Flying Jayhawks | The Changing Tides of History: Cruising the Baltic Sea

Posted on Aug 24, 2016 in Alumni News and News

The nine-day “Changing Tides of History: Cruising the Baltic Sea” journey took 23 eager Flying Jayhawks, including Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and her husband Shade, to fascinating cities and historic sites in six countries.  The cruise also featured interesting talks from historical and political figures of the region including Lech Walsea, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Polish President; and Sergei Khrushchev, distinguished author and scholar and son of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Brad Eland, vice president of alumni and student programs, shared the memories of his trip.

Day 1
The group arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark for an afternoon to meet our fellow travelers, stretch our legs from the long flight(s), and try to adjust to our new time zone.  The weather was cool and cloudy, a big change from the Kansas heat and humidity that is normal in June! Several Jayhawks set off on foot to explore the city and see Copenhagen’s modern rail station in the heart of the city and Tivoli Gardens, which opened in 1843 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world.

After a stroll through Copenhagen, it was time to board our floating home for the next 10 days, Le Boreal.

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Day 2
The city of Visby is on the small island of Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea and has been controlled by several countries over time. It is currently part of Sweden, but feels nothing like the bustling mainland that we visited later in the trip. Visby is a charming little town featuring a 13th-century rock wall with original gates, towers, churches and warehouses from medieval times. The museum even featured a grave with remains that are more than 9,000 years old. It truly felt like stepping back in time.

That evening we enjoyed the Captain’s Welcome Reception on board the ship and were able to meet a good majority of our fellow passengers traveling with several schools from across the country. We even played nice with alumni from fellow basketball powerhouse Duke University.


Day 3
After a night of sailing on the Baltic Sea, we arrived in the port city of Gdansk, Poland. The architecture was stunning and highlighted by the city’s restored mansions that served as the homes for the aristocracy in the 14th century. Our group was also treated to a demonstration about how amber is harvested and made into precious jewelry, and we were tested on how to spot the difference between fake and real samples. It proved to be a hard distinction but a valuable lesson for the shoppers in our group.

Former Polish President Lech Walesa was one of the founders of the solidarity movement, along with Polish workers who established the first independent trade union in Eastern Europe which was a key factor in winning the Polish struggle against Communism. His speech to our travelers left us all inspired by his leadership, vision, and passion for making his country and the entire Eastern European region better.


Day 4
Our fourth day of the trip was spent entirely at sea. The sunny skies and smooth sailing made for an ideal time to enjoy the sun deck on the ship with a good book or get to know fellow passengers better over a meal or coffee. It also provided our feet a respite from all of the walking we had done.

Day 5
The city of Tallin, Estonia, was one that most of us on the trip had not heard of before, but it ended up being one that most of us will never forget. It blew us all away with its charming architecture and unique history. Tallin’s medieval town hall is the only intact Gothic-style hall in Northern Europe. The fantastic weather that day with sunshine and clear skies certainly left an impression on us as we enjoyed some fantastic views from high points over the entire city.


Day 6
Halfway through the trip, we awoke in St. Petersburg, Russia, which was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great. While Russians view Moscow as a very “natural” city with winding roads built in the heart of the country and into the natural landscape, St. Petersburg is their “engineered” city that was built completely from scratch on swampland to provide Russia with a key port to the Baltic Sea. The city is laid out in a perfect grid and was designed to be much more western and serve as a gateway to Europe.

Our day began at the incredible State Hermitage Museum, which was originally a czarist palace of Catherine the Great. This museum is so large and its collection so vast, it would take months or even years to see everything they have that highlights Russian history, art and culture. From there we saw the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood and St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which featured the famous dome and spire architecture that Russia is known for.

That evening, we were treated to a Russian folklore show at a local art center that included dancing, singing and comedy (with a smidge of vodka mixed in).

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Day 7
Our second day in St. Petersburg was highlighted by a visit to another of Catherine the Great’s palaces featuring the Amber Room with walls composed entirely of decorative amber. It is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. The city has nearly 50 palaces and the opulence of the czars was truly unbelievable. You started to take the amount of gold for granted, by the end!

Our evening featured a fascinating lecture from Sergei Khrushchev, who talked about his family’s major role in Russian history as well as his views on current events in the region from his perspective while living and working in America. He had a front row seat to history and a very unique viewpoint as someone who clearly loves Russia, but has spent much of his later life in America. We all walked away with a new outlook on how Russian people view the world and current events.

The Russian people, particularly those who work in the tourism industry, blew us away with their kindness and humor. They were legitimately excited to welcome us to their country and showcase their history and culture, which made the trip that much more fun.


