The following message was sent by email to alumni from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
Earlier this year at Commencement, I told the Class of 2017 that I had some insight into their state of mind because, like them, I too was preparing to leave Mount Oread and was experiencing a range of emotions.
This week, as I approach my final day as chancellor, I still feel that combination of excitement, pride, happiness and sadness. But more than anything, I feel thankful. I feel fortunate. And I feel honored to be part of the University of Kansas and to have had the chance to work with KU friends and alumni like you along the way.
We have achieved great things during the past eight years — from revamping the student experience, to earning National Cancer Institute designation for our cancer center, to leading a historic fundraising effort that will support KU for years to come. We have elevated the University’s national stature and transformed the way KU serves the state and world. The University is stronger than ever, thanks to your support.
I am especially excited about the future of the University under the leadership of our incoming chancellor, Dr. Douglas A. Girod. As many of you know, Dr. Girod brings tremendous experience and leadership abilities to this role, and it makes me happy to know KU is in good hands. Moving forward, under Dr. Girod’s guidance I urge you to remain committed to our mission as a public research university. Never lose sight of our sacred obligation to provide a quality education to our students, to serve our state, and to improve our world through research and scholarship.
Most of all, in this final message to you, I want to say, “Thank you.” Thank you for supporting the University of Kansas, and thank you for supporting me. I will always be grateful to you for welcoming Shade and me to the University in 2009 and for making this a remarkable experience for us. Leading this institution is a privilege I will always cherish.
Forever a Jayhawk,
University of Kansas
The 145th Commencement of the University of Kansas took place Sunday, May 14, 2017, in Memorial Stadium.
Nearly 5,000 graduates made the traditional “walk down the Hill,” followed by a program and the conferral of degrees by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
This year, an honorary degree was presented during Commencement to William McNulty, a U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran who created Team Rubicon, a non-profit agency that recruits military veterans to provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid around the world. Read McNulty’s address to the graduating seniors.
Chancellor Gray-Little closed the ceremony with a farewell address to the graduating seniors. In that address, she urged the Class of 2017 to “run toward the chaos. Run toward the situations where you can make a difference. Use the knowledge and the sense of civic responsibility you’ve developed at KU to improve those situations, help people and make this world a better place.”
New graduates receive a one-year membership in the KU Alumni Association, compliments of KU Endowment and the Association, that runs through May 31, 2018. Graduates should update their mailing and email addresses with the University to ensure they receive information.
One of the most treasured traditions at the University of Kansas takes place every spring, when thousands of graduating students walk through the Campanile and down the Hill for Commencement.
Brian Palermo, a KU Admissions representative based in St. Louis, never got to experience that moment. Shortly after graduating in December 2012, he accepted a job at a mental health facility for children in Oklahoma City. Knowing it would be difficult to take time off in May for the ceremony, he let the opportunity slip by.
Earlier this year, Palermo, c’13, shared with his supervisor, Elisa Zahn Krapcha, c’05, j’05, g’11, that he never participated in Commencement. She mentioned that the Admissions team should stage a small ceremony for him.
“I kind of knew we might do a little something, but I didn’t expect too much,” Palermo says.
Krapcha and Heidi Simon, g’00, senior associate director of Admissions, had a surprise in store. On May 8, they summoned nearly 20 team members to the Campanile, where Palermo was given a traditional cap and gown, as well as party beads and a crimson and blue lei.
“As I’m getting ready to walk through the Campanile, Heidi hands me a bottle of sparkling cider,” he recalls. “I got so focused on trying to open it, because people were shouting ‘Pop it, pop it!’ I was looking down at it and still walking when I heard someone say ‘Whoa, whoa! Hold on a moment.’”
When Palermo looked up, he saw Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little standing in front of him. “I was just floored,” he says. “I couldn’t believe she was there.”
The chancellor congratulated Palermo and delivered remarks, reminding him of KU’s noble mission: to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world.
