The 2019 recipients of the Fred Ellsworth Medallion for extraordinary service to the University of Kansas are Don Brada of Lawrence and Jeff Kennedy of Wichita. The KU Alumni Association will honor them Sept. 5 before the fall meeting of the Association’s national board of directors. Since 1975, the medallions have recognized KU volunteers who have continued the tradition of service established by Ellsworth, a 1922 KU graduate who was the Association’s chief executive for 39 years, retiring in 1963.
Brada, who grew up in Hutchinson, was the first in his family to attend college. He was involved in student activities, including Beta Theta Pi fraternity and Rock Chalk Revue, and earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in 1961, followed by a doctorate in medicine in 1965. He has remained devoted to KU for more than 50 years. He currently leads the KU School of Medicine Alumni Association as chair, and he is a member of the Jayhawks for Higher Education Steering Committee. He served on the KU Alumni Association’s national Board of Directors from 2012 to 2017.
“The long list of Don’s volunteer roles for KU doesn’t begin to capture his lifetime of service, both as a student and alumnus,” said Heath Peterson, Alumni Association president. “Don is a thoughtful, dedicated and action-oriented Jayhawk. He takes great pride in KU and the many people who have served as stewards of our great institution.”
Brada began his alumni involvement in Puerto Rico as a young physician in the Air Force, hosting an event for Caribbean Jayhawks with his wife, Kay, who also graduated from the College in 1961. He continued to volunteer when he returned to his hometown and established his practice as a psychiatrist. He assisted the Kansas Honors Program (now the Kansas Honor Scholars Program) and student recruitment, and he urged KU’s participation in the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson through the years.
Don and Kay continued their local alumni network service after they moved to Wichita, receiving the 1990 Mildred Clodfelter Alumni Award for their years as volunteers. Kay received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion in 2015. The Bradas are Alumni Association Life Members and Presidents Club donors.
Don also dedicated much of his career to the School of Medicine-Wichita as a longtime volunteer faculty member; he later became a clinical associate professor and associate dean, retiring in 2016. He strongly advocated for the expansion of the Wichita campus medical curriculum from two years to four, and he continues to volunteer as professor emeritus and a mentor to students.
Since the Bradas’ move to Lawrence in 2010, the breadth of their service has expanded. They both served on the KU Campus Master Plan Steering Committee, and Don has advised and supported the Biodiversity Institute, the Hall Center for the Humanities, the Lied Center, the Williams Education Fund for Kansas Athletics, and the Dole Institute of Politics, where he co-founded the Elizabeth Dole Lecture Series.
For KU Endowment, Don is a Chancellors Club Life Member. The Bradas’ philanthropy has benefited numerous areas of the University and the Association.
“Don is such an integral part of the University; KU simply would not be the same without him,” said Dale Seuferling, KU Endowment president.
Kennedy, a Pratt native, also is a first-generation college graduate. He followed up his KU journalism degree (including work for the University Daily Kansan and KJHK radio) with a law degree from Washburn University. He began his KU alumni service in Wichita, where he joined the law firm of Martin Pringle Oliver Wallace & Bauer in 1986. He served as the firm’s managing partner from 2002 to 2014.
A stalwart volunteer for the Wichita Network, Kennedy received the Mildred Clodfelter Alumni Award in 2007 for his local service. He guided the local alumni group as president and served for many years on the board. He also has contributed to the Kansas Honor Scholars Program, recruited prospective students and participates every year in the Jayhawk Roundup, a Wichita tradition since 2003. He and his wife, Patti Gorham, chaired the Roundup in 2013.
Kennedy, an Alumni Association Life Member and Presidents Club donor, was elected to the Association’s national Board of Directors in 2008. He chaired the Strategic Communications, Technology and Records Committee as well as the Executive and the Nominating Committees during his term, and he led the organization as national alumni chair from 2013 to ’14.
An ardent advocate for state funding of higher education, Kennedy is a longtime member of Jayhawks for Higher Education and, since 2014, he has chaired the JHE Steering Committee, working closely with Association staff and the KU Office of Public Affairs to coordinate alumni communications with legislators.
“Jeff is a proven and committed volunteer who cares deeply about all of KU,” said Peterson. “He is passionate about the vital importance of KU and higher education to the future of Kansas, and he has tirelessly and effectively spoken out about the urgent need to restore state support for our universities.”
Kennedy also helped lead the effort to expand the School of Medicine in Wichita to a four-year curriculum as chair of the first 4-Wichita Advancement Board, and he continues to serve on the board’s executive committee.