Day 8
Our ship’s approach into Helsinki was certainly a sight to behold as we all were easily able to discern why the city has won so many recent awards for design in an urban environment. The city had an incredible modern feel to it all while we were visiting some of the city’s historic sites. A major highlight for our group was a visit to the Church of the Rock, which was impressively built directly into natural bedrock.

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Day 9
The final day of our trip landed us in Stockholm, Sweden.  We had a light rain to deal with on our last day in Europe, but no one seemed to mind as we had a city tour by bus on the schedule. Stockholm proved to again have its own unique flair for architecture and design. This part of the world certainly has made its mark on that front melding the modern with all of the history they have as well. That, along with the “white nights” we experienced during summer in the Baltic Region, will certainly be unforgettable. Thankfully our ship was well prepared with blackout shades—we were far enough north that we only had 3-4 hours of darkness per night.

As the 23 Flying Jayhawks departed for home or for more European adventures without the group, everyone was thankful for what we had experienced and eager for the next trip with fellow Jayhawks.

—Brad Eland, vice president of alumni and student programs, hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Changing Tides of History: Cruising the Baltic Sea” from June 15-24, 2016. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit

See pictures from the trip in the slideshow below, or view the photos on Flickr
Flying Jayhawks 2016: Baltic Sea

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‘Jayhawks on Business’ makes debut in Dallas

Posted on Dec 4, 2014 in Alumni News and News

Jayhawks in the Dallas Network assembled Oct. 23 at the Omni Hotel for the first installment of Jayhawks on Business (JOBS), a new series that highlights the strong partnership between the Alumni Association and the School of Business.

Neeli Bendapudi, dean of the KU School of BusinessJOBS events will feature Dean Neeli Bendapudi and local Jayhawks who can share career stories, professional advice and their perspectives on the current business landscape. In Dallas, Dean Neeli hosted a discussion with Forrest Hoglund, e’56, arguably one of the most loyal Jayhawk volunteers in recent memory. Following his graduation from the  School of Engineering, Hoglund began a distinguished career in the energy industry, including many years in top management with Exxon, Texas Oil and Gas and EOG Resources. He now serves as the chairman of SeaOne Maritime Corporation, and he is a leading philanthropist through several nonprofit organizations, including his own Hoglund Foundation. For KU, Hoglund and his wife, Sally Roney Hoglund, c’56, led the successful KU First fundraising campaign for KU Endowment from 2001 to 2005. They each have received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion for their extraordinary service to KU.

During the JOBS discussion, Hoglund shared tales of his journey from the KU baseball team to the military and eventually to Texas, where he had a front-row seat for some of the wildest times in the history of America’s energy industry. He also welcomed questions from the crowd.

Forrest and Sally Hoglund |“Seeing his passion for his current projects was inspiring and served as a great reminder of the phenomenal Jayhawk Nation we are a part of, ” said Nick Kallail, d’04, l’07, Dallas network board member.

The event also was a prime opportunity to showcase renderings of the future home of the KU School of Business—currently under construction—as well as provide attendees an opportunity to network with fellow Jayhawks.

“It was great to hear directly from a fellow KU alumnus on what it took for him to get from the classrooms in Lawrence to operating wildly successful businesses and philanthropic foundations,” said Aaron Brinkman, j’98, a member of the Alumni Association’s national Board of Directors. “I was also left feeling proud and confident in the future of the School of Business, knowing that someone with the passion, energy and experience of Dean Neeli is at the helm of the school.”

Be on the lookout for future editions of Jayhawks on Business in other U.S. cities!

—Brad Eland, director of academic programs


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Symphony on the Danube provides musical experience for alumni

Posted on Oct 9, 2014 in Alumni News and News

Brad Eland, b’09, g’11, is director of academic programs for the KU Alumni Association. In September, he hosted a Flying Jayhawks excursion in Europe and provided this summary of the trip. We hope you enjoy it.

In early September, 17 Flying Jayhawks set out for a trip to remember through central and Eastern Europe. The group came together from their homes in Topeka, Kansas City, San Antonio, Dallas, Colorado Springs, Miami, and Burke, Virginia, and rendezvoused in Krakow, Poland, to begin the trip. While only two couples knew each other before the trip, each traveler left with a new group of friends who were wonderful travel companions on a trip that featured endless history, great music and bonding over shared KU experiences.

Symphony on the Danube, Flying Jayhawks |

The first stop on the trip featured three days in Krakow, Poland which is the only major Polish city to have emerged from World War II relatively undamaged. Highlights of our time in Krakow included two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Old Town with its famous market square and St. Mary’s Church and the Wieliczka Salt Mine with its underground salt cathedral carved entirely from rock salt. The group was also able to tour the Polish Royal Castle that was home to their monarch for over 500 years. We also took a short drive to Auschwitz and witnessed firsthand the horrifying conditions of the infamous Nazi concentration camp. Our stay in Krakow was highlighted by a private concert for our group in the beautiful Florianka Hall of the famous Polish composer Frederic Chopin. A major draw for the travelers on this trip was the musical experiences, and this first performance set the bar very high.