“I challenged the graduates at the 2012 Commencement to continue to do all of these things after they walked down the Hill,” Gray-Little told him. “You’ve done these things even without being there to hear my call.”
As Palermo wraps up his first year as a KU Admissions representative, he’s more determined than ever to continue serving the University, thanks to the kindness and support of his team and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
“It was just a really special moment that I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” he says.
The following message from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was sent to KU students, faculty, staff members and alumni at the close of the spring 2017 semester.
Two years ago at Traditions Night, I shared with the freshmen how Shade and I enjoy evening strolls across Mount Oread. I even revealed my favorite location atop Daisy Hill, from where you can look east and see clear across campus to Fraser Hall.
Today, that view looks very different than it did a few years ago. During the past eight years, we have transformed the University of Kansas with 50 capital improvement projects totaling $700 million and launched a once-in-a-generation redevelopment of our Central District that will change the face of education and research at KU.
But as I have said before, the transformation goes deeper than buildings and encompasses every aspect of our mission. As the semester comes to a close and we reflect on the 2016-17 academic year, we can all be proud of our role in this transformation.
The transformation is apparent in the way we educate students, starting with how we bring them to KU in the first place. This year, our freshman class grew for the fifth straight year and was the most academically talented class in KU history — the result of strategic changes in how we identify, recruit, fund and enroll best-fit students. These record-setting freshmen joined KU students like Shegufta Huma, who this year became our 27th Rhodes Scholar, and Taylor Zabel, our 19th Truman Scholar.
The transformation of KU is also apparent in the way we build healthy communities. In September, our KU Cancer Center applied for Comprehensive Cancer Center designation through the National Cancer Institute. In October, our Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s national designation was renewed, empowering us to continue our efforts to prevent this devastating disease. And in June, we will complete construction on the new Health Education Building, which will enable us to accommodate a modern curriculum and increase the number of healthcare professionals we educate.
The transformation is apparent in the way we make discoveries. Last semester, Professors Alice Bean and David Darwin were named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Professor Raghunath Chaudhari was named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. In April, KU alumnus and Google Earth co-creator Brian McClendon joined KU as a research professor in electrical engineering and computer science. And last week, Cecilia Menjivar, our Foundation Distinguished Professor of Sociology, became the second KU researcher in three years to be named a Carnegie Fellow.
This past year, we sought opportunities to make campus more welcoming and inclusive. In September, our Office of the Provost responded to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group report. Work continues on our Climate Study, a university-wide examination of the living, learning and working environment at KU.
This year was not without challenges. Earlier this semester, we reacted to executive orders on immigration that have caused uncertainty about the future of immigration and international scholarship. We also face uncertainty about federal research funding and the state budget as it relates to higher education. I remain hopeful we can manage these challenges if we remain vigilant and committed to our core values.
Next weekend at Commencement, thousands of Jayhawks will walk down the Hill and receive their degrees. While the day is primarily a celebration of the new graduates, it is also a celebration of alumni and supporters like you who have paved the way for them. For that, I thank you.
“Now is an ideal time for the University of Kansas to identify a new leader to guide the next chapter in the university’s history,” said Gray-Little, who came to Lawrence in 2009 as a highly regarded administrator and researcher.
Visit the University’s tribute page to Chancellor Gray-Little to learn more about her legacy and see a timeline of achievements during her tenure. Check out favorite photos of the Chancellor at university events and watch videos including her encounter with Little James Naismith and her unforgettable drive in a KU race car.
A Twitter feed on the page displays tributes made by students, alumni, faculty and staff members.
Exclusively for members
The next issue of Kansas Alumni magazine, which will land in members’ mailboxes later this month, will feature a cover story on the outgoing chancellor.
Not a member? Join by Tuesday, May 9, to ensure that you receive this commemorative issue of the magazine.
Jayhawks are invited to donate to two funds Chancellor Gray-Little was instrumental in creating.
