Posted on Apr 23, 2015 in Alumni News and News
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.”