During his deployment to Africa in 2011, Maj. Michael Hayes was tasked with distributing care packages from the National Guard’s family program director to his fellow soldiers. He was surprised, after about seven months, to receive a gift of his own: a grim-faced ceramic Jayhawk, which resembled the KU mascot introduced in 1941.
“I didn’t want to just set it on my desk,” recalls Hayes, c’08, an ROTC instructor and assistant professor of military science at KU. “I wanted to take pictures and send them back to her to say, ‘Look! I got it. Thank you!’ That’s how the pictures started.”
Inspired by Travelocity’s roaming gnome, Hayes took Jay on all of his deployments and work-related travel, capturing his crimson and blue companion riding in Chinooks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and overseeing troops at bases throughout the country and overseas.
As his collection of photos grew, Hayes started a Facebook page, “The Story of the Jayhawk,” to document their experiences.
Although the small figurine has been broken and repaired twice and now travels in the safety of a Styrofoam cooler, Jay shows no signs of retiring to a space on a shelf. Hayes even sends the mini mascot on journeys with other Army cadets and friends.
“Jay’s traveled more than I have,” Hayes says, “and I’ve jumped all over the place.”
What started as a means to pass time between NCAA tournament games turned into much more for Jarrod, f’95, g’03, and Kate Neely Williams, ’97, who this spring masterminded the construction of Alhen Field House, a wildly creative chicken coop built in the likeness of KU’s legendary basketball arena.
The Maryland transplants, who moved to Grimesland, North Carolina, last year after retiring from the U.S. Naval Academy Band, hatched a plan for the hen house while discussing permanent lodging for the family’s 15 baby chicks, which include Devonte’ GrayHen, Bawk Vaughn, Chick Collison, Scot Pullet and Greg Roostertag.
“They can’t stay in the brood house forever,” Jarrod recalls telling his wife. “Why don’t we put them in Allen Field House?”
Alhen Field House
The Williamses, who were members of the KU basketball band, relied on memory and details they found online to construct the 10-by-14-foot structure, which features the field house’s signature red roof, limestone-hued walls, abundant rows of windows and large 3-D block letters that spell out “Alhen Field House.”
“We were just going to do the outside, but we thought how plain the inside looked,” says Jarrod, who embellished the coop’s interior with hand-painted championship and final four banners, as well as a Bawk Chalk scoreboard—complete with a blowout KU win over Mizzou—and the retired jerseys of Jayhawk greats. He even recreated the antique Longines clock that hangs on Allen Field House’s west wall.
“The 172-95 score is our all-time record against Mizzou,” says Kate. “We didn’t just make it up out of thin air, or it would have been even more lopsided.”
Jarrod insists there are no ruffled feathers in his ‘hood, despite the fact that nearly everyone is a Tar Heel or Blue Devil. “I’m really making friends in my new neighborhood,” he jokes.
Nearly 500 KU alumni and friends gathered April 13 at Murfin Stables for the Alumni Association’s Jayhawk Roundup, the Wichita Network’s largest fundraising event, which was presented this year in partnership with Kansas Athletics and Williams Education Fund. The event, typically held in the fall, moved to spring this year for the first time in its 15-year history.
The theme for the festivities was “Game of Hawks,” a playful spin on the popular fantasy epic “Game of Thrones.” Bleached-white trees with crimson leaves lined the stables and centerpieces of swords and shields adorned each table, echoes of medieval times.
The event featured silent and live auctions, with top dollars going for a trip to the 2018 Champions Classic in Indianapolis, and the KU Libraries exhibit “Commemorate the Gr8s,” which celebrates the 1988 and 2008 men’s basketball national championship teams. Guests were also treated a feast of food and drink and live music from the band Annie Up, as well as a live carving of a Jayhawk from Kansaw Carvings artist Dan Besco.
Alumni Association President Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, thanked event chairs and stable owners Dave, e’75, b’75, and Janet Lusk Murfin, d’75, for hosting the Roundup and honored longtime Wichita volunteer and 2017 Wintermote Award winner Camille Nyberg, c’96, g’98, along with Mildred Clodfelter Alumni Award winners Jerry, p’69, and Lucy Burtnett, who hosted the event in 2011 and 2012.
