithful.
Before her retirement, she spent her career in information technology, including 16 years with Marion Laboratories and affiliated companies in the Kansas City area. She retired from Aventis Pharmaceuticals in 2000 but returned to work as director of information technology for North Kansas City Hospital before retiring “for good” in 2004.