When she arrived at KU from Fort Worth, Texas, Chelsea Demars Young immediately joined the Marching Jayhawks—a natural fit for a clarinetist on a music scholarship. After switching majors from music therapy to architectural studies, she left the marching band but stayed with Wind Ensemble, spent two years as an residential adviser in Corbin Hall and, as a junior and senior, performed as Baby Jay.
“Campus life was an opportunity to try new things,” says Chelsea, a’05, who designs pedestrian and bike lanes, among other alternative transportation solutions, for a small engineering firm in Houston. “The exposure to new people, new activities and organizations was insane. That could be overwhelming for some people, but there wasn’t anyone saying, ‘You’re going to fail.’ It was more like, ‘Try it. If you like it, keep doing it.’”
Shrinking a large campus down to relatable size by staying active outside of class was a strategy both Young and her husband, Bryan, b’06, carried with them when in 2008 they moved to Houston. Shortly after arriving in the country’s fourth most-populous city, the Youngs made the effort to attend a Houston Network watch party, where they knew no one.
That wasn’t the case for long.
“There is a really cool group of alumni here, and it helped Houston feel like home immediately,” says Bryan, who sells oil and gas equipment for Siemens. “Our best friends that we’ve made down here, a lot of them, are KU people we did not know while we were at school. It really has made this large community very easy to navigate because you have these people who you identify with immediately, and you can build on that.”
Faithful annual Alumni Association members since their post-graduation complimentary memberships expired, the Youngs in 2012 became Life Joint members, and in 2017 took another step in their active and ongoing participation in the life of their alma mater and Alumni Association and joined the Presidents Club.
Even while raising daughters Madeline, 5, and Nora, 2, and funding ongoing repairs to their southwest Houston home, flooded in 2017 by Hurricane Harvey, the Youngs say they are eager to find ways to do even more—and they encourage other 30-something couples to consider doing the same.
“When we come back to campus,” Bryan says, “we immediately feel connected, that we’re part of the University, more than just that, ‘Hey, we’re here on campus’ kind of thing. We can go back and be proud of our relationship with the Alumni Association and we can be proud of what we’ve been part of in Houston. That means something to us.
“I think it’s maybe hard to get some people excited about that, and I know that everybody has busy lives, but for us, the first step was simple: We care about the University, and we care about how it changed and shaped our lives.”
For more stories about Jayhawks like the Young family, and to learn more about the successes of the Alumni Association this year, read our annual report.
The KU Alumni Association partnered with the University of Kansas, Kansas Athletics, Inc., and KU Endowment in support of a “Houston Strong” initiative. At the Sept. 2 KU football game, flyers were distributed to fans and a video featuring Chancellor Girod, Coach Bill Self and Coach David Beaty was shown:
Organizations featured as suggested donation options included:
Team Rubicon: Uniting the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.
With the Houston floods receding, local Jayhawks are mobilizing to get to work.
The Houston Jayhawks Facebook group has been active with posts from Houston residents asking for help, with even more posts by locals asking how they can help. With their positive energy and willingness to get their hands dirty, Jayhawks assisted the family of Allyn Risley, e’72, 2016 Fred Ellsworth medallion recipient. Risley’s step-daughter, Erica Frost, sustained serious flooding at her house. Frost’s sister, Natalie Morgan, j’06, reached out to the Facebook group from her home in Kansas City.
Morgan’s request for help for her sister was met with multiple Houston-area Jayhawks joining friends and family of Frost for a day of hard work removing damaged flooring and drywall. The altruism of the group of alumni impressed Frost, who even overheard a friend say “the Houston Jayhawks must have some sort of emergency whistle that they sound, because they all showed up and jumped right in!”
Watch party for a cause
Megan Gile, c’11, organized the annual watch party for the first KU football game, but knew she had to add something to give back to their community.
“We decided to host our annual football kickoff watch party to add a piece of normalcy to Houston,” Gile said. “It’s an event we host every year and even with the hurricane and terrible flooding across Texas and Houston, it’s important to stay united and give everyone something to look forward too. We added the donation drive as way for Houston Jayhawks to give back to Houstonians. Beyond donating their time, donating items for shelters is a great way for Houston Jayhawks to give back.”