Chancellor Doug Girod detailed the University’s recent accomplishments in Wichita, which included the debate team’s victorious run to the national championship title and the Jayhawks’ first- and second-round wins in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which brought thousands of alumni and fans to the area in March.
Several members of Kansas Athletics also attended the Roundup, including head football coach David Beaty, men’s basketball assistant coach Kurtis Townsend and Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, PhD’96, who was celebrating his birthday.
“We had more guests in attendance than we have had in years,” says Danielle Lafferty Hoover, c’07, director of donor relations and Wichita programs. “The fans love having University partners and KU guests in the stables—it’s like bringing a part of Lawrence to Wichita.”
Check out more pictures from Jayhawk Roundup! Photos may be downloaded for personal use. Photos from the Lamphouse Photo Booth Company can be viewed here.
Heather Biele’s feature story in Kansas Alumni magazine, issue No. 2, 2018, describes how the center came to be.
Turmoil on campus
In September 2014, the Huffington Post detailed the story of an anonymous KU student who accused the University, Lawrence police and the local district attorney of failing to properly respond after she reported her sexual assault.
Within days, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little assembled a task force to examine how the University prevents and responds to sexual assault.
As the 2015 spring semester came to a close, task force delivered a report to the chancellor with 27 recommendations for improvement. She approved 22 of them. One of the recommendations was the creation of a sexual assault prevention and education center.
Jennifer Brockman arrived on Mount Oread in Jaunary 2016 as the first director of SAPEC, and she embraced the significant task ahead of her. She has spent her career providing support for those affected by sexual and domestic violence. Today, she leads a staff that includes two full-time prevention educators.
This spring, SAPEC moved into a stunning new space in a coveted location—the recently completed Burge Union in the booming Central District.
The KU Alumni Association and KU Endowment welcomed more than 100 veterans, alumni, students and military family members March 13 for a donor appreciation event at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City.
Jayhawks gathered on the Paul Sunderland Glass Bridge, a stunning structure suspended over a field of 9,000 poppies, symbolic of the 9 million who perished in the war, before touring the museum and the Wylie Gallery, which currently features John Singer Sargent’s powerful masterpiece, “Gassed,” as part of a limited centennial exhibition.
University leaders attend
Several University leaders participated in the event, including Chancellor Douglas Girod, a former Naval surgeon; Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Reggie Robinson, c’80, l’87, who served in the Army; and retired Marine Corps. Col. Mike Denning, c’83, director of KU’s graduate military program and president of the Veterans Alumni Network.
Before delivering opening remarks, Denning playfully teased the crowd. “I have to admit,” he joked. “I think the Marines are probably outnumbering everybody else about five to one.”
Though Marines may have dominated the event in attendance, representatives from each branch of service turned out, including retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mike Flowers, c’77, an Alumni Association board member, and Col. Bob Ulin, g’79. Both men serve on the advisory board for the Veterans Alumni Network.
This year, KU was named the No. 5 school for veterans by the Military Times, up five spots from its top-10 ranking in 2016 and 2017. The Veterans Alumni Network has been instrumental in strengthening several resources for military students and veterans, including the Wounded Warriors Scholarship Fund, which since 2012 has provided $200,000 to military service members, veterans, primary caregivers and surviving spouses or children who want to attend KU.
“The scholarship offered me a chance to actually be a student for the first time,” said Leach, a first-generation student. “It gave me access to advisers, mentors and the opportunity to network with other veterans who had the same experiences I did while I was in the military. I’m very thankful for that.”
“As soon as you walk in there, it’s like you’re back in the service,” said JR Cadwallader, b’18, a Marine Corps veteran and past president of KU’s Student Veterans of America. “It’s like you’re at home with some of your greatest friends again.”
Chancellor Girod applauded Jayhawks for their generosity and commitment to funding programs like the Wounded Warrior Scholarship and the military-affiliated student center, emphasizing how critical these services are to military students and their families.
