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.”
Joseph Ducreux’s painting “Le Discret,” one of the Spencer Museum’s iconic and most-popular paintings, will headline an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, beginning in May. This article was originally published in issue no. 2, 2017, of Kansas Alumni magazine.
Is he shushing noisy children, warning of dire political dangers, or something else? Even the title of Joseph Ducreaux’s “Le Discret” hints at ambiguity. Silence? Discretion? Shades of both?
Such range of content within an otherwise uncomplicated image helped establish “Le Discret,” which has been on near-continuous display at KU since it s951 acquisition, as an icon of the Spencer Museum of Art’s collection. Now it will take its charms to a larger audience as the headliner of “America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting,” an exhibition from May 21 to Aug. 20 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
“This work has a lot of personality,” says Susan Earle, the Spencer’s curator of European and American art. “It’s a great way to represent us, to share that Kansas is a place with a lot of interesting culture that people may not be aware of. That might just be a revelation to some people.”
As First Painter to Queen Marie Antoinette, Ducreux feared for his life during the French Revolution and fled for a time to London. Forced afterward to reinvent himself, Ducreux ventured beyond the norms of high-society portraiture by painting self-portraits that depicted expressions then rare in fine art: yawning, laughing, crying, mocking, shushing.
Earle describes the 1791 painting as a sort of 18th-century selfie, which helps explain Ducreux’s emergence as an internet superstar. The painter, who died in 1802, has two Twitter accounts and in 2013 won Reddit’s Tournament of Memes. “It hits that chord as a selfie in a way that others don’t,” Earle says. “This one somehow speaks to people.”
The retaining-wall mural behind the big apartment house on the northeast corner of 12th and Louisiana Streets, for years a popular visual respite for hill hikers ascending from downtown, is finally getting fresh paint and a new look.
Artist Ross Potter, who lives in the neighboring apartment house and is paying his rent by painting for the landlord, on Wednesday spray-painted the wall in a fresh base of sky blue, over which he added a fanciful Jayhawk and an emerging array of sunflowers.
“I’ve been painting flowers,” says Potter, a Hutchinson native who hopes to study art at KU in the fall, “all over Kansas.”
According to his sketched plans, the flowers will gently nudge passersby with a tender touch of wisdom:
“Don’t worry about all the answers, all at once.”
Open-practice shootarounds are usually mundane, forgettable affairs, with players practicing three-point shots, testing a few free throws and moving through light drills without breaking a sweat. Thursday afternoon, the top-seeded Jayhawks closed out their half-hour session in downtown Tulsa’s BOK Center with a thrilling sequence that brought raucous cheers from a blue-clad crowd of about 1,000 fans.
As the “practice” neared its conclusion, senior Frank Mason III, a leading candidate for national player of the year, planted himself in the corner of the court directly in front of the men’s basketball band and began drilling a succession of swishes from beyond the arc.
As his streak gained momentum, the festive musicians began shouting out a running count of swished three-pointers. When Mason missed on No. 16, a broad smile flashed across his usually stoic face and cheers turned to a quick roar.
The Jayhawks (28-4) closed out the practice with half-court shots, and, unusually, none were even close—until sophomore guard Lagerald Vick nailed a nothing-but-net swish that looked as effortless as a mid-ranger jumper.
That’s when coach Bill Self called for the team to huddle at midcourt. Once assembled in a tight pack, the players began chanting something unintelligible from a half-court away. The meaning of their words became clear as injured freshman center Udoka Azubuike grinned, shook his head, grinned again, and finally grabbed a ball handed to him by a teammate and thundered toward the goal.
Guarding his injured left wrist, Azubuike slammed home a thunderous right-handed dunk, which was quickly followed by Mason bouncing a ball off the backboard and grabbing it for a one-handed slam of his own.
As freshman sensation Josh Jackson began to follow suit, a look of panic shot across Self’s face and the veteran coach, a Naismith Coach of the Year finalist, shouted “Josh, don’t! Josh, don’t!” Jackson grudgingly obeyed orders and trotted toward the stands to join his teammates in an impromptu autograph session for eager fans.
The practice was so spirited that it might have served a purpose far beyond the typical bit of public relations splash: The Jayhawks seemingly generated a jump-start on rebuilding the momentum they lost after losing their first game of the Big 12 Tournament one week ago.
“I think it’s real important for all of us to get going,” junior guard Devonte’ Graham said of KU’s NCAA Tournament opener, 5:50 p.m. Friday against UC Davis. “We all gotta come out and be aggressive, especially on the defensive end, to get the jitters out and stuff like that. Everybody just needs to be aggressive.”
