The call came Tuesday and was entirely unexpected:
“We need anthem singers who are music students at each of the Final Four schools. Could you do it?”
Before sophomore voice major Darius Sheppard could fully process this most unexpected opportunity to perform the national anthem at Saturday’s Final Four in San Antonio, he quickly replied, “I’m only 20. I need to ask my parents. Can I email you tonight?”
Sheppard—a tenor who performed a spine-tingling rendition of the national anthem with fellow students from Michigan, Villanova and Loyola-Chicago before the start of Saturday evening’s first game in the packed Alamodome—laughs when he recalls the reply he heard from the NCAA official: “OK, but instead of emailing tonight, can you call back in five minutes?”
Sheppard immediately phoned his parents, and, permission secured, on Wednesday booked his flight and on Thursday arrived in San Antonio, thrilled to represent KU on the biggest stage on collegiate athletics.
“It’s been an amazing week, absolutely incredible,” Sheppard said, shaking his head and smiling broadly. As he returned his attention to the first half of the Michigan-Loyola game, playing out just a few yards from his floor-level seat, Sheppard grinned and shouted over the crowd, “Rock Chalk!”
Shortly before his Jayhawks strode onto the Intrust Bank Arena court for their open practice, coach Bill Self renewed his oft-repeated hope that his players keep a light bounce in their step despite the pressures of NCAA Tournament competition: “Just go out, have fun and let’s enjoy the moment, and let’s play with joy and passion. Play with a free mind.”
When they emerged from the arena’s wings a few moments later, the Jayhawks were greeted with an instant lesson in how to enjoy the moment and embrace the fun: Wichita schools on Wednesday morning bused thousands of school children to the arena, and they lit the place with an energy unprecedented in the sedate history of NCAA Tournament open practices.
Dozens or perhaps hundreds of long yellow buses clogged the streets and parking lots around Intrust Bank Arena, and once inside, the bouncy kids happily cheered each of the teams that emerged for open-practice shootarounds. They were happy to cheer on all the athletes, but anticipation for the Jayhawks’ appearance brought on a high-energy buzz as the children—who filled more than half of an arena that seats more than 15,000—began chanting “KU! KU! KU!” When the KU team emerged to waves of screams, players’ faces lit up and coaches’ smiles beamed.
After singing along to the fight song piped in over the scoreboard speakers, kids carried on with assorted chants of “Jayhawks! Jayhawks!” and “Go KU! Go KU!”, and the kids and other Wichita fans and alumni who filled the arena nearly to capacity cheered heartily when center Udoka Azubuike, wearing a brace on his injured left knee but otherwise looking fairly mobile and healthy, made free throws.
When practice concluded, the Jayhawks huddled at midcourt, then waved to the crowd, encouraging more and more cheers. Big 12 Player of the Year Devontè Graham brought the half-hour affair to a roaring conclusion by draining a jump shot from midcourt.
Kansas, Big 12 champion and the Midwest region’s top seed, faces No. 16 seed Penn at 1 pm Thursday in a game to be broadcast by TBS.
“Our players know after watching tape that [Penn] is definitely not a 16,” Self said. “So they have our attention.”
Azubuike strained a knee ligament during practice before the Big 12 tournament. He has had limited practice with the team this week, and Self hopes the 7-footer can play at least “a few minutes” Thursday, with prospects for more significant playing time should KU advance.
“That 70 percent tomorrow,” Self said, “could be 85 percent by Friday and 90 percent by Saturday if we’re fortunate enough to win.”
Check out a few more photos from practice on our Flickr page. Photos and video by Steve Puppe.
Driven by their love for the game, a group of dedicated sports club athletes is leading a hockey resurgence at KU.
Yo juego hockey.
When his Spanish teacher asked students to introduce themselves to a classmate, Andy McConnell turned to an unknown guy seated nearby and said, en español, “I play hockey.”
When he arrived at KU, McConnell immediately sought out the men’s ice hockey club team. What he found here was not good. There were no prospects for the sport’s return, until McConnell heard his classmate’s reply:
Yo juego hockey.
McConnell closed out his playing career two years ago and has since volunteered his time as the club’s head coach.
Find out how KU’s ice hockey club team was reborn in Chris Lazzarino’s cover story for issue no. 1, 2018, of Kansas Alumni magazine.
For more information about the award-winning Kansas Alumni magazine, click here.
The KU Alumni Association recently mailed the latest issue of Kansas Alumni magazine to association members.