“You heard the students talk about how [the center] has become a core site and a home for our students—a very comforting home,” he said. “But more important, a lot of services take place in that center.”
Jeff Larkin, c’06, a Lawrence dentist who served in the Air Force, attended the event with his wife and daughter. He was pleased to learn his alma mater had established itself nationally as a top-ranking institution for military students and veterans.
Jim Doepke, aka “Mr. Trumpet,” returned to Allen Field House Feb. 3 to play the alma mater and national anthem before the KU-Oklahoma State men’s basketball game. It’s Doepke’s sixth time performing before the Jayhawk faithful, but he insists it never gets old—especially when his return coincides with the anniversaries of the 1988 and 2008 NCAA National Championship teams and the basketball program’s 120th anniversary.
“That just adds to the excitement,” says Doepke. “It’s just so cool to be part of that.”
Doepke, d’74, a retired high school band director who lives Florida, arrived in Lawrence on Friday with his son, J.P. Their first stop was Allen Field House, where father and son toured the exhibits and interactive displays in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. “I’ve never really had time to do that,” Doepke says. “We really enjoyed it.”
Later, with trumpet in hand, Doepke visited the Adams Alumni Center, where he surprised staff with a special performance of the alma mater.
Doepke, who has set a goal to play the national anthem at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums, is scheduled to perform Aug. 2 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and Aug. 4 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, which will raise his ballpark tally to 19.
Their gifts were years in the making. Nichole Jeter Wheeler, b’98, and her husband, Jon, c’96, first discussed getting Jayhawk license plates five years ago when they moved to Montgomery, Texas, a suburb just north of Houston.
“We talked about it off and on,” Nichole says. “But we hadn’t talked about it in a couple years.”
The Wheelers were in for the ultimate surprise this past Christmas, when they decided for the first time in years to exchange gifts. A few months before the holiday Nichole ordered her husband a “KU HAWK” plate. She soon discovered, after reviewing their credit card statement a month later, that he had purchased a “LOVE KU” plate for her.
“It was just kind of funny,” says Nichole. “The one year that we actually decided to exchange gifts, we got each other KU vanity plates.”
Kansas City-area alumni and current KU students gathered Oct. 18 at the WeWork shared-office space in downtown Kansas City for a networking event and panel discussion with three of the city’s top entrepreneurs.
The panelists included Chase McAnulty, assoc., founder and CEO of vintage T-shirt company Charlie Hustle; Paul Francis, a’80, founder and CEO of OYO Fitness; and Hillary Philgreen, g’97, chief operating officer of Hantover Inc. and ARY Brands Inc and founder and creator of StinkBOSS. The discussion was moderated by Tyler Enders, b’11, owner of Made in KC and partner in five other retail concepts in the Kansas City area.
“These sorts of panel discussions and industry connections are a big focus for the Alumni Association right now,” Peterson said, explaining that the Association plans to launch a new career initiative, the Jayhawk Career Network, in 2018. “Programs like this in major metro markets across the country are part of that plan.”
What worked and what didn’t
Throughout the evening, the panelists answered a series of questions from Enders, as well as from several participants in the crowd, about their processes for product development and marketing, including how they secured funding, who they enlisted for help, how their prototypes were built and, ultimately, what worked for them and what didn’t.
Philgreen, a mother of two teenage boys who inspired the creation of StinkBOSS, a machine designed to dry, sanitize and deodorize shoes and athletic gear, relied on her extensive business background and made connections with other industry professionals, which proved invaluable to launching her product. She reminded participants that Kansas City offers a wealth of resources and networking opportunities for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
“You need help, there are people in this city that will help you,” she said. “You just need the concept and you just need to step forward and try.”
“Reverse engineer” what’s already been done
Francis and McAnulty used the popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to help fund their concepts, and they stressed the importance of having a captivating, informative video for product campaigns. Both entrepreneurs recruited local business-savvy professionals to help create their videos.
