A Gardner family is giving a KU twist to the classic tradition of taking their child’s picture before each first day of school.
Shirly Kleiner, g’89, wanted to remember her grandson’s growth with an eye on his future: continuing the family tradition of attending the University of Kansas. So every first day, Brecken will slide on, and maybe someday squeeze on, the adult medium KU shirt for a picture.
“I loved the DNA theme for KU being in our family’s blood,” Shirly said. She’s not exaggerating: Shirly, Brecken’s father Travis, f’05, and Brecken’s older brother Thomas Wilkinson, a freshman studying mechanical engineering, all share KU as their school.
Brecken is 3 years old and is aiming to arrive on campus in fall 2032. We hope to see you then, Brecken!
The photo on the left is from Brecken’s first day of pre-pre-school in 2016, and the photo on the right is this year’s first-day picture.
Justin Law is the first to admit that his spouse is much better at compromising than he is—especially when it comes to watching college sports. But he’s no stranger to compromise either.
Justin, b’99, g’04, a diehard Jayhawk, lives in Manhattan with his wife, Kelly, a K-State graduate. They met in Kansas City in 2004, thanks to a friend who played matchmaker. An engagement soon followed, and the young couple decided to ditch the big city and move to a smaller town.
“Manhattan wasn’t necessarily on the list at the time,” Justin recalls wryly.
That changed when Kelly accepted a job at the K-State Alumni Association. The Laws have been in the Little Apple ever since.
Despite the fact that Justin bleeds crimson and blue, and Kelly’s pride is purple, the two make it work. “She’s come to KU basketball games with me but not against K-State,” says Justin. “I’ve been to K-State football games when they’re not playing KU. I’m a little more competitive and more interested in the outcome of sporting events, especially against K-State—especially living in Manhattan.”
Kelly, who now works at USI Insurance Services and counts the KU Alumni Association as one of her clients, has softened her stance against her intrastate rival. “I will willingly go to KU games when they’re not playing K-State, and I’ll cheer for KU,” she says. “But I typically wear pretty neutral colors.”
Justin gets a little support from their daughter, Kherington, who’s almost 7. The young girl, who at first favored the Wildcats over the Jayhawks, has been singing a different tune lately. The future Jayhawk, who is a big fan of Baby Jay and can easily recite KU’s alma mater, proudly sports her Jayhawk cheerleading outfit to school and willingly endures teasing from her teachers and classmates.
“She actually started out a K-State fan,” says Justin. “Around the age of 4, she switched allegiances. I’m honestly not sure how that happened. I wish I knew how, so if she started wavering I could bring her back.”
The Laws keep the family rivalry fun by placing wagers, which include dinner duty or a household chore for the losing fan, on KU vs. K-State games. “We have a lot of family bets,” says Kelly. “It’s always Kherington and Justin against me.”
Although Justin and his daughter often don’t fare well during football season, they look forward to basketball season and rely on their ’Hawks to outplay the Wildcats—if for no other reason than to dodge dinner duty. Here’s hoping they get their win.
We received this fun message from Sally Ramseyer Beck, d’77, about the Future Jayhawks program. Visit www.kualumni.org/futurejayhawks for more information or to register your future ‘Hawks. Children up to age 18 are eligible to participate, and membership makes a great gift!
I just wanted to let you know how much I love the Future Jayhawks program! I signed up my two oldest grandsons (age 2 and 3 years) when they were born, and just bought memberships for my two newest grandsons (four months and one month old). The boys are always excited when they receive something in the mail from the KU Alumni Association.
Timing couldn’t have been more perfect when Carter’s most recent gift arrived after I renewed his membership this year. His parents had just taken him to visit Santa, where he proceeded to tell Santa that all he wanted for Christmas was a teddy bear (which was totally different from what he had asked for in his letter to the North Pole, much to his mother’s dismay). When they arrived home an hour later and looked in their mailbox, they were amazed to find a Future Jayhawks teddy bear waiting for him! Carter’s comment was, “Wow, Santa sure acts quickly…I can’t believe he already got it to me!”.
Thank you so much for making this happen! Not only do we all believe in Santa, but also in all that you do at the KU Alumni Association. I love the beautiful ceramic ornaments that you have sent me each year when renewing their memberships and have them hanging on my Jayhawk Christmas tree. I will have to buy a bigger tree in the future, as I look forward to adding the whole collection as I renew Future Jayhawks memberships for each of my grandchildren (and hopefully add some more KU National Championship ornaments to the tree, too).
I am encouraging my friends and relatives to sign their grandchildren up for the Future Jayhawks program! Rock Chalk!
Bad weather may have forced us to cancel last year’s ’Hawks, Helmets and Handlebars, but this year the annual bike safety event took place on a beautiful sunshine-filled day.
Hundreds of Jayhawks flocked to the KU Cancer Center’s Westwood campus June 4, with families lining up as early as 8 a.m. for their chance to receive a free bicycle helmet or, in some cases, a donated bicycle. The Greater Kansas City Network, along with Healthy Hawks, held two bicycle donation drives earlier this spring to collect bikes, tricycles and other outdoor play equipment to help families live healthier lifestyles. “We had a great group attend this year’s event, and we helped provide 60 kiddos with new-to-them bikes,” according to Betsy Winetroub, director of Kansas City programs.