Issue six includes features about the grotesques of Dyche Hall; a hundred-year-old murder mystery solved by alumnus Bill James; and the popular sunflower fields of Grinter Farms.
Monsters of the Mind
A top-floor renovation of Dyche Hall reveals pressing needs for KU’s other mythical beasts: the grotesques that for a century have kept watch on Jayhawk Boulevard from their Natural History Museum perch.
Eroded to near-extinction, the iconic grotesques have found refuge in the Panorama as plans are pondered for their replacement.
Recognized for overall excellence by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the award-winning Kansas Alumni magazine is mailed bi-monthly to members of the KU Alumni Association. Members can log in to read the full issue online or through the KU Alumni app. Nonmembers can access a free preview article from each issue.
In the final minutes before the start of the 2017 Vets Day 5K, Nov. 12 at Memorial Stadium, 24-year Army veteran Scot Bird relished the joy of a rare visit to Mount Oread—“Iowa by birth,” he said. “KU by the grace of God”—and the pleasure he and his wife, 22-year Army veteran Mary Bird, would soon share in their leisurely run down Memorial Drive, Jayhawk Boulevard and Sunnyside Avenue.
“We’re not going for time,” Bird said. Holding up his phone and its camera, he added, “We’re going for this.”
The gray fall morning also brought reflective moods from the Birds, who live in Junction City, where Mary is a community volunteer and Scot works as the civilian transportation officer at nearby Fort Riley. Mary served in operation Desert Storm, Scot deployed to Iraq, and the spirit of Veterans Day weekend was very much on their minds.
“We both lost friends,” Mary Bird said. “It’s been going on for so long, it’s almost inevitable. So, yes, they are in our thoughts today.”
Generations of Jayhawks
As the runners, joggers, walkers, stroller-pushers and a few four-legged companions wound their way around campus—Dan Edidin won the race, in 18 minutes, 16.9 seconds, and Lucy Hardy won the women’s competition in 20:34.5—U.S. Air Force veteran John Forney raced with a rare advantage over the rest of the field: years of practicing and racing a similar 2-mile course around and atop Mount Oread while running cross-country at KU, from 1948 to ’50.
“This is in honor of coach Bill Easton,” said the jubilant Forney, c’51, who won the men’s 75-99 age group.
Forney, a third-generation Jayhawk who is now retired in Denver, was joined in the Vets Day 5K by his son, David, e’88, and grandson Sam, both of Charlottesville, Virginia. Cheering them on was Forney’s wife, Eleanor Kothe Hardy, c’57.
“When Grandpa called and said, ‘We’ve got to run this Vets Day 5K,’ we signed up immediately,” Sam recalled. “It’s not just my first visit to KU; it’s also my first time in Kansas, and we’re having a great time.”
High-five for the participants
Honoring KU ROTC’s centennial and hosted by KU Student Veterans of America and the Veterans Alumni Network, the Vets Day 5K attracted 391 registered participants, ranging in age from 7 to 88 and hailing from nine states and two countries (the U.S. and Thailand).
All participants received impressive medals, and age-group winners were awarded custom cooler cups as trophies. (A special shout-out to Kansas Alumni photographer Steve Puppe, j’98, winner of the men’s 40-44 age group.) And, a lucky few were also treated to a homestretch high-five from Ryker Butterworth, young son of racer Matt Butterworth, c’15, who served eight years as an Air Force crew chief.
Still riding a wave of euphoria after completing the 5K, Scot Bird explained another level of motivation driving him: He is a cancer survivor who finally forced himself to begin exercising again in February 2016, after months of recuperation following his intensive treatments. After starting with walks of little more than a few dozen yards, Bird rapidly progressed back to something resembling the fitness of his soldier days, and he is now a regular competitor at regional races of all distances.
“She’s really the runner,” Bird said of his wife, Mary, “and I was tired of sitting there watching her go out the door. So, I got up off the couch. I’m vertical because of her.”
It won’t register in either team’s standings or record books, but the Oct. 22 KU-Missouri men’s basketball exhibition game at Kansas City’s Sprint Center counted in a way that mattered much more than sports: The made-for-charity game between two schools that haven’t played each other in men’s basketball since 2012 generated $1.75 million (and rising) for hurricane relief.
“Kudos to both administrations and fan bases for doing something so special,” said KU coach Bill Self. “I admit, I had butterflies. I was excited to be out there.”