Fans are invited to a pregame event at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 17, at the Cox Business Center. The event, hosted by the KU Alumni Association, Kansas Athletics and the Williams Education Fund, will include a pep rally at 3:30 featuring the spirit squad and the basketball band. More information is available at the alumni association’s postseason site.
Check out photos from today’s open practice in the slideshow below, or click here to see the pictures on Flickr. All photos by Steve Puppe.
In the wake of a ceaseless stream of headlines and social-media chatter about international espionage, Georgetown University Press’ recent publication of Spy Sites of Washington, DC, the latest installment in a series of espionage history books written by retired CIA officer Robert Wallace, g’68, and historian H. Keith Melton, could not have come at a more opportune time.
Thanks to public fascination with the topic, the Washington Post recently promoted the book to its politically minded readership with an attractive, graphics-laden package featuring many of the sites Wallace and Melton featured in their book.
“I was surprised. I had no idea it would catch the attention of somebody there,” Wallace says from his Virginia home. “I think it was one of the cases where you just kind of catch a news cycle.”
Wallace, a former CIA station chief who ended his long career at the agency as director of its Office of Technical Service, began his writing career, and partnership with Melton, with the authoritative and fascinating Spycraft [Kansas Alumni magazine, issue 2, 2008], which brought to light countless previously untold chapters in the thrilling history of the CIA’s spytechs, with their ingenious devices and courageous exploits.
Wallace and Melton continued with, among others, The Official C.I.A. Manual of Trickery and Deception and Spy Sites of New York City. As with the New York book, Spy Sites of Washington, DC is designed with a dual purpose in mind. It can be enjoyed at the reader’s leisure at home or, with its extensive maps and photographs, dropped into a backpack to serve as a guidebook to explore sites where notable espionage once took place.
A favored tour for Wallace is a stretch he’s dubbed the “Spy Mile,” featuring 25 spy sites that stretch from the Mayflower Hotel, down 16th Street to the White House, then east to the International Spy Museum on F Street.
“Having the information in front of you and then being at the site is the difference between watching the Jayhawks play in Allen Field House and watching them on a television in some bar,” he says. “You get the same information both ways, but you experience it totally differently.”
Wallace says he was surprised to learn during his research for this book—which he describes as “much more substantial” than Spy Sites of New York City—about ceaseless foreign involvement in American affairs across the entire span of our country’s history.
“Not only in terms of foreign countries attempting to, quote, steal American secrets, the information side, but also the influence side,” he says. “Foreign governments, through their intelligence organs, have consistently, regularly, always attempted to influence American politicians, influence American policy, influence the American public, and, by extension, either directly or indirectly, the American vote.
“I was surprised by that. I didn’t have a previous awareness of how consistently that played out over the years.”
Given that those are exactly the charges currently being bandied about in the early days of the current presidential administration, Wallace suggests using caution to draw exact parallels: “The dynamics of any particular age are of that age,” he says.
Instead, Wallace says, Americans should use that history to learn more about how such foreign efforts were dealt with in earlier times.
“What history teaches you is that maybe you shouldn’t be so surprised and shocked when things happen, because there’s probably historical precedence. But, maybe you can draw some lessons learned in terms of how similar situations were effectively, or not so effectively, dealt with.”
After launching the Lawrence Police Department’s Twitter page Dec. 31, 2015, with the usual dry reminders for revelers to designate sober drivers, Officer Drew Fennelly yearned to “find the voice for the Twitter account.”
His creativity burst forth three months later, as Fennelly, ’09, hunched over his laptop, bemoaning the men’s basketball team’s shattering loss in the NCAA Tournament. “Sorry, we can’t investigate Villanova ripping your heart out of your chest,” Fennelly wrote. “The crime occurred outside our jurisdiction. #RCJH”
Sorry, we can't investigate Villanova ripping your heart out of your chest, the crime occurred outside our jurisdiction. #RCJH
The post was noticed by the Kansas City Star’s sports editor, who shared it with his 10,000 followers, and suddenly @LawrenceKS_PD zoomed to online fame.
“I felt the same frustration and despair that everybody else did about KU losing that game,” Fennelly says. “So I was thinking, how can I express to everyone else how I feel and relate it to the police department?”
He’d found the voice he’d been searching for, and his ensuing parade of comedy gold gained an even wider audience—hello, Jimmy Kimmel—Sept. 29: “We realize politics can make emotions run high, but being mad at a presidential candidate in a debate is NOT a reason to call 911.”
REMINDER We realize politics can make emotions run high, but being mad at a presidential candidate in a debate is NOT a reason to call 911.
