(Left to right: Judy Bowser, Rita Matousek Ashley and Durinda Ashley)
Walking through the Campanile, down the Hill and into Memorial Stadium at Commencement is one of KU’s greatest traditions, and the Class of 2020 had to postpone the special day. This year’s senior class shares the missed experience with the Class of 1970, which was forced to have Commencement in Allen Fieldhouse due to heavy rainfall.
In an unfortunate twist of timing, 2020 marks the Class of 1970’s year to enter the Gold Medal Club, which normally means an on-campus reunion to celebrate alumni’s 50-year anniversary. Plans for the special weekend included a walk down the Hill with the Class of 2020.
Rita Matousek Ashley, f’70, g’72, g’84, was one of the many graduates of that class who had made plans to be in Lawrence for Commencement. Instead, she and her friend Judy Bowser, d’69, decided to visit Lawrence a couple days after the original scheduled date for a simple hike around campus.
“The fact that the Class of 1970 did not get to walk down the Hill has always been a disappointment for me,” Ashley says. “I watched my husband and both of my sons walk down the Hill. I was thrilled when the 1970 class was invited to walk with the 2020 class. When that plan did not materialize I shared with friends that I was going to do the walk myself ‘just because.’”
Bowser had other ideas to make their trip special. She secretly invited their friend Durinda Ashley, d’71, and surprised Ashley with a cap and gown at the Campanile to give her friend a Commencement experience that was 50 years and three degrees overdue.
“The combination of the surprise, the perfect weather, the remnants of confetti and champagne corks at the Campanile and the walk three times made it a memorable day,” Ashley says.
Ashley’s KU experience was a unique one, as the first-generation college student came back two more times for a graduate degree in German Education and an MBA from the Edwards campus.
“The whole KU experience was memorable for me,” she says. “Ultimately, [my favorite memory] always comes back to the Rock Chalk chant. The chant is a unifying force for KU grads. The chant reminds me of the great people I got to know at KU. Those people then remind me of the valuable experiences I had at every level at KU and continue to have as a result of the experiences I shared at the University.”
When the Alumni Association’s Gold Medal Club gathered April 11 at the Adams Alumni Center for the annual reunion of alumni who have passed their 50-year class anniversaries, participants witnessed a most unexpected site: Warren Corman at a loss for words.
Corman, e’50, was asked by Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, the Association’s vice president for alumni programs, to step forward and be recognized—not for his work as a Gold Medal Club counselor, but to accept a Mildred Clodfelter Alumni Award, which recognizes Jayhawks who have demonstrated years of dedicated service as KU ambassadors in their local communities.
Though the “Millies”—which honor the memory of the late Association stalwart Millie Clodfelter, b’41, whose service to KU spanned 47 years—had been announced last fall, Corman did not know he would receive his recognition at the Gold Medal Club reunion.
“It was kind of a surprise,” Corman says. “I didn’t know what to say, but it was fun.”
Fun, it turns out, is a key element to Corman’s legendary good humor and easy-going manner. He served as University architect from 1996 to 2010, and before being hired at KU by Chancellor Robert E. Hemenway, Corman spent 31 years as staff architect and director of facilities for the Kansas Board of Regents.
He was a combat veteran as a U.S. Navy Seabee at the Battle of Okinawa, and shortly after enrolling at KU Corman used the engineering experience he gained in the Navy to land part-time work with the state architect, Charles Marshall, who had been a friend of Corman’s late father, architect Emmett Corman, a’25.
“In 1947, on the first day on the job, Charlie called me in,” Corman recalls. “We were drafting on something, I forget what it was, but he said, ‘Warren, are you having fun?’ I wasn’t sure how to answer that. Should I be having fun or not having fun? If you’re having too much fun, maybe you’re not taking your job seriously. I didn’t know what to say.
“I said, ‘Well, Charlie, I’ve only been here a few hours.’ He said, ‘Well, Warren, I want you to remember this: If you’re not having fun in your job every day, you’re probably in the wrong job.’ I’ve never forgotten that. Every day I think about that. That’s why I’m 88 and I’m still working and having fun.”
A 2011 Kansas Alumni magazine cover story about Corman’s retirement as University architect speculated the Corman would never fully embrace a life of leisure in his retirement. Indeed, in May 2012, Stuart Bell, then dean of the School of Engineering, hired Corman as a part-time consultant to help the school navigate its ongoing construction and engineering projects. Michael Branicky, who replaced the departed Bell in 2013, retained Corman’s services.
“I’m adviser to the dean for all the engineering projects,” Corman says. “And it’s been fun.”
Each year, alumni gather to celebrate their 50-year anniversary of graduation from the university.
Members of the Class of 1963 flocked to the Hill this weekend for reunion events including golf at the Lawrence Country Club, a tour of the Spencer Museum of Art, presentations and bus tours of campus. The reunion’s kickoff lunch featured a panel of KU students, including the 2012-13 student body president, Hannah Bolton, and leaders from the Student Alumni Leadership Board.
Class members were presented with their gold pin commemorating 50 years as a graduate during a ceremony in the ballroom on Friday night.
On Saturday, members of the Gold Medal Club met for their annual luncheon. The Gold Medal Club was founded in 1949, and each year in April the club hosts a Gold Medal Club pinning luncheon to elect the slate of new officers and recognize class members who have not yet received their gold pin.
Reunion attendees also enjoyed a presentation of “There’s No Place Like Home,” the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about the purchase of Naismith’s rules.
Click here to see photos from the Class of 1963 reunion, and click here for photos from the Gold Medal Club reunion. Or, watch the slideshow below.