Rick Putnam, chair of the KU Alumni Association’s national board of directors, addressed graduates at the 2016 Commencement ceremony. Putnam, c’77, l’80, lives in Omaha, Nebraska. Read his remarks below, and click here to see photos from Commencement.
Good morning and congratulations. It is a great day and one you will remember the rest of your lives. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you for just a few minutes. I specifically want to acknowledge those on stage with me and, in particular, the Chancellor. I have had the pleasure to meet with her over the past year on very important issues and want to thank her, on behalf of all KU alumni, for a job well done.
Think back, now, to the last event you attended where they put a stamp on your hand or maybe a bracelet on your wrist (perhaps on your way into the Hawk or the Wheel). It provided you admission to something big, something you were looking forward to. Today you receive a permanent stamp, one that will never wash away – admission to the outside world and for the rest of your lives a graduate of the University of Kansas. You are admitted, thus, to a very prestigious group. You have unlimited access to a powerful Jayhawk network of the best and brightest, and as an insider, an unending opportunity to build upon the relationships you established while here—and create new relationships with your fellow KU alumni.
So, you have the ticket, you have the stamp. We’ll make it even better. Each member of the class of 2016 will receive a gift—a one-year membership in the KU Alumni Association, provided with the help of KU Endowment. Your membership begins this weekend and includes a new KU Alumni Association app, which we hope you will download to receive all of your benefits.
Alumni Association membership will provide you an immediate and ongoing link to KU. You can accept it and do nothing and stand outside the arena; I suggest the better course is to walk in, embrace it and enjoy. Good luck and Rock Chalk.
Remember Matt Gowen? We featured Gowen, j’95, on our blog back in February around Valentine’s Day. A writer and team lead for humorists at Hallmark Cards, it’s no wonder he tends to wax sentimental when thinking about KU. We all do. The difference is, writers put pen to paper, as he did in this contributed essay which captures the feeling we all once had prior to leaving the nest. Enjoy! –David Johnston
One morning in the spring of my senior year, I remember walking up the hill behind Fraser Hall with the sun coming up, not a bit of wind, not a cloud in the sky.
As I made my way past Watson Library toward Murphy Hall, I stopped at the top of the path near Stauffer-Flint, where I’d spent so much time that year cranking out the UDK with my fellow J-Schoolers.
Then I stopped and just stood there.
For several minutes.
This was before all humans had cell phones, so I couldn’t reach in my pocket and pretend to be staring at the screen, which is today’s default response when we have random moments of quiet. With nothing to distract me, I began to scan the horizon, drinking in the panorama of Mount Oread and taking long, slow, deep breaths, to the point where passersby possibly thought I was a stealth marketer for nasal spray.
Then I said to myself: “Remember this moment.”
Silly, I know. But I wanted to be deliberate about it because it felt iconic, that sense that you’ve fully, finally become your own person.
I’ve had other iconic moments in my life since then: getting that first job as a reporter, my wedding day, my kids being born, and being interviewed by the Alumni Association (!) because I’ve been writing valentines and other stuff for Hallmark for the past 15 years.
But there’s nothing quite like that sense of suddenly owning your life, that feeling that from now on it’s Me, Inc.
The future? Yep, there it is, right in front of you. It’s packed with promise and possibility and all the things people say at commencement.
But before you walk through the Campanile and down the hill, there’s a moment. A deliriously perfect limbo that you’ll never experience again.
You’ve rocked some classes, maybe scuffled through a few others, possibly had an internship or two. You’ve probably had a few beverages at (fill-in-the-blank favorite bar), thrown confetti inside Allen Fieldhouse, sat on the hill for a football game, bowled at the Union (sadly, no more), seen brilliant works at Spencer Museum, watched incredible Lied Center performances from Broadway musicals to Rock Chalk Revue.
In short, you’ve mastered the art of being a Jayhawk.
And that’s when it hits you: it’s time to take that mastery out into the world!
For me, it was that Tuesday morning in March more than 20 years ago. And in that moment, I could see the endless ways my life could unfold. I thought about the many decisions I could make, stretching out to infinity. But not yet! Because in that moment, all those choices were still my perfect little secrets. The world did not know anything about me yet. My story had not yet been written.
The path was right there in front of me.
All I had to do was take the next step.
But just for a second, as I gazed out at the bright blue sky, it seemed like I might be able to do more than that.
Because maybe, just maybe, being a Jayhawk teaches you how to fly.
Each May Jayhawks pass through the Campanile, leaving their student status behind and proudly striding down the Hill toward their future as KU alumni.
In honor of the University’s sesquicentennial, we at the KU Alumni Association took it upon ourselves to make the honorable procession down the Hill even more special by introducing yet another tradition.
During our months of brainstorming to create a new Jayhawk tradition, a couple of our favorite possibilities included:
• Instead of students walking through the Campanile, we would allow students to walk up the Campanile and ring the bell towers, one by one.
• At the graduation fair, while grabbing caps and gowns, students would also have the option to rent a drone from the Alumni Association. The drones would follow each graduate from Memorial Drive, through the Campanile, down the Hill and into Memorial Stadium. Each drone would have a unique live broadcast on the Alumni Association website. This way, family and friends both near and far could watch their student progress down the Hill. Plus, no need for flimsy balloons in order to be recognized!
Then the perfect idea hit us like a ton of limestone. We’ve all heard the beautiful sounds of the Campanile carillon bells ringing across campus; why not spread another sentimental sound over the Hill during Commencement?