’Hawks, Helmets and Handlebars featured a bike safety obstacle course, a meet and greet with the Johnson County Consolidated Fire Department #2, a live radio remote by 99.7 The Point, and of course an appearance by everyone’s favorite mascot, Baby Jay. The first 150 kids also received a complimentary bike helmet, and all participants received a special certificate signed by Baby Jay.
“It was amazing to see the kids excited to get their ‘new’ bikes,” said Jessica Nelson, community awareness chair for the alumni network. “Everyone loved the bike safety course, climbing on the fire truck, and meeting Baby Jay.”
Rock Chalk Revue brings together a variety of students, and sometimes, sparks fly.
Tim, f’00, and Gina McCabe, b’02 are living examples of this. Tim met Gina 16 years ago at a Rock Chalk Revue practice. Gina was a lead actress, and Tim was a lead actor. The rest was history. Tim and Gina were married on June 19, 2004 in Kansas City.
Sixteen years later, two children and one on the way, Tim and Gina have enjoyed their lives as new parents. That’s why Tim put his creative noggin’ to artistic use to create an anniversary video so that his kids will come to learn the story of how their parents met.
We caught up with Tim about his video in this Q&A:
What kind of skills went into the creation of this video?
Well I’ve learned that the art of storytelling is most important. I knew my family would always enjoy being able to watch the story of how Gina and I met at KU. From there it was a matter of painting, drawing, and animating a fun take on our first years together.
How did your children react to the video?
My daughter likes the KU scenes, and the funnier parts like when Dad drives the wrong way to the hospital when Mom is in labor. My son especially likes the scene where he shows up at the end. We are excited to welcome a new baby boy in May, so I suppose I’d better get back to the drawing board with a few additional scenes.
Do you and your family have any lasting connections with Rock Chalk Revue?
Aside from our own marriage, we have lots of lasting friendships from Rock Chalk Revue. A few Architecture friends and I worked hard on the sets for our shows when we were in college. I got to dabble in welding and carpentry… skills I now utilize more as a homeowner than as a digital artist.
Have you gained any attention for the video?
Actually, I made the video two years ago for our anniversary and shared it on Facebook. Recently a friend asked if he could feature it in a series he was doing for his congregation at Heartland Community Church in Olathe. It has helped resurface the video again, and now I’m excited that people are seeing it in time for the next Rock Chalk Review.
What have you been up to after leaving the University?
I am a senior artist at CardFool.com, where you can personalize and send funny greeting cards. You can add your own photo to a birthday card from your computer or social media accounts, and the card then gets printed and sent to your recipient. (Oh… and the postage is free!)
How did your KU experience prepare you for your career?
I’ve been able to utilize all of the skills I learned at KU in my career. Every time you work on a new project, you enter in to the creative process which is what a Fine Arts Degree prepares you for. However, some of my favorite classes were outside of the Art Department, because I have a wide variety of interests.
How would you describe your experience at KU — favorite memories?
I believe there was a real purpose for why I went to KU. I met my wife, made lifelong friends, and got a great sense of family there. Lawrence will always have a special place in our hearts.
Jayhawks looking for last minute Valentine’s Day cards might spot a familiar family.
Jeff and Heather Hawkins are featured in seasonal banners at Hallmark retail locations this year. We introduced alumni to Heather, j’06, g’12, who works for the Association as executive assistant to the president and coordinator of donor relations, and her husband, Jeff, c’06, a former KU basketball player, on our blog in 2014.
The Hawkins family’s modeling career all started with a KU connection. Shannon Presti, a former KU basketball manager and friend of Jeff’s, encouraged the couple to pursue modeling opportunities for their two future Jayhawks, Mavrick and Sienna. Presti, c’05, connected them with Rachel Imdieke, a photographer and fellow Jayhawk, who introduced them to Voices& Talent Agency in Kansas City. The agency signed the family, and the rest is history.
As Jeff tells tells it, “We really feel like the Jayhawk connections made this possible for our family. Without the guidance of Shannon and Rachel, we never would have landed with Voices& and then Hallmark.”
We asked Heather about their experience modeling as a picture-perfect family in this sweet Q&A just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Tell us how you were selected for the Hallmark ad/promotion.
We’ve had a handful of other modeling jobs since our family was signed. Our agent at Voices& submitted us for the Valentine’s Day promotion, and we were really blessed to be selected for the shoot. It was such a fun day, and we were thrilled when we found out they were using the picture of the three of us for the campaign. The people we worked with for Hallmark have been top notch! They were so kind to us and since we were newbies, they really helped us through the process.
So what’s it really like being a model?
Oh my goodness, it’s fun! I am absolutely certain that when I hit the lotto someday I’m going to pay someone to do my hair and makeup. It’s been so eye-opening to see the creative process and how many people work so hard to make those shoots go. It’s such a team effort!
Have you had any “superstar” moments where people recognize you from the photos?
It’s been fun to get pictures from friends and family all over the Midwest standing by the banners. My aunt actually went into a store and asked the manager if she could have the banner when Valentine’s Day was over. She’s been collecting them up all over town.