The Chancellor’s Doctoral Fellowships help recruit and support doctoral students. Twelve fellowships are awarded each year to provide a $25,000 stipend and cover tuition and fees.
The Rosalie Lanier Gray KU Staff Assistance Fund provides emergency assistance for KU staff members who are struggling due to a natural or personal disaster that has caused financial hardship. Chancellor Gray-Little established the fund in honor of her mother, Rosalie Lanier Gray.
Share your memories of the chancellor online using the hashtag #ThankYouBGL.
Sarah Smarsh, 2003 J-School graduate and a reporter on socioeconomic class, politics, and policy for The New Yorker, The Guardian, Harper’s online, and other publications, discussed media coverage of class in the United States in this Harvard University Shorenstein Center program. Read full article.
Since 1970, the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity has honored a select group of women to be inducted into the University of Kansas Women’s Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees include Sarah Deer, Terry Hoyt Evans, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, Saralyn Reece Hardy, Colleen McCain Nelson and Jan Bowen Sheldon. Read full article.
Starting in fall 2017, Sarah Deer will join the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies and the School of Public Affairs & Administration in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences as a professor. Deer earned a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and philosophy from KU in 1995 and a juris doctor from the KU School of Law in 1999. Read full article.
Lisa Donnelly, a Lawrence native and singer-songwriter, died Friday, April 7, in San Francisco. She earned degrees in psychology and theatre in 2002 from KU and was featured in issue no. 5, 2009, of Kansas Alumni magazine. Read full article.
In 2014, Austin Barone launched Just Play Sports Solutions while he was still a student at the University of Kansas School of Business studying finance and accounting. The idea for a new company came to Barone, b’16, while he was a kicker for the Kansas Jayhawks football team. Read full article.
Global law firm Dentons has strengthened its Litigation and Dispute Resolution and Arbitration practices with the recruitment of Heiko Heppner, l’08, who will join as a partner in Frankfurt. He joins Dentons from Clifford Chance. Read full article.
Brian McClendon, who recently left his post as a vice president at Uber, has joined the University of Kansas as a research professor in electrical engineering and computer science. McClendon, e’86, is a former vice president at Google and co-founded Google Earth. Read full article.
The University of Kansas School of Business will honor Gary Padgett and Mike Thompson with its 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award.Padgett and Thompson received the award for their dedication to business excellence, community service and commitment to KU on Thursday, April 20, during a private reception at the Kansas Union. Read full article.
Towering, crystal-filled twisters periodically swirl in a valley nestled between two volcanoes in the Andes Mountains, newly reported observations show. Geologist Kathleen Benison, PhD’98, of West Virginia University in Morgantown spotted the whirlwinds during an expedition in 2007 to an otherworldly region of northern Chile. Read full article.
Mindie Paget, c’98, g’01, and Joanne Eden, c’96, have been named Employees of the Month by the University of Kansas. Paget is the director of communications and marketing for the KU School of Law. Eden, c’96, is a grant officer with the Office of Research. Read full article.
Cody Wamsley has joined McDonald Hopkins LLC, a business advisory and advocacy law firm, as an associate in the firm’s national Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice Group. Wamsley holds an LL.M. in intellectual property law from The George Washington University Law School, a J.D. from University of Kansas School of Law, and a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Kansas. Read full article.
Harry Herington, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of NIC Inc., was honored by Government Technology magazine as one of its “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers” of 2017. Mr. Herington, l’93, is the only individual honoree recognized this year from the private sector. Read full article.
Jordy Altman, a social media producer for CBS’s “The Talk” and 2008 University graduate, has worked for the multi-time Emmy nominated show since September 2016. Altman, c’06, coined the hashtag #EverybodyTalks to get followers involved online. Read full article.