The Houston Jayhawks set up a donations box at their alumni bar and asked attendees to fill the box with new socks and underwear.
“The watch party and donation drive was incredibly successful,” Gile said. “We had Jayhawks drive in from all across Houston to attend. More profoundly, regulars at Coaches Pub, our alumni bar in Houston, left the bar and returned with donation items once they found out what we were doing. Houstonians, Jayhawk or not, are really banding together to help each other during this time of need.”
When asked about the strong turnout and even stronger support for the people of Houston, Megan pointed to their alma mater.
“I think it’s about helping our own and how our bond as Kansas alumni is different. Being in a state so far from home for most of us, as most of us are not Texas natives, we really stick together and are proud to be Jayhawks. We are proud to be Kansas alumni and proud to be Houstonians, helping anyway we can. Come hell or high water, we will get through this.”
When a Houston woman needed white blood cells to help her complete an intense round of chemotherapy, her family and friends put out a plea for donors. Answering the call were members of the Alumni Association’s Houston Network, who rallied to her aid after a notice was posted to their Facebook group by alumna and family friend Natalie Bogan Morgan, j’06.
Lois Coots, a former Kansan who lives now in Houston, was diagnosed in 2009 with a form of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) that later developed into leukemia. While at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston undergoing an intensive 30-day round of chemotherapy in October, Coots developed an infection and learned that she needed white blood cells before she could finish the treatment.
“It was an emergency situation,” says Morgan, who lived in Houston before recently moving to Overland Park. “She has two daughters, and they figured they’d donate and drum up other people and it would be fine. But one by one people just kept getting rejected.”
White blood cells have a short shelf life and donors must meet strict matching requirements. Doctors told the family they needed to line up 10 donors, but after exhausting their personal contacts they had found only one match.
Jayhawk calls for help
Watching the health crisis unfold from Kansas, Morgan—a close friend of Kyra Coots, Lois’s daughter—posted a heartfelt plea for donors on her Facebook page. Longtime friend Nick Kallail, assistant vice president of alumni programs and career services for KUAA, saw the message and suggested that she post it to the Houston Network’s Facebook group.
“I was like, Nat, you’ve got a built-in family who love you; blast that Houston group and they’ll jump on it,” says Kallail, d’04, l’07, who was a Houston Network volunteer before joining the Association staff. “It’s a great group and everyone’s always willing to help. It’s just a great combination: You’ve got Jayhawk family and Houston hospitality.”
“That was the tipping point,” Morgan says. “People who didn’t know this family just dropped what they were doing and called to set up appointments. I put the call out on a Thursday night, and several Jayhawks were there by 11 a.m. the next morning going through the screening. It was so uplifting.”
Sorority members step up
Among those responding was a group of Alpha Delta Pi alumni led by Jane Johnston Mumey, j’86, a Houston attorney. Less than 15 minutes after Morgan’s post hit the Houston Network page, Mumey wrote to say that she and her sorority sisters could report to MD Anderson immediately, because they are already screened white-cell donors.
“This was perfect for us, because so many of our members are pre-screened for the Ronald McDonald House,” Mumey says. Alpha Delta Pi’s Houston alumni group volunteers extensively at the city’s Ronald McDonald House, which supports families of critically ill children, donating blood, white cells and platelets when needed. “Within hours we had four women from our group who were already pre-screened” and ready to donate, Mumey says. “It’s an amazing feeling to be able to do that.”
Only days after Morgan posted her request with the Houston Network, the family lined up the needed 10 donors. “It would not have happened if so many Jayhawks had not jumped in to do it,” Morgan says. “Six or seven of the donors that we knew of were Jayhawks. The family was just blown away. I think it just says a lot about the University and it just says a lot about the Jayhawk family after you graduate.”
Mumey seconds that notion.
“I knew Jayhawks would do that. We’ve all stuck together. And to be far away from campus, to have that feeling that this happened, when we’re all the way down here—I don’t think all groups respond like that. We really have a lot of spirit and it doesn’t stop when we graduate.”