After a few pregame chants of the unpleasant, old-school variety—the sort of enmity that made many fans relieved the rivalry was halted by Missouri’s departure for the Southeastern Conference—reverberated inside Sprint Center, the great majority of Jayhawks and Tigers appeared eager to instead root hard for their team while also applauding the afternoon’s real purpose.
During timeouts, the scoreboard played video clips with KU and Mizzou athletes from hurricane-ravaged regions describing the devastation and challenges faced by their families, and thanking fans for supporting the game. Those short video clips generated loud applause by fans from both schools, evidence that the big picture remained clearly in focus, even as a hard-fought game was unfolding on the court.
“You can tell how much juice there was in the building,” said KU senior guard Devonte’ Graham, who led all scorers with 25 points, along with 10 rebounds and five assists. “It was a great atmosphere to play in.”
After KU’s 93-87 victory, both Self and first-year Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin noted the value in the rare opportunity to play an exhibition game against a Div. 1 opponent—normally not allowed, with exceptions made this year only to support relief causes. Not only did young players get to experience a big-game atmosphere, but the contest also generated game tape that will provide countless teaching moments for the coaches as they continue their season preparations.
“The things we’ve been telling them they’re deficient at,” Self said, “now they’ll believe.”
KU’s next exhibition game is against Pittsburg State, Oct. 31 in Allen Field House.
Update: According to Kansas Athletics, the charity exhibition basketball game generated $2.011 million for victims of recent natural disasters in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The donations are a combination of ticket sales ($1.15 million), the Pay-per-View stream ($768,000) and text-to-give contributions ($68,000). Donations from other entities totaled approximately $25,000, bringing the total donation to some $2.011 million.
That was the stern warning from Alice, the Flying Jayhawks’ Edinburgh-based tour guide for a weeklong glide through the understated wonders of sunny (!) Scotland.
Alice had haggis on her mind because it had recently come to her attention that our hotel—a charming, 19th-century school just a few blocks downhill from the magnificently restored Stirling Castle—had recently begun offering haggis at its breakfast buffet. She never explained exactly why this was such a bad thing—“It’s just not done,” she said, utterly exasperated—yet Alice was clear: She was none too pleased about the cultural faux pas.
Alice did not have much to worry about. We did not eat the haggis at breakfast. Most of us sampled the native dish at our welcome dinner, which featured a “Haggis Ceremony,” complete with a bagpiper, a big knife, and an energetic narrator who told us much about … well, we’re not quite sure of the details, because his Scottish brogue was a bit thick, but he was friendly and fun and a good time was had by all before finally falling into our beds for badly needed sleep.
Scotland’s beloved delicacy
Enough with the haggis. But as long as we’re on the topic of beloved national delicacies, did we mention the Scotch? That’s whisky without the “e,” and we sampled the good stuff after a tour of Scotland’s oldest working distillery, Glenturret, just outside the town of Crieff. It’s a single-batch distillery that offers its lovely golden elixirs as its own (expensive) label, but also sells much of its production run to The Famous Grouse, a blender that has become the biggest-selling brand of Scotch in the world.
Back to the beginning
But that was a highlight of Day Seven. Back to the beginning. Our travelers commenced their Alumni Holidays International journey by gathering at Edinburgh International Airport. The 19 Jayhawks were joined by smaller groups from Johns Hopkins, McGill, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State universities, and we all made our acquaintances during an hour-long bus ride from Edinburgh—which was awash in festivalgoers attending a slew of international events in the Scottish capital city—to Stirling, an old, hillside town awash in history and our home for the next nine days.
Led in grand fashion by travel director Carole Petipher, a high-energy Brit who specializes in all things French yet delights in her occasional assignments to Scotland, our merry band spent the morning of our first full day touring Stirling Castle, childhood home of Mary, Queen of Scots. The “stirring vistas from the ramparts” promised in our brochure delivered splendidly, despite a cold rain that dampened no moods.
If we feared that first morning’s weather might have been an omen, we were wrong. Except for one or two brief, fast-moving storms, our nine days in Scotland were so sunny and delightful that the locals seemed a bit out of sorts. Scots are so used to complaining about their weather, we were told, that they refuse to cease their grumbling just because a little bit of sunshine.
After starting our days with history lectures from a retired local professor straight out of central casting—John was upset not about breakfast haggis, but rather the U.K.’s shocking vote to leave the European Union—we continued our journeys through the towns and countryside surrounding Stirling: the magnificent Loch Lomond in The Trossachs National Park, the golf mecca of St. Andrews, battlefields and monuments, castles and palaces.