Boise State Sen. Grant Burgoyne is one of 12 candidates seeking to fill a coming vacancy on the state Court of Appeals, Idaho’s second highest court. Burgoyne, 62, has a 26-year litigation practice and now concentrates on alternative dispute resolution and mediation. He is a graduate of the University of Idaho and the University of Kansas School of Law and has lived in Idaho since 1975. Read full article.
Justin Bauman, a 2004 and 2006 graduate of the Sport Management program, answered five questions for department chair Jordan Bass. Justin currently serves as the Director of Operations for the the Wake Forest Men’s Basketball team and head coach Danny Manning. Read full article.
Golden Globe nominated actor Kurt Russell, AKA Mr. Nobody, dons a Niall GMT “Noir” watch in the eighth sequel in the Fast and Furious series. Niall was founded five years ago in Kansas City, Missouri, by Michael Wilson, a graduate of the KU School of Business. Read full article.
Hannes Zacharias, county manager of Johnson County, has been named the 2017 Outstanding Public Administrator by the Kansas chapter of the American Society for Public Administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Wichita State University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas. He is a native of Dodge City, Kansas. Read full article.
More than 100 faculty, staff, students and guests attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony March 9 at the newly named Lt. Gen. William K. Jones Military-Affiliated Student Center at the University of Kansas.
The nearly 3,000-square-foot center, located in Summerfield Hall, honors Jones, c’37, a highly decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran whose 33-year military career included tours in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
“We’re honored to name the center after a distinguished KU alumnus and Marine Corps veteran who served for more than three decades,” said Director April Blackmon Strange. “This center provides us with an inviting space to better serve our growing number of military-affiliated students—from the first time they express interest in KU to Commencement and beyond.”
More than 1,100 military-affiliated students on campus have access to the center, which includes a lounge with computers and televisions; quiet spaces for tutoring and studying; meeting and conference rooms; free printing and copying services; and assistance from an onsite Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs representative.
For the past two years, the University has been named a top-10 school for veterans by the Military Times and has also been recognized by other organizations that rate schools on their military student services.
Several of Jones’ family members attended the ceremony, including his son, William K. Jones Jr., who also served in the Marine Corps; his daughter; his nephew, Jim Jones Jr., a retired Marine Corps general and the former U.S. National Security Adviser for President Barack Obama; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“We’re all really excited about this honor to my father,” said Bill Jones Jr., c’81. “He loved KU, and he loved being a Kansas Jayhawk.”
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little praised Jayhawks for their persistence in making the center a reality for military-affiliated students and noted its critical role in the University’s mission to build strong, healthy communities.
“This center represents another commitment to our veterans and military-affiliated students,” she said. “I am proud that our University recognizes and addresses the unique needs of this population of students.”
JR Cadwallader, a Marine Corps veteran and president of KU’s Student Veterans of America, noted that the organization’s new home on campus was “well worth the wait.”
“The Lt. Gen. William K Jones Military-Affiliated Center is here to leverage the unique strengths and talents we bring to the University of Kansas,” he said. “We now have a center to help us create better students, a better campus, better communities and a better nation for the next generation of successful veterans.”
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little sent the following email message to University of Kansas staff and faculty on Feb. 27, 2017.
Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education DeVos, along with 10 other APLU presidents and chancellors in Washington DC. It was our first chance to visit with her, and we appreciated the chance to establish a working relationship and broadly define the key issues facing higher education.
With new leadership comes new ideas, and that has certainly been the case in Washington since January. Some of the ideas proposed by the new administration have caused concern at universities nationwide – including the University of Kansas – and I believe many of those concerns are valid. I want to assure you we continue to work with peer universities and our congressional delegation to be part of the policymaking process on issues affecting higher education.
Given the tremendous volume of news coverage of the new administration, it is neither feasible nor prudent for university leaders to publicly address every idea, proposal, tweet or rumor coming out of Washington. But it is always appropriate for university leaders to reiterate their institutions’ core principles and remind elected officials that there are some policy preferences and values that are fundamental to our mission. Today I want to briefly mention four particular areas that will require universities to be vigilant and steadfast.