A happy outcome
Thanks to the donated cells, Kyra Coots says, her mother was able to finish her chemotherapy and return home. She returned for a second round of chemo last week, and Kyra says the family takes comfort in knowing that—should complications arise again—they’ve got a list of willing donors who have their back.
“Before Natalie started helping me, we only had one person confirmed,” Kyra says. “It was a low point, because you’re thinking to yourself, How am I going to find nine people if the dozens and dozens of people who said they’d do it were turned away? I myself was turned away. It’s a very helpless feeling, knowing you can’t do anything.
“When Natalie’s friend suggested she post it on the Jayhawk board, I was like, Wow, that’s a great idea. These people definitely don’t know my mom, they may not even know Natalie, but we’ll see if they respond. The response was overwhelming. You can’t put into words—you want to thank all these people, you want to hug them, you want to get to know them and say thank you, but I just think they’ll never realize the magnitude of how it touched our family and how it saved her life.”
The award recognizes chapter volunteers who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership to their chapter and the KU Alumni Association during a one-year period, and it honors Dick Wintermote, c’51, who served as the executive director of the Association from 1963 to 1983.
While Phil loves watching his Jayhawks, one of his goals as chapter leader was to involve alumni with events that were not focused solely on sports. With this in mind, the chapter has since enjoyed a museum tour of impressionist art that included a wine tasting, and another popular event brought in a speaker from the Dole Institute who spoke about the 2012 Presidential election.
The Houston Chapter was proud to support the Moran Norris Foundation in bringing 30 underprivileged junior high students to the Rice University campus. The kids enjoyed a campus tour and then learned the Rock Chalk chant before attending the KU vs. Rice football game.
After graduating from KU with a degree in chemical engineering, Phil worked in the oilfield as a field engineer and in management for Schlumberger. During this time, he completed an MBA from SMU’S Cox School of Business. Phil is a partner with Portfolio Advisory Council, LLC, an investment advisory and financial planning firm. He is also a member of the Engineering Dean’s Club and the Alumni Association’s Presidents Club.
Phil and his wife, Vicki, have two sons and have lived in Houston since 1997.
The KU football team won their season opener at home last weekend, and this Saturday they’re heading to Houston for the first road game of the season.
The last time the team won a road game was back in September, 2009, when KU beat UTEP. We’re hoping for a great alumni turnout this weekend when that streak is broken!
There are more than 15,000 Jayhawks in the state of Texas, with more than 3,500 alone in the Houston area. The Houston Chapter is one of the strongest KU Alumni Association chapters in the nation, and their members have actively been encouraging other alumni and fans to attend the game.
The Alumni Association is hosting a tailgate in the northeast corner of the football stadium next to the practice fields. The event starts at 3 p.m. and includes a barbecue lunch and a cash bar. More than 300 Jayhawks have already registered for the tailgate; if you want to join them, be sure to register by noon today so we can make sure there’s enough food.
Life Members Bill, e’70, and Gail Hutchings, ’70, urge fans to support the team and take advantage of the opportunity of an affordable, family-friendly outing. They are taking their daughter and her family to the game, where they’re also meeting up with friends from Waco. “If we can get more people out, and I know we’re more vocal, I think it could really help and make a difference!” Bill said.
We agree. Rock Chalk!
Kevin Corbett, president of the Alumni Association, spoke to the Lawrence Journal-World earlier this week about efforts to promote the game to alumni. Click here to read the article. For ticket information, click here.
Houston is home to more than 3,500 Jayhawks and one of the most active alumni chapters in the country.
The chapter hosts monthly networking breakfasts at a local restaurant– Michael Branicky, the new dean of the KU School of Engineering, surprised the group with a visit in July– and members also attended an educational event this summer presented by KU Libraries.
The Houston chapter is also the source of one of our favorite ‘Hawk Days of Summer anecdotes, shared by an alumnus:
“This afternoon when I was walking out of Kroger, I caught eyes with a guy who was giving me a less-than-friendly look. I noticed that not only was he wearing a Mizzou hat, but he also had Mizzou reusable grocery bags. Then I remembered I was wearing my ‘Kansas: keeping America safe from Missouri since 1854’ shirt.