What did Sienna think of the experience?
That girl was absolutely hooked from the moment we walked in. She’s absolutely a girlie-girl and loved having them put her in different outfits and play with her hair. Her favorite part was without a doubt jumping on the bed. She seems to think she now has the clearance to jump on any bed she wants, whenever she wants!
“Dad, I am going to KU when I go to college!” this young Future Jayhawk told his father.
Dad shared more of the morning conversation with us:
“He was so cute this morning, he already had his school binder decorated with the Jayhawk stickers and the button, and he wanted to know where his Baby Jay birthday card was. As you can see, it is now part of the Jayhawk decorations on his school binder.”
Members of the Future Jayhawks program receive age-appropriate gifts each year when they join, along with a special birthday card and gift and other activities, announcements and surprise gifts throughout the year. A popular perk of membership is participating in the annual Summer Reading Challenge, where Future Jayhawks are encouraged to read 31 books or 31 hours in 31 days during the month of July.
We suspect this youngster will have a lot more fun studying for his classes with his stylish Jayhawk binder in tow!
While school might be far from the minds of most children during summer, the youngest members of the KU Alumni Association—our Future Jayhawks—didn’t mind cracking the books and participating in the Association’s Summer Reading Challenge.
The program, in its third year, encourages students of all ages to spend a few minutes each day reading. Participants are encouraged to read either 31 books or 31 hours throughout the month of July. Even babies can get in on the action—we’ll count books that are read to them.
Last year’s efforts topped the inaugural year of the program, and this year’s numbers tallied even higher:
198 Future Jayhawks completed the Summer Reading Challenge
Future Jayhawks read a total of 4,960 books in July
Older children ages 8-18 read 1,178 hours in July
We’re thrilled to hear that Future Jayhawks spent some quality time with books during their summer vacation! Those who completed the challenge received a special gift in the mail.
If your Future Jayhawk completed the summer reading challenge, don’t forget to send in their sheet! To sign up your kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews for the program so they can participate in future activities like this, visit www.kualumni.org/futurejayhawks.
David Andersen’s daughter, Kristen Stokes, scored big points with her dad on his recent birthday by creating a gift that incorporated subjects near and dear to his heart: his alma mater and two of his three granddaughters.
During his KU years, Andersen, j’71, regularly drove from his Wichita home to Lawrence in his stylish Austin Healey. To declare his allegiance—and stow belongings that wouldn’t fit in the car’s tiny hatch—he adorned a trunk with Jayhawks and strapped it on top.
Kristen discovered the relic in her dad’s basement and hit on the perfect birthday gift: She restored the trunk, dressed her 16-month-old twins, Charlotte and Maggie, in crimson and blue, and took some priceless photos that her dad, a Life Member, happily shared with the Alumni Association.
Charlotte, left in the photo, and Maggie were born in the same minute, Granddad boasts, but the rank of eldest granddaughter belongs to 17-month-old Olivia Fleury, whose mother, Elizabeth, is Anderson’s other daughter. “We effectively have triplets,” Andersen says. “From zero to three, just like that!”
Though Kristen graduated from the University of Georgia and Elizabeth from Auburn, their dad has high hopes for Charlotte, Maggie and Olivia. We suspect their Rock Chalk wardrobes will continue to grow through the years.
—Jennifer Jackson Sanner
Although it’s spring and thoughts of winter and Santa are far from our minds, we couldn’t resist sharing another photo provided by Andersen: last December’s shot of his three granddaughters on Santa’s lap.
Whether it was in the midst of Budig 320 or over a crunchy chicken cheddar wrap at the Market, hanging out on Wescoe Beach or at a network watch party years later, countless Jayhawks owe their marriage to their time on the Hill. We’re sharing some of our favorite stories this week in anticipation of Valentine’s Day on Saturday, Feb. 14.
Ashley (Schlotzhauer) Thornton, d’07, and Justin (JT) Thornton, c’10.
Ashley, advertising manager for Kansas Athletics and a former KU cheerleader, shared the story of how walking down the Hill led to walking down the aisle.
How did we meet? Well it’s true…we met at a bar, Johnny’s Tavern North. We even held our wedding rehearsal dinner upstairs!
When we first met, Justin (JT) was a red-shirt freshman on the Kansas football team. I was in my senior year and was a KU cheerleader—yes, everyone teases us about the football player/cheerleader combo! We dated for what seemed like forever since I was four years older and all my friends were either getting engaged or married. After five years of dating, JT proposed to me at his graduation party, shortly after walking down Campanile Hill. Both of our families were there and I was 100% shocked!
We were married on March 4, 2011, which is the late Dr. Bob Frederick’s birthday. He was a dear friend and my professor at KU while I studied Health and Sport Management. Dr. Frederick was a former athletic director at KU.
We’ve been married four years in March and have two little Future Jayhawks: Isaiah, who just turned 3, and Ellis, who is 16 months old. Justin is the general manager for Centerplate, a food and beverage service that is currently the concessionaire for Kansas Athletics, and I work for Kansas Athletics in the marketing department.