Fennelly says he scrutinizes every post for any possible hint of controversy or disrespect, but he otherwise lets the laughs loose almost daily, including an election-day reminder that “Electioneering is not a major at KU,” K9 officers posed for cute dog pics, Bad Luck Brian reminding citizens not to tempt thieves with unattended porch packages, and best of all, the occasional Saturday-night #LKPDTweetalong, during which he rides with a fellow officer and tweets the action from a citizen’s point of view.
“Humor really is one of the best coping mechanisms for dealing with what we see on a regular basis,” says Fennelly, an officer since 2009. “I think you would be hard-pressed to find a police officer with out a pretty good sense of humor.”
From dry to wry, all in a day’s work.
This post was originally published in the Jayhawk Walk section of Kansas Alumni magazine, issue no. 1, 2017, but it’s not the only press about the police department’s Twitter antics. Check out the links below for more.
Men’s basketball coach Bill Self on Wednesday was announced as a first-time nominee for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I certainly didn’t expect this,” Self said during preparations for Thursday’s game at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “I’m proud, mainly because of the teams’ successes we’ve had in the various stops that put me in a position to be considered.”
Self, a Life Joint member of the KU Alumni Association, is 395-84 in his 14 seasons at KU, and his 82.5 KU winning percentage is the best in school history. Including his coaching stints at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois, Self is 602-189 in 24 years as a head coach. At KU, where he has taken his Jayhawks to 18-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, Self has recorded more conference titles (12) than home losses (9).
Finalists will be announced during NBA All-Star festivities Feb. 18 in New Orleans, and the hall of fame’s Class of 2017 will be unveiled April 3 at the NCAA Tournament’s championship game in Glendale, Arizona.
“What a great day to be a Jayhawk!” coach David Beaty shouted, his raspy voice barely audible amid the chaos that swarmed across Memorial Stadium’s field after KU upset Texas, 24-21, in an overtime thriller that gave Beaty his first Big 12 victory and the Jayhawks’ first in the conference since 2014.
Beaty of course was spot-on with the sentiment, but the time element was off. While football’s first victory over Texas since 1938 scored the national headlines, it was more than a great day to be a Jayhawk: From Sunday to Sunday, it was a week for the athletics ages.
Soccer sets the tone
Soccer set the tone on Sunday, Nov. 13, at Rock Chalk Park, when junior Lois Heuchan scored 40 seconds into double overtime to give the Jayhawks a 1-0 victory over Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (The Jayhawks’ second-round loss, 2-0 Nov. 18 at North Carolina, was only their third loss since mid-September.)
Men’s basketball was up next, as the Jayhawks avoided their first 0-2 start since 1972 by beating top-ranked Duke, 77-75, Tuesday in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Frank Mason’s game-winning field goal with 1.8 seconds remaining was one of KU’s most thrilling shots since Mario Chalmers nailed a three-pointer to send the 2008 national championship game into overtime.
“That was quite a play we called: ‘Just get out of his way,’” coach Bill Self said afterward. “He’s a stud.”
Recruit chooses Kansas
Billy Preston, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward from Los Angeles kept the buzz going Friday afternoon when he released a video announcing his college selection. Dressed in uniforms from his four finalists—KU, Indiana, USC and Syracuse—Preston played a magic-of-film one-on-one game against himself, at the end of which he turns to the camera and announces, “Rock Chalk, Jayhawks.”
Just a few hours later, Preston’s future team beat Siena, 86-65, running Self’s home record to 207-9 and passing Ted Owens on the list of all-time victories in Allen Field House.
“He’s a special coach and this is a special place,” sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr. said afterward. “You put those two things together and special things happen.”
Volleyball clinches championship
About 13 hours later, at 11 a.m. Saturday morning, volleyball began its final regular-season home match. Although they played without junior All-American Kelsie Payne, who injured an ankle in KU’s five-set victory Nov. 16 at West Virginia, the Jayhawks fought through another tough five-setter to defeat Iowa State and clinch at least a share of their first Big 12 championship.
“It could have been a disaster, or it could have been the best day ever, and they decided to make it the best day ever,” said coach Ray Bechard. “Our seniors weren’t going to let us lose.”
Swimmer hits career-best mark
Saturday’s action was not limited to Lawrence: freshman Jenny Nusbaum won the 200-yard freestyle at the Kansas Classic swim meet in Topeka’s Capitol Federal Natatorium with a career-best mark of 1 minute, 48.97 seconds, and she helped her team to a 7.34-second victory in the 800-yard freestyle relay.
Cross-country makes history
On a wintry morning in Terre Haute, Indiana, sophomore Sharon Lokedi ran fifth at the NCAA cross-country championships, the best NCAA finish in the history of KU women’s cross-country and the best by any Jayhawk since John Lawson won the men’s meet in 1965.