It may have been my favorite moment in Houston.”
If you’re in the Houston area, consider getting involved with this great group of Jayhawks! Visit the Houston chapter website to learn more. You can even show your pride with a Houston Jayhawks T-shirt–click here to purchase one from the KU Bookstore.
Our ‘Hawk Days of Summer tour this summer includes a partnership with our friends at the KU Libraries. The library provides so much more than just a place to check out a book or study; they offer a lot of educational programming that appeals to Jayhawks and helps enhance our own programs.
The first joint event this summer is An Evening with Naismith: Artifacts of a KU Legend. KU basketball fans will enjoy the opportunity to view and hold artifacts from KU’s University Archives that relate to the life and legacy of James Naismith, KU’s first basketball coach and inventor of the game.
Alumni in Denver, Houston and Dallas are invited to join us for hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and an evening of KU camaraderie. The cost for each event is $15; current or incoming students can attend at no cost. We encourage you to bring potential Jayhawks to these events!
Also coming up: events that focus on KU Libraries’ rich jazz collection, including one of the largest sound archives west of the Mississippi. Stay tuned for more details about these events in Chicago, Omaha and St. Louis!
Kansas Athletics and the KU Alumni Association have partnered to bring KU football to Jayhawks across the midwest this spring! If you’re a football fan, don’t miss this opportunity to meet Coach Weis.
You might remember that last spring we hosted several events around the state of Kansas that featured the newly-hired head coach. This year, we’re expanding the events to include a number of cities outside of Kansas.
All Jayhawk alumni, fans and friends are invited to attend the events, which include free receptions, luncheons and happy hours in several cities. Sheahon Zenger, director of athletics, will also be in attendance, along with Kansas Athletics and KU Alumni Association staff members.
Here’s a list of the events, with a link to purchase tickets if there’s a cost involved:
Denver: Thurs., May 2, at Stoney’s Full Steam Tavern (free)
Topeka: Wed., May 22, at Ramada Inn Downtown Convention Center (free)
Commemorative KU football items will be available, and you’ll also have the chance to win autographed merchandise and football tickets. And, if you’re a KU Alumni Association member, be sure to show your membership card to receive a free members-only gift!
Don’t have your membership card handy? We’ve made it easy for you– our emails now include your membership status printed at the bottom, so you can show a recent email to our staff to get your gift. Not a member? Click here to join.
Click here to read about the KU football team’s spring game, held on Saturday, Apr. 13.
The KU men’s basketball team takes on North Carolina on Sunday, Mar. 24. Jayhawk fans and alumni have one more opportunity to fill Kansas City with crimson and blue!
Join us in the Power & Light District across the street from the Sprint Center for a pregame party and pep rally. KU fans should be very familiar with this area after spending two basketball-filled weekends here. The pregame party at Z-Strike will start at 1 p.m. on Sunday, followed by a KU pep rally on the main stage at 2:30 p.m.
The KU vs. North Carolina game tips off at 4:15 p.m.
If you’re a member of the Alumni Association, don’t forget your membership card. Show it to the staff members at our table at Z-Strike and pick up your free, members-only gift. If you don’t have your card handy, just pull up a copy of a recent email from the Alumni Association that shows your membership status at the bottom.
Not in Kansas City? We’re taking the madness of March on the road!
Join staff members Mike Davis, Kelsey Hill, Brad Eland, Teri Harris, Danny Lewis and Dan Storey at official KU Alumni Association watch parties in major cities across the country. If you’re in Los Angeles, Denver, Minneapolis, Houston or New York City, we want to meet you! Click here to view our calendar of events to get details for each location.
Bring your membership card to these events for your free gift.
Find fellow Jayhawks
If you want to watch the game with other KU alumni and fans, check out our list of official KU Alumni Association watch sites around the country. We also have a lot of geographic-based Facebook groups, so you’re sure to find other Jayhawks in your area. Click here to find a list of Facebook groups.