“You don’t have to do anything new,” said Francis, who patented SpiraFlex, the exercise technology that powered strength-training equipment for NASA, and also developed the Bowflex Revolution. He watched several other campaign videos before creating one for his latest product, the DoubleFlex portable gym. “You just have to reverse engineer what’s already been done, then just improve upon it.”
McAnulty, whose passion for vintage tees and textile design inspired him to launch Charlie Hustle in 2012, reminded participants that the most important lesson in starting a new business or launching a new product is to keep trying. His brand’s most popular tee and signature piece, the KC Heart design, wasn’t even on the initial roster of T-shirts when Charlie Hustle first launched.
“You learn from everything,” he said. “You learn from your mistakes, you learn from your little successes. Try to expand and grow on those. We failed on a lot of different products. Just keep going, do it.”
Watch our video below to hear from the panelists. Pictures from the event are available on our Flickr page and may be downloaded for personal use.
University of Kansas alumna and stand-up comedian Nikki Glaser returned to Lawrence June 29 for a sold-out performance at the Lawrence Arts Center, where she churned out her classically irreverent yet relatable comedy for a crowd that included her family, friends—and even one of her KU professors.
“Guys, I’m so happy to be back here,” she told the audience. “I haven’t been back since 2008.”
Since last setting foot in Lawrence, Glaser has toured nationwide, hosted her own television series, “Not Safe with Nikki Glaser,” which premiered on Comedy Central in 2016, and appeared in several movies, including director Judd Apatow’s “Trainwreck” in 2015.
Glaser, c’06, who recalls being wildly inappropriate even as a young girl, says she caught the comedy bug her freshman year in college. “I did my first time on stage in Boulder, and my friend held up the phone so my dad could listen on speakerphone,” she says. “I probably bombed, but I had so much fun that I got off stage and called my dad crying, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’”
Still, her parents encouraged her to complete her degree. She reluctantly complied, admitting that she preferred trips to Kansas City for stand-up shows over studying for class. “I really b.s.-ed my way through everything,” she says. “I remember sitting in a study area and just writing jokes. I wrote jokes while people were studying for finals.”
Glaser got her big break during her senior year at KU, when she traveled to Chicago with 10 other performers to try out for the NBC reality show “Last Comic Standing.” The judges were easily won over by the young comedian’s quick wit and uncensored jokes.
“They loved it,” she says. “That was the moment I thought, ‘There’s something here.’”
Glaser has continued to rely on what she calls “dumb confidence” throughout her career, powering past rejection and doubt to make her mark in the comedy world. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have unwavering support and encouragement from her biggest fans—her family.
“They’re so supportive it’s almost a problem,” she says with a laugh. “I have thrown them under the bus so many times in my acts, and they’ve always been so cool and supportive.”
Frank Mason III got a warm welcome last weekend from family, friends and fans in his hometown of Petersburg, Virginia, during a series of festivities that celebrated the KU basketball star and national player of the year.
Petersburg Mayor Samuel Parham on Friday declared May 19 “Frank Leo Mason III Day” and issued a proclamation of Mason’s achievements before presenting him a key to the city. KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend, who discovered Mason in 2012 during a Las Vegas recruiting trip, and nearly 30 Richmond Jayhawks attended the celebration.
“Frank Mason III is beloved by fans for providing us four great years and helping our team reach the important 13-straight milestone,” says Kimberly Gulley Winn, l’95, g’03, executive director of Virginia Municipal League, who spoke at the event. “We were honored to be a part of the events highlighting the amazing career of this terrific young man, and we are looking forward to following his NBA career.”
On Saturday, locals packed William Lawson Gymnasium at Petersburg High School, where Mason attended and played, for an alumni basketball game. Mason’s No. 15 jersey was retired during a halftime ceremony.
“I just want to appreciate everybody that came out,” Mason, c’17, told the crowd. “I thank my family, friends, everybody that I love. Besides those people, I do it for Petersburg.”
Later that day, Mason threw out the first pitch at a Flying Squirrels minor-league baseball game in Richmond, Virginia.