Highlights of the trip
Aside from the friendships forged among fellow travelers, the trip’s highlight was attending the legendary Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, aptly described as a “compendium of precision marching bands, drill teams, pyrotechnics and Highland dancing performed on the floodlit esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.” Those AHI brochure writers, they’re good, and they’re right. Wow. Just … wow.
The “military tattoo” ceremony originates from 18th-century regimental bands that struck up their tunes to alert garrisoned troops to “quit the saloons and return to the barracks.” That part of the custom, however, seems to have been lost to the haze of history, because nobody in Edinburgh that night—absolutely nobody—was quitting anything or returning anywhere. We attended on the final night of the monthlong series of performances, an evening that also marked the end of the Edinburgh International Festival, featuring opera, music, theatre and dance performances throughout the heart of the gorgeous old town, as well as the cultural stalwart’s now-thriving cheeky cousin, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, described as the “largest arts festival in the world.”
On the day of our visit, literally millions of festivalgoers flooded Edinburgh’s cobblestone sidewalks, making navigation difficult yet filling the crisp air with an energy that cannot be replicated.
Such are the joys of travel, those special days and nights when you see, hear, taste and feel things that cannot be described, only experienced. Join us for your own adventure of a lifetime. Become a Flying Jayhawk and see your special corner of the world with your own eyes.
The Flying Jayhawks trip to Scotland took place August 23-31, 2017, and was hosted by Chris Lazzarino, associate editor of Kansas Alumni magazine. Watch the slideshow below to see more pictures from the trip, or view the photos on Flickr. Pictures may be downloaded for personal use. For more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, visit our website.
Retired University Architect and former U.S. Navy Seabee Warren Corman, e’50, on Sunday was honored during a “Salute to Service” ceremony during Sporting Kansas City’s 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
Corman, 91, was among the combat construction engineers thrust in April 1945 into the Battle of Okinawa, the bloodiest battle of the Pacific campaign, and he has since carried the Seabees’ motto with him in every facet of his life’s work: “If it’s difficult, we do it immediately; if it’s impossible, we take several days.”
Only 18 at the time, with no wife or children waiting for him back home, Corman remained in Okinawa for another year after the end of the war. Upon his return, Corman hustled through his coursework with trademark energy, completing five years of coursework in four and graduating in 1950 with a degree in architectural engineering.
Corman’s early career
Shortly after joining the state architect’s office, Corman assisted with the design and construction of Allen Field House. He worked for the state of Kansas until 1957, when he was lured to Delaware when DuPont promised him a big boost in pay and lifetime employment; a depression hit the East Coast six months later, DuPont closed its architecture office, and Corman then spent two years with a small Wilmington firm.
Once he and his family made their way back to Kansas, Corman spent seven years with two Topeka firms before joining the Board of Regents in 1966.
A return to KU
Chancellor Robert E. Hemenway in 1997 convinced Corman to return to his alma mater as University architect and special assistant to the chancellor, posts he held until his December 2010 retirement—an unlikely event that, in fact, did not last long, as Corman joined the School of Engineering as the dean’s construction adviser, a position he held until 2015.
Now fully retired, Corman maintains close ties with the University as an executive committee member serving the Association’s KU Veterans Alumni Network.
Salute to service
Veterans Network secretary Randy Masten, g’03, a retired Army officer and assistant director of KU’s Office of Graduate Military Programs, nominated Corman for the Sporting KC honor, and was on hand to cheer both his beloved Sporting KC as well as a distinguished Jayhawk who has done so much in service to his alma mater, his home state and his country.
“Randy goes to all the games, and he told me afterward that when I was introduced as a veteran of the last battle of World War II, a guy sitting next to him said, ‘That guy must be lying about his age. He can’t be World War II. He must be Vietnam.’”
Corman chuckles as he shares the anecdote—which he usually does when telling his stories—but he also fights back a sudden well of emotion. For more than 40 years, Corman remained silent about his Okinawa experiences even with his family; now, though still blessed with a nimble step and youthful spirit, Corman knows that he is among the last survivors of his great and brave generation, and so he accepts salutes such as the one he received Sunday in memory of all of his combat comrades.
“They were really so nice,” Corman says of staff and fans at the Sporting KC match, as he regains his voice after a brief moment of reflection. “Everything about the day was nice. Really a wonderful honor.”
