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.
One of the most treasured traditions at the University of Kansas takes place every spring, when thousands of graduating students walk through the Campanile and down the Hill for Commencement.
Brian Palermo, a KU Admissions representative based in St. Louis, never got to experience that moment. Shortly after graduating in December 2012, he accepted a job at a mental health facility for children in Oklahoma City. Knowing it would be difficult to take time off in May for the ceremony, he let the opportunity slip by.
Earlier this year, Palermo, c’13, shared with his supervisor, Elisa Zahn Krapcha, c’05, j’05, g’11, that he never participated in Commencement. She mentioned that the Admissions team should stage a small ceremony for him.
“I kind of knew we might do a little something, but I didn’t expect too much,” Palermo says.
Krapcha and Heidi Simon, g’00, senior associate director of Admissions, had a surprise in store. On May 8, they summoned nearly 20 team members to the Campanile, where Palermo was given a traditional cap and gown, as well as party beads and a crimson and blue lei.
“As I’m getting ready to walk through the Campanile, Heidi hands me a bottle of sparkling cider,” he recalls. “I got so focused on trying to open it, because people were shouting ‘Pop it, pop it!’ I was looking down at it and still walking when I heard someone say ‘Whoa, whoa! Hold on a moment.’”
When Palermo looked up, he saw Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little standing in front of him. “I was just floored,” he says. “I couldn’t believe she was there.”
The chancellor congratulated Palermo and delivered remarks, reminding him of KU’s noble mission: to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world.
“I challenged the graduates at the 2012 Commencement to continue to do all of these things after they walked down the Hill,” Gray-Little told him. “You’ve done these things even without being there to hear my call.”
As Palermo wraps up his first year as a KU Admissions representative, he’s more determined than ever to continue serving the University, thanks to the kindness and support of his team and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
“It was just a really special moment that I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” he says.
When Bill French ran for president during his junior year at KU, he pledged that the Class of 1977 would bestow a gift upon the University. “At that time, I had no idea what the gift was going to be or what kind of money we had,” he says with a laugh. “It was one of those platform promises you make and then you hope you’ll have some money to give a gift the size of a bouquet of flowers.”
Turns out, the Class of 1977 had more in its budget than expected. With the help of the other class officers and Jeff Millikan, gift chairman, French identified $1,000 that could be used toward a University gift. “We knew that the KU Athletics Hall of Fame was just getting started,” he says. “I suggested we look at a major assist for it.”
French, j’77, and Millikan, c’77, g’80, met with KU’s Athletic Director Clyde Walker to discuss a gift that would help the newly established hall of fame. “At that time, they just had some posters up,” French recalls. “I said, ‘We’ve only got $1,000, but I’ll get the right media involved with this. We’ll have a picture, we’ll run a story, we’ll have a big check made.’”
French put out the word, and several area newspapers picked up the story, including the Kansas City Star, the Lawrence Journal-World and the Wichita Eagle.
“Clyde Walker later told me that the Class of 1977’s gift and associated news stories really helped the KU Athletic Hall of Fame with their fundraising efforts,” says French.
The Hall of Fame has expanded over the years, and in 2006, the Booth Family Hall of Athletics opened on the east side of Allen Field House, thanks to more than $5 million in gifts from the children and grandchildren of the late Gilbert and Betty Booth. Following an expansion in 2009, the sprawling, 19,335-square-foot sports shrine now features interactive exhibits and a basketball championship trophy case—not to mention a plaque that recognizes the Class of 1977 for its generous gift 40 years ago.
“It’s really grown into a big deal,” says French. “I’m very glad that our class was able to be a part of kicking it off.”
Image courtesy Bill French. Pictured from left to right: Stephan Van Kepple, Dorothy Schloerb, Chancellor Archie Dykes, Clyde Walker, Randy Brown, Bill French, Jeff Millikan, Marianne Maurin, Carol Smith and Fred Knuth
Sunny skies and soaring temps made for a near-perfect day as about 300 graduating students dropped by the Adams Alumni Center May 5 for Grad Grill. The annual event was presented by the Alumni Association and HERE Kansas, a new apartment community on the Lawrence campus.
Students mingled with friends throughout the evening and enjoyed free food and fresh brews, courtesy of Hy-Vee and Free State Brewing Company. The KU Bookstore and Kansas Athletics were also on hand with coupons, gift-card giveaways, and free posters, koozies, license-plate frames and sunglasses. Local DJ Scott Simpson kept things lively with the latest pop tunes and students took turns capturing not-so-candid moments in the photo booth.
Scott Bagley, a senior from Overland Park, stopped by to grab some food and socialize before diving into finals preparation. “A few good friends from high school are going to be here,” he said. “I’m hoping to see them.”
Yee Ming Khaw and Puteri Ahmad, seniors from Malaysia, and Katie Morales, a senior from Emporia, hit Grad Grill before going out for more Stop Day celebrations. “It’s Friday night,” said Ahmad. “It’s one of the last Friday nights before Commencement.”