From Krakow, we took a scenic drive through the Polish and Czech countryside on our way to Prague, Czech Republic. Prague was a unanimous hit among our Flying Jayhawks because of the combination of fascinating history, good food, abundant shopping and perfect weather. Three days in Prague were still not enough to take in all the historical and cultural offerings the city has to offer. Prague is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to some of Europe’s most famous Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

One of Prague’s most famous landmarks is the Charles Bridge, which is open only to foot traffic. This famous bridge is lined with sandstone statues of 17th and 18th century saints that have famously turned black over the years because of the composition of the materials and the aging process. However, one famous spot has maintained its original color as a spot for visitors touch to make a wish. Legend also holds that making a wish in this spot will cause the city to have a permanent pull on the wisher and bring them back to Prague in the future. All of the Flying Jayhawks agreed that they hope this is one legend that turns out to be true. From there, we were also lucky enough to receive a private tour of the Estates Theater and a performance of some of Mozart’s music in the building where his opera, Don Giovanni, premiered in 1787.

Prague, Symphony on the Danube, Flying Jayhawks |

Prague also featured a visit to the Hradcany complex of castles, churches and museums which is the former residence of Bohemian royalty. Here we were lucky enough to view original Beethoven manuscripts in the family-owned Lobkowicz Palace in the Prague Castle complex and hear a private string performance of some of Beethoven’s most famous and recognizable works. The massive St. Vitus Cathedral, which took over 600 years to construct, showcased some of the most extravagant architecture of the entire trip. The cathedral even features a golden mosaic that glistened in the afternoon sun. Needless to say, Prague was certainly a highlight of the trip for all of our Flying Jayhawks.

The next phase of our journey included another drive south through more picturesque Czech countryside to the border town of Passau, Germany. In Passau, we were able to see and actually hear the largest cathedral organ in the world with its 18,000 pipes in the Cathedral of St. Stephan. After our short concert in the cathedral, we boarded the M.S. Amadeus Diamond, which was to be our new home on the Danube River for the rest of the trip. Once on board, we were treated to the Captain’s Welcome Reception, dinner and a performance of Haydn’s and Schumann’s compositions.

M.S. Amadeus Diamond, Flying Jayhawks |

Our sailing time on the river was extremely comfortable. Unlike an ocean cruise, there were no waves, just smooth sailing down the picturesque Danube River. While the “blue” part of the “Blue Danube” may be a stretch at times, we were treated to views of beautiful rolling hills, vineyards and charming towns along the riverbanks. Every room had large windows to take in the view and the sun deck was a very popular spot to take pictures, especially with the Jayhawk flag flying proudly from the front of the ship.

Our cruise down the Danube also featured short stops for excursions in the Austrian towns of Melk and Durnstein. Melk is home to the magnificent Benedictine Abbey featuring stunning frescoes, architecture and gardens. It is also home to over 100,000 medieval manuscripts in their library that are still used by scholars today. Durnstein is home to the blue chapel of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Abbey Church and the hilltop ruins of Castle Kuenringer where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned after the Third Crusade.

Vienna, Symphony on the Danube, Flying Jayhawks |

From there, we sailed into the beautiful Austrian capital city of Vienna. Our day and a half in Vienna featured a lot of history in a short amount of time as a driving tour of the city in the morning to see the most famous landmarks from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The fantastic string of music on the trip was continued in Vienna by a private performance of Mozart’s music in the master composer’s former residence. The string quartet even dressed in traditional garb from Mozart’s time to set the mood even further beyond the beautifully painted performance space. Our last stop in Vienna was to the Schobrunn Palace, which served as the summer residence of the Habsburgs where a six-year-old musical prodigy named Mozart performed for the Empress Maria Theresa and her daughter, the future French queen Marie Antionette.

Vienna will always be remembered by this group of Flying Jayhawks more for its people than its landmarks. We were lucky enough to be joined on board our ship by seven Jayhawks living in Vienna for a reception and dinner. Our group of travelers had been looking forward to this evening the entire trip and it certainly did not disappoint. The local Jayhawks shared their fascinating stories of both how they made it to Lawrence and to Vienna, Austria. Among the seven were multiple Fulbright Scholars, a law professor who spent time as a guest lecturer at KU, and even two women who work at the same Viennese company and were unaware of their shared KU ties. While the locals informed us that the schnitzel we ate on the ship was not as authentic as possible, everyone ended the night with new friends and pen pals to keep in touch with from across the pond.