For KU Endowment, Kennedy is a Chancellors Club and Elizabeth Watkins Society member, supporting many areas of the University, including the Association, Kansas Athletics and the Spencer Museum of Art.
“Jeff has volunteered for KU for more than 30 years,” said Seuferling. “His leadership helped move the School of Medicine-Wichita forward through his effective advocacy and vital connections in the local business community.”
Since 1975, 158 KU alumni and friends have received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion.
Wichita attorney Jeff Kennedy is all too familiar with the difficulties that result from inadequate estate planning—“I have been the administrator, the executor, of some people’s estates, and I don’t want to force that on anyone”—yet he has a confession to offer: In part because he and his wife, Patti Gorham, have no children, they had, until recently, never completed their own estate plans.
Spurred into action by KU Endowment’s Far Above campaign, which ended in June, they created an unrestricted, $250,000 estate gift to the KU Alumni Association, which Kennedy, j’81, has served as national chair and member of the Board of Directors and many years as an enthusiastic volunteer and leader of the Association’s Wichita network.
They left similar gifts to Washburn University’s law school, which they both attended, and Gorham’s undergraduate alma mater, the University of Montana.
Their gifts recognize the importance they place on higher education, and Kennedy’s longtime volunteer service reflects the concern he has for its future in Kansas.
As a stalwart volunteer for Jayhawks for Higher Education, the Alumni Association’s statewide legislative advocacy network, Kennedy has spent countless hours over the past decade reaching out to lawmakers in Topeka and encouraging others to do the same.
“I think it’s just that we were in the right place at the right time,” Kennedy says of JHE’s increased efforts amid threats to higher education funding. “We have been fairly vocal, and I think that will continue.”
Though he dreamed of becoming a lawyer since his boyhood in Pratt, where he was “one of those weird kids” who trekked to the local courthouse to watch trials, Kennedy’s education took a sudden detour late in his undergraduate years. With just 16 credit hours to be completed before he could walk down the Hill, Kennedy in 1972 decamped for Colorado, where he worked in Waterpik’s Fort Collins factory and spent two winters as a self-described ski bum. When he hurt his back during his “back-to-nature period” in Barber County, Kennedy in 1980 saw that it was time to return to Mount Oread and finish what he had started.
“I left KU after four years because I had decided that continuing to go to school, for me, was a really bad idea. I just needed to be crazy for a while,” Kennedy says from his office at Martin Pringle, where he spent 13 years as managing partner. “When I hurt my back I decided it was time to get serious about my life, so I came back and finish my degree at KU.”
His unconventional route through higher education served Kennedy well, and he suggests that others might do well to pay heed when they feel they might need to take a break before completing their education and moving toward lifelong careers.
“I think that in a lot of cases they check the next box, because they’ve been ingrained to be a student,” Kennedy says of high-achieving students who begin law school before being truly ready to commit themselves to the profession. “When I came back to school, I was a terrific student. I was a great student.”
Once reignited, his enthusiasm has yet to dim.
This donor profile originally appeared in the KU Alumni Association’s 2015-2016 Annual Report.
The University of Kansas held its 142nd Commencement ceremony on May 18, 2014.
Watch our slideshow of photos from the traditional walk down the Hill and ceremony, accompanied by remarks from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Jeff Kennedy, j’81, chair of the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors.
Congratulations to the members of the Class of 2014!
The weather was perfect for KU’s 142nd Commencement ceremony and the traditional walk down the Hill. The procession lasted about an hour as the graduates filed into Memorial Stadium.
Jeff Kennedy, j’81, chair of the KU Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, shared a story about Jayhawk connections with the graduates.
“Several years ago, in the forbidden city in Beijing, China, while wearing a KU cap I ran into a group of KU Business School students and their teacher.” He added that he was not surprised to have run into them on the other side of the globe, because “no matter where you go in this world, you will find alumni or others who love KU.”
In an era where colleges and universities are banning “selfies” at the ceremony, the University of Kansas embraces the phenomenon and encourages graduating students to snap a photo to remember the moment and then send it to KU to be included in a Facebook album.
The Roundup is the largest event hosted by the KU Alumni Association in Wichita, attracting hundreds of people to Murfin Stables each year for a fun evening of dinner, dancing, live and silent auctions and KU camaraderie.
Jeff Kennedy, j’81, national chair of the Board of Directors, and Patti Gorham served as this year’s Jayhawk Roundup chairpersons, leading a committee of dedicated volunteers.
Guests enjoyed a dinner sponsored by Security 1st Title and Truffles, followed by remarks from Kevin Corbett, president; Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little; and Lynn Loveland, assistant director of Wichita programs for the Alumni Association.