The free flow of students and scholars
Last month, KU and our peer universities reacted to an executive order on immigration that directly impacted international students and scholars. While the order has been suspended by the courts, it has caused tremendous uncertainty about the future of immigration and could deter international scholars from studying or teaching in the United States. Universities are marketplaces of ideas that rely on the unfettered exchange of ideas among individuals from different backgrounds. Any policy that unnecessarily restricts the free flow of students and scholars will negatively impact our university community.
The importance of research funding in general
In October, I wrote a piece for The Conversation on how science education and research funding are crucial to our nation’s prosperity and national security, and to the health and well-being of our society. Today there remains great uncertainty regarding the future of science education and research funding. Without adequate and predictable federal funding for research, our nation risks stagnation in key areas, threatening our well-being and eroding our role as global leaders in innovation and our potential contributions to the economy.
Targeted threats to specific areas of research
In addition to research funding in general, we must be watchful for politically motivated attacks on specific areas of research such as gun violence and climate change. While it is understood that democratically elected officials will make policy decisions, it is not acceptable to block universities from making research-based discoveries that are relevant to the policymaking process. Universities and society suffer when efforts are made to discount legitimate scientific exploration and discovery.
Diversity and inclusion
Earlier this semester, in my message reflecting on the Martin Luther King Day holiday, I lamented that this year, more than any year I can remember during the past three decades, King’s call for equal justice and true democracy are needed. This is why our efforts to ensure the University of Kansas embraces diversity and inclusion are so important – and why we need to be comprehensive, systematic and unceasing in our efforts. As Jayhawks, we are united in saying that racism and discrimination will not be tolerated here.
I think it’s fair to say we are operating in an unusual political environment. And in times like these, it’s worth remembering the University of Kansas’ remarkable history over the past 150 years. We have seen challenges before, and we have overcome them, thanks to the efforts of educators and researchers like you, and also because of an unwavering commitment to our core principles. That will never change.
The following message was emailed to all faculty, staff and students at the University of Kansas on Sunday, January 29. The message is also available on the KU website.
Last Friday’s executive order suspending immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has raised concerns for many members of the University of Kansas community. I share these concerns, and I want to assure you we are coordinating with our international programs staff, immigration experts and peer universities to fully understand the implications of the new federal policies. We have also directly contacted our international students at KU to offer guidance and resources.
Based on what we know today, we advise all nationals from the affected countries to avoid international travel until there is some clarification of the situation. This includes passport holders, citizens, nationals, and dual nationals from the impacted countries.
As a flagship research university, KU is committed to the open exchange of students, scholars and ideas from across the world. Moreover, we are deeply concerned about the well-being of KU students, faculty and staff who may be affected by the new federal restrictions on immigration. For these reasons, we will work with our colleagues throughout higher education to raise these concerns to policymakers. I encourage you to read recent statements from the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities on this topic.
This is a fluid situation, and we expect new developments over the coming days. We will keep you updated as we learn more, with a particular focus on our international scholars and their families who are most directly impacted by these new federal policies. In the meantime, we invite you to utilize the university’s support services, including International Programs, if you have questions about immigration or travel-related issues.
This state and nation were settled by immigrants, and immigrants continue to make immeasurable contributions to our society. Moreover, I want to reiterate that accessibility, diversity of thought, and the free and open exchange of ideas remain core values of the University of Kansas. That will never change, and we will continue our work to advance these values. And we will continue to let scholars around the world know this: No matter your country of origin, the color of your skin, your religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation or political leaning – you belong at the University of Kansas, and we value the contributions you make to our community.
