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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.