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 Chancellor’s Committee on Honorary Degrees invites you to propose exceptional individuals of notable intellectual, scholarly, professional or creative achievement, or service to humanity, to be awarded an honorary degree from the University of Kansas. An honorary degree recognizes an individual’s extraordinary contributions to the sciences, arts or humanities or other contributions to humanity.
Proposers should provide a brief supporting statement describing the person’s career and achievements, indicating why these contributions are exceptionally meritorious and detailing their relevance to the university’s academic endeavors.
No announcement will be made concerning individuals nominated, and all nominations will be treated as confidential information. The committee will review all nominations and may request further information that demonstrates that the nominee’s achievements and/or service are of such exceptional character as to merit the award of an honorary degree.
Individuals who have been previously nominated must be re-nominated to be considered for the May 2018 awards.
The committee will select candidates for honorary degrees and forward their names and supporting materials to the Chancellor for consideration. The Chancellor will then nominate to the Board of Regents for approval candidates for honorary degrees to be awarded at the 2018 Commencement.
William McNulty, an Iraq War veteran and co-founder of Team Rubicon, will be awarded an honorary degree at KU’s 145th Commencement on May 14, 2017, in Memorial Stadium.
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little recommended McNulty for an honorary degree to the Kansas Board of Regents. The board approved the chancellor’s recommendation during its meeting today, Jan. 18.
McNulty – himself a KU alumnus – created Team Rubicon to provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid to communities hit by natural disasters. The organization grew out of McNulty’s desire to continue serving his country when his enlistment in the United States Marine Corps ended. After organizing a team of veterans to help with disaster response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, McNulty recognized that military veterans’ unique skills offered a model for a disaster-response organization that would bridge the gap between the immediate aftermath of disasters and the arrival of large-scale relief efforts from governments and aid organizations.
“William McNulty has turned his experience in war-torn areas of the world into a global effort to aid similar communities, while at the same time easing the transition of military veterans to civilian life by offering a sense of community, identity and purpose,” Chancellor Gray-Little said. “His innovative and meaningful work is making our world a better place, and for that, he is an inspiration to the entire KU community. We look forward to awarding him his honorary degree in May 2017.”
Team Rubicon was featured on the cover of Kansas Alumni magazine, issue 2, 2016. Read the full article here.
McNulty will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters for outstanding contributions to global humanitarian and relief efforts.
McNulty earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and his master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.
Read the full press release from the University of Kansas here.
For most Jayhawks, the walk down the Hill is synonymous with Commencement. But for alumni of the class of 1972—and a handful of other classes throughout KU history—the much-anticipated walk wasn’t to be.
Barbara Schmidt, j’72, explains in an email she sent in response to the May member e-newsletter, which included a link to our annual Commencement video.
Thank you for including in your email newsletter a link to video of the “walk down the hill” of 2016 graduating students. It is always joyful to see that annual walk!
Each year when I see news of the latest KU commencement, I am reminded that my graduating class of 1972 was not allowed to “walk down the hill.” The threat of tornadoes that day caused the University to move our commencement ceremony to Allen Fieldhouse and imposed a subdued atmosphere on the event that probably made it unlike just about any other commencement in KU history. No tornadoes developed in the area, and I do not recall it as being anything other than a cloudy day in the end.
Still, commencement was not “complete” for the class of 1972. Walking down the hill that day was something I had dreamed of since a little child, and I know that most of my friends felt the same way.
I have often wondered if some day the Alumni Association might remember and help make amends for this omission by arranging for surviving graduates of the class of 1972 to process down the hill before the current graduating class (maybe wearing a special ’72 cap designed for the occasion). Perhaps for our 50th anniversary in 2022?
If planned and announced to 1972 alums at least a couple years in advance, I believe a large enough contingent of my classmates would participate to make this uniquely memorable not only for them but also for the class of 2022 and everyone else in attendance.
Thank you, Alumni Association, for all that you do.
Barbara L. Schmidt Seattle, WA Class of 1972 (Journalism)
A total of 4,257 students received degrees at the University’s 100th Commencement in 1972, making it the largest in history at the time. According to the June 1972 issue of Kansas Alumni magazine, the Monday evening ceremony for presentation of baccalaureate degrees in the eight undergraduate schools was held in Allen Field House, only the third time that commencement events had been forced inside because of weather.
So, members of the class of ’72, what do you think: would you return to the nest for a 50-year reunion and commemorative walk down the Hill? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
Johanna Maska returned to the Hill last weekend to deliver a commencement address to graduating KU Honors Program students. Maska, c’04, j’04, recently wrote a post on LinkedIn offering her advice to graduates who want to love what they do. Her favorite piece of advice? “Get a life, a real life. Not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house.” Read full article
Rachel Epp Buller, associate professor of visual art and design at Bethel College, has spent the past five years working to bring a German artist out of the shadows. Epp Buller, g’99, g’04, first discovered the work of Alice Lex while working on her doctorate in art history at the University of Kansas. She later received a Fulbright Fellowship that allowed her to spend five months in Berlin learning more about Lex and finding her work. Her work came to fruition in April with an exhibition in Berlin and publication of the exhibit catalog as a book. Read full article
Former KU basketball star Nick Collison has only relocated once in his 13-year NBA career: when the SuperSonics, who drafted him in 2003, relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. Read more about his thoughts on his career—and see a few of his fun Instagram pics— in this Q&A. Read full article
Have you seen a story featuring a Jayhawk? Send it our way so we can include it in a future post! Email us at email@example.com.
It was a beautiful day on the Hill as graduates walked through the Campanile for the first time and headed for Memorial Stadium, snapping photos with friends and family along the way. Several of our staff members took photos throughout the day. Watch our slideshow below, or click here to view the photos on Flickr. All photos are available to be downloaded for personal use.