The silent auction was open throughout the evening, while live bidding for items such as a one-hour ride in a Beechcraft T-6 trainer and dinner with Sheahon Zenger and John Hadl began after dinner.
Another interesting item in the auction? An 11-foot American alligator. We’re not kidding– Presidents Club member Colette Kocour, c’73, who served on the decorations committee for the Roundup, was determined to find a great item for the auction this year. She made a call to Dr. Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Biodiversity Institute and professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and his staff members found the scaly, stuffed creature.
The story was chronicled by Kocour’s hometown newspaper, the Wellington Daily News. Click here to read the full story.
After the auction ended, Jayhawks kicked up their heels (or boots) and danced to music from Monster Entertainment until midnight.
Proceeds from the Jayhawk Roundup help enhance alumni programs, including student recruitment, career networking and the alumni lobbying program, Jayhawks for Higher Education.
Stay tuned for information about next year’s event! If you are interested in becoming a sponsoring or helping with the event, contact Lynn Loveland at email@example.com or 316.293.2621.
Watch the slideshow below to see pictures from this year’s Roundup, or click here to view the photos on Flickr.
Many thanks to Jeff Kennedy, j’81, chair of the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, for working at the tournament and greeting golfers, and to his law firm, Martin, Pringle, Oliver, Wallace & Bauer, L.L.P., for sponsoring the tournament.
Thanks also to Chris Hamman, b’85, and his business, Golf Etc., for sponsoring the tournament and providing hole prizes.
Stay tuned for information about next year’s tournament!
Check out pictures from the tournament in the slideshow below, or click here to see the photos on Flickr. The photos may be downloaded for personal use.
Many of the KU Alumni Association’s events during the ‘Hawk Days of Summer are the types of events alumni might expect: receptions, happy hours and baseball games. One annual event, however, might make you wrinkle your nose out of curiosity–or perhaps from the smell.
For the past eight years, KU Alumni Association staff members have competed in the cow-chip throwing contest at the Kansas Wheat Festival in Wellington, and as noted in our video from 2011’s contest, the Rock Chalk Chuckers finished dead last every year until 2011, when they claimed third place with 145 points.
What’s a cow-chip throwing contest? Simple: put together a team of four people, choose your cow chips, limber up your throwing arm and try to land your chip in the cow-printed toilet in the middle of the street in downtown Wellington. (Don’t worry, gloves are available for the squeamish.) And if you don’t hit the toilet? You can still score points by landing your chip on the grid in front of the toilet–a strategy that some competitors swear by.
Or, if the whole thing still doesn’t make sense to you, just watch our video below:
“After eight years of competing, it’s clear that the density of the chip and scoring on the grid are the two most important factors,” said Heath Peterson, vice president of alumni programs. “My mindset has always been to go for the toilet, which has only worked out one time. I watch everyone else score on the grid every year; I need to change my philosophy!” (Click here to see his shot heard ’round the pasture in 2011.)
This year, the persistent Jayhawks tried to increase their odds by entering two teams and bringing in the big guns: Jeff Kennedy, j’81, chair of the Association’s Board of Directors; Camille Nyberg, c’96, g’98, chair-elect of the board; and Tim Caboni, KU’s vice chancellor for public affairs.
The strategy almost paid off: The Crimson and Blue Chips took second place.
Heath is already looking forward to next year. “My goal is to bring the Wheat Festival cow chip trophy to Lawrence for our display case at the Association. Once that happens, I’ll retire from tossing turds!” We’ll believe that when we see it.
Click here to view photos from the event, or watch the slideshow below.
Congratulations to alumni volunteer, Life Member and Presidents Club member of the KU Alumni Association Steve Dillard, c’75, who was honored as a recipient of the Dick Wintermote Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award!
The award was presented to Dillard at the KU Football Preview Party luncheon in Wichita on Thursday, May 16.
Dillard, vice president and co-owner of Pickrell Drilling Company, Inc., has served as president of the Wichita Chapter of the KU Alumni Association and has been a chapter board member for six years. He’s also active with the Wichita River Festival and Wichita Wagonmasters.
Dillard is pictured above with Lynn Loveland, ’76, assistant director for Kansas programs for the KU Alumni Association, and Jeff Kennedy, j’81, chair-elect of the Association’s Board of Directors.
The Wintermote Award is named for Dick Wintermote, c’51, who served as the executive director of the Association from 1963 to 1983. The annual award is presented to two Kansas chapter volunteers and two national chapter volunteers who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership to their chapter and the Association during a one-year period.
Click here for more information about the award, including alphabetical and chronological lists of past recipients.