More than 100 faculty, staff, students and guests attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony March 9 at the newly named Lt. Gen. William K. Jones Military-Affiliated Student Center at the University of Kansas.
The nearly 3,000-square-foot center, located in Summerfield Hall, honors Jones, c’37, a highly decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran whose 33-year military career included tours in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
“We’re honored to name the center after a distinguished KU alumnus and Marine Corps veteran who served for more than three decades,” said Director April Blackmon Strange. “This center provides us with an inviting space to better serve our growing number of military-affiliated students—from the first time they express interest in KU to Commencement and beyond.”
More than 1,100 military-affiliated students on campus have access to the center, which includes a lounge with computers and televisions; quiet spaces for tutoring and studying; meeting and conference rooms; free printing and copying services; and assistance from an onsite Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs representative.
For the past two years, the University has been named a top-10 school for veterans by the Military Times and has also been recognized by other organizations that rate schools on their military student services.
Several of Jones’ family members attended the ceremony, including his son, William K. Jones Jr., who also served in the Marine Corps; his daughter; his nephew, Jim Jones Jr., a retired Marine Corps general and the former U.S. National Security Adviser for President Barack Obama; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“We’re all really excited about this honor to my father,” said Bill Jones Jr., c’81. “He loved KU, and he loved being a Kansas Jayhawk.”
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little praised Jayhawks for their persistence in making the center a reality for military-affiliated students and noted its critical role in the University’s mission to build strong, healthy communities.
“This center represents another commitment to our veterans and military-affiliated students,” she said. “I am proud that our University recognizes and addresses the unique needs of this population of students.”
JR Cadwallader, a Marine Corps veteran and president of KU’s Student Veterans of America, noted that the organization’s new home on campus was “well worth the wait.”
“The Lt. Gen. William K Jones Military-Affiliated Center is here to leverage the unique strengths and talents we bring to the University of Kansas,” he said. “We now have a center to help us create better students, a better campus, better communities and a better nation for the next generation of successful veterans.”
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.
When Corey Goodburn arrived on Mount Oread last year for Crimson and Blue Day, he already knew he wanted to attend the University of Kansas. He became only more confident in his decision after he and his mother, Sara Dickey Goodburn, j’86, who joined Corey for the campus tour, stumbled across an image of the University’s first female graduate, Flora Richardson Colman, c1873, in a KU handbook.
“My mother pointed to the picture and said, ‘That’s your great-great-great-grandmother,’” Corey recalls. “I knew of her, have heard the stories, but being on campus and seeing her pictured in a KU publication, it really hit home. I’m so proud of my KU lineage. It’s such an honor to be a part of a family that has such deep roots to the University of Kansas.”
In addition to his mother and great-great-great-grandmother, Corey’s great-great grandmother, Nellie Colman Bigsby, c1900; his great-grandmother, Flora Nell Bigsby Dickey, c’28; and his grandfather, David Wendell Dickey, b’56, graduated from KU.
Despite his family’s proud legacy, Corey wasn’t pushed to become a sixth-generation Jayhawk. “There was no pressure from my family or friends, which was actually a huge relief,” he says. “My parents always knew I wanted to go there, and of course, they were very excited when I made the decision. I actually didn’t apply anywhere else.”
Corey credits his parents for instilling in him a lifetime love for KU, especially its sports teams, which he admits influenced his decision to become a Jayhawk. “During my early childhood and adolescence, I attended KU football and basketball games with my parents,” he says. “I watched the student section go crazy when they won and even witnessed college students taking down the goal posts and putting them in Potter Lake. That enthusiasm and spirit was something that attracted me.”
The Roeland Park freshman, who excelled in academics as student body president at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, also was attracted to KU’s UKanTeach program, which allows him to earn a degree in mathematics—and his teaching license—in four years.
Although Corey’s days as a Jayhawk are just beginning, he’s already looking ahead to another four-year milestone. “On [my mother’s] graduation day in 1986, she and my grandfather took pictures by the Jayhawk statue in front of Strong Hall,” Corey says of the landmark that his grandfather’s class gave to the University in 1956. “It’s my wish to take the same photo with my mom upon my graduation in May 2020.”
More than 50 years after his first mission as a flight navigator in the U.S. Air Force, Lt. Col. Jim Williams boarded another flight, this time as an honored guest. The 23-year veteran was one of 22 retired military servicemen selected for the Nov. 10 Honor Flight from Kansas City to Washington, D.C.—an opportunity, Williams says, “I could not have done on my own.”
The Honor Flight Network honors America’s veterans with an all-expense-paid trip to our nation’s capital to visit the war memorials. The program was conceived in 2005, and since then, more than 159,000 veterans have made the trip. Williams, b’60, applied at the urging of his niece.
“I don’t know how I got to go on this, because they have about 90 people on the waiting list,” he says. “I suspect they saw some of the diseases I’m dealing with and figured that should bump me up a little bit on the priority list. That, and maybe my age.” Williams, who is undergoing treatment for Type 2 diabetes and multiple myeloma, turns 80 in January.