Warren Corman was the subject of a cover feature in Kansas Alumni magazine, issue no. 5, 2011, as he closed the books on his long career. You can read the full article online. Photos by Steve Puppe.
Jayhawk Loral O’Hara, a 2006 graduate of the KU School of Engineering’s aerospace engineering program, on Wednesday was introduced as one of 12 members of NASA’s 2017 astronaut candidate class. After her KU graduation, O’Hara earned a master’s degree at Purdue University. Until joining NASA for the arduous astronaut selection process, O’Hara most recently worked as a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
O’Hara, e’06, was born in Houston and reared in nearby Sugar Land, Texas. When her NASA class was introduced during a ceremony at Johnson Space Center, O’Hara was quick to note her joy in reaching a lifelong dream in her hometown.
“Growing up in Houston, I had Johnson Space Center right down the road and I was able to visit often,” O’Hara said. “My second-grade class even got to grow tomato plants that flew on the space shuttle, a program that I actually recently just found out is going on today with students flying seeds on the International Space Station. Those early experiences really hooked me and are a big part of what ignited the dream to be an astronaut.”
Among her diverse interests, O’Hara is a private pilot, scuba diver, surfer, sailor, spelunker, painter, certified EMT and wilderness first responder, and she noted that her unusual hobbies helped her join NASA’s latest astronaut candidate class.
“I’ve always been really curious and loved trying new things, learning new skills,” O’Hara said. “I’ve just been fortunate that the experiences that I have always gravitated toward are also those that helped me get up here today, things like fixing engines and flying and diving.”
She reports for duty in August to begin two years of astronaut training, after which she will be assigned technical duties in NASA’s astronaut office while awaiting her first flight assignment.
A study published Wednesday in the prestigious journal Nature could obliterate all previous notions about the earliest human migration to North America, from the current consensus of about 15,000 years ago to a staggering 130,000 years ago.
This startling claim is made by a scientific team that features two KU doctoral alumni: lead author Steven Holen, PhD’02, director of the Center for American Paleolithic Research in South Dakota, and co-author Jared Beeton, PhD’07, professor of physical geography at Adams State University in Colorado.
Holen, Beeton and nine other colleagues from the U.S. and Australia have long studied mastodon bones unearthed during a 1992 highway construction project in San Diego County, California. The first scientists at the site, from the San Diego Museum of Natural History, began the arduous process of documenting the site, including a puzzling jigsaw of large rocks, which seemingly could not have been a naturally occurring part of the silt layer in which the bones were found, and crushed mastodon bones.
They eventually concluded that marks on the bones could only have been made by the rocks, perhaps in an attempt to extract bone marrow from leg bones, and that the rocks could not otherwise have been placed at the site by natural geological processes.
Their research then took a startling turn when scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey dated the mastodon bones to 130,000 years ago, give or take 9,400 years, and the San Diego site suddenly became perhaps the most important archaeological find in recent memory.
“If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet,” The New York Times reported April 26. “The earliest widely accepted evidence of people in the Americas is less than 15,000 years old. … If humans actually were in North America over 100,000 years earlier, they may not be related to any living group of people. Modern humans probably did not expand out of Africa until 50,000 to 80,000 years ago, recent genetic studies have shown.”
Beeton was the first graduate student in KU’s Odyssey Archaeological Research Program, which offers KU undergraduate and graduate students field experience in finding evidence of the earliest people to inhabit the central Great Plains.
The Odyssey program, directed by Rolfe Mandel, g’80, PhD’91, University Distinguished Professor of anthropology, was launched in 2003 with an endowment from Joseph and Ruth Cramer.
“I still remember Joe saying to me, ‘Rolfe, I’m not just putting this money up for you to go out and wander around looking for sites. I want you to train students to go out and look.’ And that’s exactly what happened,” says Mandel, also interim director of Kansas Geological Survey, which conducted blind testing of soil samples collected at the San Diego site. “It’s gratifying to see that it works. Joe Cramer would have loved to have heard that this is an example of where his investment produced a student who went out and pushed the envelope.
“If he were alive he’d be very gratified, but it’s also very gratifying to me, regardless of how this all shakes out. It may turn out this site’s a bust. That could happen. But regardless of that, I’ve got to give them credit for looking, and certainly for pushing the envelope. I do sort of feel like these are my children going out and doing what I told them to try to do.”