“When it’s cold and windy like it was today, you never know what might happen in a race like this,” Lokedi said. “So my plan was just to stay up at the front, stay with the leaders and be ready for anything.”
Football upsets Texas
On a chilly afternoon and evening in Memorial Stadium, the football ’Hawks offered the first hint of a possible upset by taking a 10-7 lead into halftime against Texas. But, KU came out flat in the third quarter, and when D’Onta Foreman scored his second touchdown of the second half with 13:34 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Longhorns a 21-10 lead.
The game looked hopelessly out of reach to fans and commentators, but players never saw it that way.
“They are some resilient tough dudes,” Beaty said. “They kept believing. They kept working.”
With 10 minutes remaining in regulation, redshirt freshman quarterback Carter Stanley jolted the KU offense to life with a 20-yard run, which was immediately followed by a 15-yard run by freshman running back Khalil Herbert that set the Jayhawks up at the Texas 45 yard line. Herbert scored seven plays later on a 1-yard run, and sophomore receiver Steven Sims Jr. converted a two-point conversion to push KU to within three, 21-18, with 7:48 remaining.
Freshman safety Mike Lee halted a Texas scoring threat on the ensuing drive when he forced Foreman to fumble at the KU 13-yard-line. Senior defensive end Cameron Rosser pounced on the loose ball, the Longhorns’ fifth turnover of the game. KU then gave the ball back on downs, but when Texas tried to close the game out by converting on fourth and 5 from the KU 32, sophomore linebacker Keith Loneker Jr. scored the biggest of his game-high 16 tackles by stopping Foreman 2 yards short.
The Jayhawks took over on their own 29 with 58 seconds remaining. Three receptions by senior running back Ke’aun Kinner and a 15-yard penalty against Texas set KU up at the Longhorns’ 19, where, with seven seconds left in regulation, senior Matthew Wyman tied the game with a 36-yard field goal.
On the second play of overtime Lee again stepped up big, intercepting a Texas pass. Needing only a field goal to win, KU pushed forward behind five Kinner rushes, allowing Wyman to win the game with a 25-yard field goal.
The season finale awaits Saturday at Kansas State, but that rivalry’s renewal was on nobody’s mind as the Jayhawks celebrated madly.
Well, almost nobody’s.
“We have a huge, huge mountain to climb to get ready to play those guys,” Beaty said. “But it’s going to be a lot easier and a lot more fun preparing tomorrow with the result we got today.”
Women’s basketball team closes week with a win
And still more was yet to come: Women’s basketball closed out the remarkable week that was with a 68-58 victory at Memphis, the Jayhawks’ first win of the season and the first regular-season road victory for second-year coach Brandon Schneider.
President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia on Friday was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at ending a civil war that has ravaged his country for more than 50 years. Although the peace accord Santos, a 1973 KU graduate with degrees in business and economics, negotiated with Colombian rebels was unexpectedly rejected by voters, the Norwegian Nobel Committee expressed hope that the award would encourage Colombians to continue their efforts at ending a civil war that killed more than 220,000 and displaced nearly 6 million.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee emphasizes the importance of the fact that President Santos is now inviting all parties to participate in a broad-based national dialogue aimed at advancing the peace process,” the Nobel Committee stated in a press release issued Oct. 7 from its Oslo, Norway, headquarters. “Even those who opposed the peace accord have welcomed such a dialogue. The Nobel Committee hopes that all parties will take their share of responsibility and participate constructively in the upcoming peace talks.”
Santos followed an older brother, Luis Fernando Santos, a 1970 graduate of KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, to KU, arriving on Mount Oread in 1969. As detailed in a cover story of Kansas Alumni magazine’s issue No. 3, 2011, Santos first lived in McCollum Hall, then joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity as a sophomore.
A motivated scholar—as well as a friendly fraternity brother who enjoyed beers at The Wagon Wheel Café, serenading sororities and participating in all-night nickel-dime-quarter poker games—Santos earned his KU degree in seven semesters, returned to Colombia, then left for London where he began his career as Colombia’s delegate to the International Coffee Organization. The KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences named Santos a distinguished alumnus in 2012.
“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.”
Olav Njølstad, secretary of the Nobel Committee, on Friday said, “I just had a chance to talk with President Santos on the phone, and he was overwhelmed. He said immediately that this is ‘very, very, very important for my country and for the continuing peace process.’”
For continuing updates, follow KU Alumni Association social media outlets, and Alumni Association members will find complete coverage in issue No. 6 of Kansas Alumni magazine.