Williams joined the Air Force and applied for navigator training in November 1960, just months after graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in business. “My theory was, if I was gonna have to go to war, I was gonna ride,” he recalls. “I wasn’t gonna walk.”
Williams began his career as a navigator on the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II and spent more than five years and 3,000 hours on the cargo plane, which was affectionately dubbed “Old Shaky.” From 1963 to ’72, during the Vietnam War, Williams and his crew carried out several missions over Southeast Asia in Lockheed C-141 Starlifters and AC-130 gunships.
“I flew 155 combat missions and accumulated 750 combat flying hours in the AC-130 gunship,” Williams says, recalling a yearlong deployment. “I felt very fortunate, as there were 40 men who didn’t come home when I was assigned over there. We started with 18 airplanes, and we had four airplanes shot down and several more that were shot up bad enough that they didn’t really fly again.”
Williams retired from the Air Force in 1984, but his passion for flying kept him in the air: He was a flight test engineer for the B-2 bomber project at Northrup Grumman and also worked at Hughes Aircraft Company, where he retired in 1997.
Given his long history with the Air Force, it was only fitting that Williams was one of three veterans on his Honor Flight selected to place the wreath at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. “It was emotional, as well as gratifying, to be able to do that,” he says. “It was an awesome event. To me, it was one of the highlights of the trip.”
Another highlight, Williams explains, was the warm welcome he received at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where nearly 150 military personnel were lined up to shake hands with the veterans and thank them for their service. Another reception line of schoolchildren awaited the veterans at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
“They all wanted to shake your hand, and they were on both sides of the sidewalk,” Williams says. “I wound up with my left hand out the left side and my right hand out the right side of the wheelchair as my guardian took me down the line.”
Although Williams wasn’t able to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial due to a special event, his tour included stops at the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery for the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
“It was just really an inspiring trip,” Williams says. “We had a lot of fun, shared a lot of stories. It was just a phenomenal trip.”
After graduating from KU with a degree in design and visual communications, Claire Pedersen threw her energy into finding a job. She reached out to professional designers whose work she admired and asked if they could spare a few minutes for coffee or a phone call. She struck gold when a designer at Dropbox, the software developer, was impressed by Pedersen’s portfolio and arranged an interview.
“It started out as an internship for two months,” says Pedersen, a’14, who won several awards at KU and was honored as Outstanding Graduate in Visual Communication Design at Commencement. “They liked my work and they hired me full time.”
Now, just two years out of school, Pedersen can add another accolade to her already impressive résumé: She helped lead the redesign of Dropbox’s headquarters in the heart of San Francisco’s bustling South Beach area.
Pedersen explains that Dropbox’s offices were originally housed in two separate buildings, a layout that wasn’t conducive to the pace at which the company was growing. “When I started, I think we were about 500 people, and we got all the way up to 1,300,” she says. “We were expanding into different floors and we outgrew it.” In addition, the open-office floorplan, a trend embraced by many companies in the tech industry, led to unfortunate distractions among employees.
Dropbox purchased a new five-story, 300,000-square-foot building just a few blocks away—a blank canvas, according to Pedersen. “The whole exterior of the office was finished, but the interior was completely empty,” she says. “We basically had an empty box and we filled it with whatever we wanted.”
It was a designer’s dream.
After defining the challenges Dropbox employees faced in their current workspaces and figuring out which features would improve their productivity, Pedersen and a team of more than 30 designers, builders and project managers enlisted architecture firms AvroKO and Rapt Studio to help create a floorplan that would foster a culture of community.
“There are so many different types of people at Dropbox, and there are so many different teams,” she explains. “There’s finance, engineering, design, user-experience; it just goes on and on. We wanted to create a home where we could all come together.”
Pedersen is confident they accomplished that mission. At the heart of the building is Dropbox’s “tuck shop,” a full-service cafeteria that creates chef-inspired cuisine for employees to enjoy at no charge. Other amenities, including a workout center, a library, a music room and a deep-focus space, are distributed throughout the building so employees can easily visit at least one of those spaces from their workstations.
Pedersen’s favorite space is the library, which features pink carpet, cozy lounge chairs and warm natural light, in addition to architecturally stunning archways, built-in bookshelves and a sleek, rounded wood table that runs the length of the room. A small outdoor terrace with lush greenery completes the sense of calm in the room. “We wanted to design a space that, naturally, when you walked in you will be quiet,” she says. “It’s a really inspiring space to work; people are always in there.”
Response to the revamped headquarters has been overwhelmingly positive, and employees are still raving about its perks. “We went for something a little different in this office,” Pedersen says. “There’s a lot of color and personality. If we would’ve gone toward the whole minimal, modern look, I think people would have forgotten about it. But we really tried to infuse Dropbox’s unique, quirky culture into the space. I really don’t think the excitement has worn off.”