We’re recounting the most memorable moments and biggest KU stories of the past year. With help from our crack team of KU experts, a.k.a. your hard-working KU Alumni Association staff, we’ve assembled and ranked the top ten of 2016. Read on as we present the best of KU…
10. Basketball Rules
The new home of Naismith’s original rules of basketball hosted a housewarming party when the DeBruce Center held its official grand opening celebration on Saturday, July 23. Hundreds of loyal fans and alumni made the pilgrimage to Lawrence to pay tribute to the game’s inventor and tour the new building connected to Allen Fieldhouse.
9. Winning week
A big basketball win over Duke, a double-overtime Border War win for soccer, KU’s first Big 12 volleyball title and an upset football victory over Texas. It was more than just a great week to be a Jayhawk. From Sunday to Sunday, it was a week for the athletics ages.
8. Open for Business
In May, we took a sneak peek inside the School of Business’ new building, Capitol Federal Hall, where expansive, flexible design encourages collaborative learning and innovation is welcome. More details and images of the school’s new space can be found in the May issue of Kansas Alumni magazine.
7. KU Endowment announces results of Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas
The largest higher education fundraising effort to date in the state, Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, raised $1.66 billion, far exceeding its $1.2 billion goal. The campaign, which ended June 30, boosted student support, faculty, facilities and programs at the University of Kansas and The University of Kansas Hospital.
6. Twelve straight Big 12 Conference titles
Highlights of the 2015-16 season included a gold medal at the World University Games in South Korea; the championship trophy at the 2015 Maui Invitational in November; a 12th-straight Big 12 Conference regular season; and the Big 12 Postseason Championship title. It truly was an amazing year.
5. KU student earns Rhodes Scholarship
University of Kansas senior Shegufta Huma is one of 32 American students to win a Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most prestigious recognitions of scholarly excellence. Shegufta Huma, from Bel Aire, is majoring in political science with a minor in Spanish, and she is particularly interested in working toward justice for Muslim immigrants. Huma is KU’s 27th Rhodes Scholar.
4. KU School of Business dean Neeli Bendapudi named Provost
“I am thrilled for the opportunity to serve my alma mater in a new capacity and look forward to working with people across campus to make it an even better place for our students, our faculty and our staff to learn and to work,” Bendapudi said. “This is a truly wonderful place that means so much to me and my family, and this opportunity is a dream come true for me.”
3. KU Sesquicentennial
In 2016, KU celebrated a 150-year tradition of educating leaders and serving the state of Kansas. The KU Alumni Association contributed to the momentous occasion with a number of commemorative activities, including a KU150-themed birthday celebration at the 2015 Jayhawk Roundup in Wichita, a special edition of our annual alumni calendar with historic images of KU and a reprise of our popular Jayhawks on Parade with three one-of-a-kind Jayhawks to celebrate KU.
2. Chancellor Gray-Little to step down in summer 2017
Bernadette Gray-Little, the 17th chancellor of the University of Kansas, has announced she will step down from the position in summer 2017. “It has been an honor to lead the University of Kansas,” said Chancellor Gray-Little. “KU has always been a special place with terrific people and an instinctive spirit to change our world for the better. Leading this remarkable institution is a privilege I always will cherish, and I’m grateful to the entire KU community for believing in our mission.”
…and the biggest KU story of 2016 (drumroll please)…
1. KU alumnus wins Nobel Peace Prize
President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at ending a civil war that has ravaged his country for more than 50 years. “This great honor only adds to the immense pride KU alumni around the world have felt for their fellow Jayhawk since President Santos devoted himself to the cause of peace in Colombia,” said KU Alumni Association President Heath Peterson. “This Nobel Peace Prize also brings honor to the long-established mission of University of Kansas faculty, administrators, students, staff and alumni to make our heartland campus a welcome home to students from around the world. Our international missions, as educators and alumni advocates, will continue with an energized pace thanks to President Santos, whom we are proud to call one of our own.”
How did we do? Was your favorite KU moment mentioned or did we forget another unforgettable moment? Let us know by emailing us at email@example.com, and check out more stories while you’re here. It’s been a great year worth celebrating, and we know our chant will rise in 2017!