We called for submissions from all Jayhawks: what song would you like to hear over the Campanile bells? We received input from Jayhawks across the world: “How Far We’ve Come” by Matchbox 20, “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper, “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus and the ever-popular “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann. We were even surprised when a Missouri grad requested “Photograph” by Nickelback.
After much deliberation, we are excited to announce that KU alumni, parents, families and friends will pay heed to the charming tunes of “Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C.
After all, what could elevate a moment more than a trendy, one-hit-wonder, ’90s pop song?
NBC Nightly News recently featured a roundup of favorite commencement speeches from universities around the country, and while words of advice from the speakers at KU’s 143rd Commencement ceremony didn’t make the cut, plenty of graduation day scenes from the Hill are recognizable to Jayhawks.
Watch the video below to hear clips of speeches by famous folks including Jon Bon Jovi (Rutgers University), Tim Cook, CEO of Apple (The Goerge Washington University), Michelle Obama (Tuskegee University), Robert De Niro (NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts) and even Jimmy Buffett (University of Miami).
How many shots from the University of Kansas can you spot?
(We think we counted six, but let us know if we’re wrong.)
The Chancellor’s committee on honorary degrees is taking nominations for individuals of exceptional service to humanity or notable intellectual, scholarly, professional or creative achievement to be awarded an honorary degree from the University of Kansas. Nominations will be accepted through March 31.
An honorary degree recognizes the extraordinary contributions of an individual to the sciences, arts, humanities or other contributions to humanity. Anyone interested in nominating an outstanding individual should provide a brief supporting statement describing the person’s career and achievements, indicating why these contributions are exceptionally meritorious and relevant to the University’s academic endeavors.
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 candidates to the Board of Regents for approval. Honorary degrees will be awarded at the 2016 Commencement.
Individuals who have been previously nominated must be nominated again in order to be considered for the 2016 awards. All nominations will be treated as confidential information.
All nominations should be submitted electronically by March 31. Click here to submit a nomination. More information about the nomination and selection of candidates for honorary degrees can be found at honorarydegrees.ku.edu.
The University of Kansas held its 142nd Commencement ceremony on May 18, 2014.
Watch our slideshow of photos from the traditional walk down the Hill and ceremony, accompanied by remarks from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Jeff Kennedy, j’81, chair of the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors.
Congratulations to the members of the Class of 2014!
The weather was perfect for KU’s 142nd Commencement ceremony and the traditional walk down the Hill. The procession lasted about an hour as the graduates filed into Memorial Stadium.
Jeff Kennedy, j’81, chair of the KU Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, shared a story about Jayhawk connections with the graduates.
“Several years ago, in the forbidden city in Beijing, China, while wearing a KU cap I ran into a group of KU Business School students and their teacher.” He added that he was not surprised to have run into them on the other side of the globe, because “no matter where you go in this world, you will find alumni or others who love KU.”
In an era where colleges and universities are banning “selfies” at the ceremony, the University of Kansas embraces the phenomenon and encourages graduating students to snap a photo to remember the moment and then send it to KU to be included in a Facebook album.
Tracey Keegan, d’92, and Addison Keegan-Harris, c’14.
For Facebook’s “Throwback Thursday” this week, Tracy Keegan, d’92, shared an image from the day she walked down the hill at KU’s commencement in 1992, noting that she was pregnant with her daughter at the time. This weekend, her daughter Addison Keegan-Harris, now all grown up, will walk down the hill. She’ll be following in her mother’s footsteps—in more ways than one.
Mom Tracy has been a loyal volunteer for the KU Alumni Association’s Ad Astra Chapter in Topeka for years. Her involvement with the chapter has helped KU recruitment efforts, supported university advocacy efforts during KU Day in the Capitol and helped bring talented KU musicians and other programs to alumni in the Topeka area.
This week, Tracy’s daughter Addison was named the recipient of the Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award, which recognizes a graduating senior whose campus involvement as a student benefits fellow students and the greater good. The announcement recognized her Jayhawk lineage—she’s the daughter of two KU alumni—and included just a few of her activities on campus. Ready for this?
Since she was destined to be a future Jayhawk from a young age, Addison jumped right in, getting involved as a resident assistant for GSP and Corbin before becoming an orientation assistant and a research assistant for the Performance Management Laboratory. She also helped found the Applied Behavior Science Undergraduate Student Organization and served as president of Peer Leadership Consultants. As a result of her stellar career at KU, she was named a finalist in the fall for the 2013 ExCEL award, recognizing excellence in community, education and leadership among KU students. She will graduate this weekend with a degree in applied behavior science and a minor in leadership studies.
Clearly, KU involvement runs in the family, and we can think of no greater legacy for a Jayhawk to leave.
Commencement weekend is kind of a big deal. After four (-plus?) years, maybe it was your turn to walk down the Hill. Perhaps your child donned a sparkly “Hi, Mom!” mortarboard and tearfully bid adieu to campus. Or maybe you just get a thrill being a part of the action. But we doubt anyone had more reason to be excited this year than the Cappo family: Overland Park alumni Bruce and Mary Ann Cappo had not one, not two, but three children graduate at KU’s 141st-annual Commencement on Sunday.
The Cappo family: Bruce, Emily, David, Mary Ann and Michael
Their oldest, Michael, who earned his undergraduate degree at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., on Sunday took home a KU law degree. David, who turned 24 on Sunday, spent the last two years in Europe studying and interning in Germany and France and received a master’s of architecture degree. And Emily, 22, majored in unified early childhood education and graduated with an education degree.
Mom attended KU for a summer and Dad has walked the Hill twice, for his undergraduate and graduate degrees.
It’s safe to say these Jayhawks celebrated in true blue fashion–times three.