Budapest, Flying Jayhawks |

Our final stop along the Danube featured a scenic arrival into Budapest, Hungary, known as the “Pearl of the Danube.” Built to rival Vienna as a crown city of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the city is actually the union of the previously separate cities of Buda and Pest on each side of the river. We started our morning on the Pest side that features a flatter landscape and the famous neo-gothic limestone Parliament Building, Heroes’ Square with monuments of great Hungarians dating back to 896 A.D., and the Hungarian State Opera House where we were treated to a short performance. The afternoon featured a trip to the Buda side and its rolling hills. Castle Hill was certainly the highlight of Buda with its breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city.

From Budapest, our Flying Jayhawks were forced to say goodbye to their new friends. This tight-knit group of Jayhawks got along so well, there was talk of reuniting around a future Flying Jayhawks trip and everyone had fun discussing potential destinations. A trip that featured thousands of miles traveled between 11 cities in six countries over 13 days can all be boiled down to 17 proud members of the KU Alumni Association and the new bonds they formed along the way.

Watch the slideshow below to see Brad’s pictures from the Symphony on the Danube trip, or click here to see the photos on Flickr. Participants on this trip are welcome to download the photos for personal use.

Travel the world with fellow Jayhawks! Visit for more information about upcoming trips and to sign up for emails about the Flying Jayhawks program. Or, contact Tegan Thornberry at or 785.864.4765 for more information.

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Jayhawks on the Danube

Posted on Sep 15, 2014 in Alumni News and News

Brad Eland, director of academic programs for the KU Alumni Association, hosted 17 alumni and friends on a recent Flying Jayhawks trip.

The two week-long excursion, “Symphony on the Danube,” included a comprehensive itinerary that guided travelers through six countries in central Europe. The trip was designed to feature the musical heritage of some of Europe’s accomplished composers and allowed opportunities to explore nine UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Participants on the trip cruised the Blue Danube aboard the luxurious M.S. Amadeus Diamond and spent three nights each in Prague and Kraków in deluxe hotels.

The Alumni Association reached out to local Jayhawks and invited them to an evening reception when the ship docked in Vienna. Seven KU alumni joined the group on board the ship for a fun evening of KU camaraderie.

Flying Jayhawks in Vienna

Watch the slideshow below to see more of Brad’s photos from the trip, or click here to view the pictures on Flickr. Participants on this trip are welcome to download the photos for personal use.


Travel the world with fellow Jayhawks! Visit for more information about upcoming trips and to sign up for emails about the Flying Jayhawks program.

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West coast swing

Posted on Aug 8, 2013 in Alumni News and News

Danny Lewis, director of alumni programs, and Brad Eland, director of academic programs, are in the midst of a 11-day west coast swing visiting alumni and hosting events in California, Oregon and Washington.

Last weekend, they boarded a bus headed for the northern California wine country with 30 of their closest Jayhawk friends in San Francisco. It’s probably no surprise that this popular annual event sells out every year.

The day included stops at the Folie a Deux, V. Sattui, Sutter Home and Domaine Chandon wineries, where the KU group enjoyed tastings, tours and lunch before returning to the city.

Click here to see pictures from the event, or watch the slideshow below:

On Sunday, Danny and Brad hosted a reception for Los Angeles-area alumni, fans and friends at the King Harbor Yacht Club in Redondo Beach. Although the day was overcast, a great group of Jayhawks showed up to hear about happenings on the Hill.

It’s not all work and no play for our staff members though– chapter leader April Pitcairn, j’76, took Danny and Brad out on the water one day during their visit. (Click here for a picture.)

Photos from the Los Angeles reception are available here, or watch the slideshow below:

Other events on the west coast have included a reception in Phoenix and KU Night at Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, Calif. Tonight, Jayhawks in the Orange County area will gather for an event at Ocean Avenue Brewery, and the rest of the week’s activities include a wine tasting at Tagaris Winery in southeastern Washington, a reception in Portland and a picnic in Seattle at the home of Christine, d’96 and Tom Malchow.

If you live near any of these areas, please join us! And if you aren’t receiving our email invitations to events in your area, be sure to register on our website and make sure your alumni profile information is current.

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Game day crew

Posted on Mar 29, 2013 in Alumni News and News

Can you tell the KU Alumni Association is overjoyed to be in Arlington for the Sweet 16?!

KU Alumni staff |

Staff members Danny Lewis, Caitlin Wise, Jacey Krehbiel, Kelsey Hill and Brad Eland worked hard to set up for today’s pregame party and pep rally at the Arlington Convention Center, and photographer Dan Storey was there to capture their excitement when the hard part was over.

Yesterday, Caitlin, Jacey and Kelsey talked to fans during the KU basketball team’s open practice to find out why they love being a Jayhawk. Watch our short video below!

What makes being a Jayhawk special for you? Email your stories and pictures to!

Photo and video by Dan Storey

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