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.”
Cue Wright hopes to one day retire from a successful music career and return to KU as a hip-hop professor. “Helping people,” she says, “is what I really like to do.” The following profile originally appeared in issue No. 3, 2018, of Kansas Alumni magazine.
On Feb. 4, 2017, a new Cue Wright was born. Already having earned two KU degrees and in the early days of a promising career in higher education, Wright shed her naturally shy self and stepped onto the outdoor stage at Mass Street’s Replay Lounge as the hip-hop artist Cuee.
“I knew I could write raps,” says Wright, j’15, g’17, “but I didn’t know I could perform as well as I did.”
A Chicago native, Wright was coaxed into a campus visit by her mother’s longtime employer, “Uncle” Gale Sayers, d’75, g’77. Front-row seats to a basketball game didn’t hurt, but it was Mount Oread that stole Wright’s heart.
Memories of that day are valuable tools in her current part-time job as senior coordinator of student ambassadors. When she meets with prospective students, Wright uses her story to help others write their own.
“I always channel that with my out-of-state students,” she says. “They’re thinking, ‘Why am I at Kansas?’ Well, go out on this campus and let it fill you.”
Finding her way
Wright arrived as a civil engineering major, but felt lost. Her mother asked what she was doing outside of class, to which Wright responded, “Nothin’.”
Wright switched her major to journalism, found her way to KJHK and eventually became director of hip-hop programming. Shortly before winter break of her senior year, her J-School adviser noted her “people-person” personality and suggested she consider a student affairs role in higher education. That required a master’s degree, yet another unknown for Wright, but she dove in. Soon her advanced studies were wearing her thin.
“I need an outlet. I need an other. I need something else. And so I started writing rap. Everything I’m doing is self-taught, but luckily I love to learn.”
Encouraged by family and friends, Wright in 2017 released “Master’s Cap,” in which six songs each explore a year of her college experience.
“My thing is,” she says, “school is cool. I love school. I’m a nerd.”
Wright’s current mixtape, “Shameless,” which she’s dropping online throughout 2018, displays her growth as an artist, both in writing skills (My life is a tornado/The haters all around me, everything will be OK, though) and emotional maturity that “lets the world know who I am.” Her success led to a busy summer schedule in Lawrence and Kansas City, including a prominent gig at the Middle of the Map Fest at Crown Center.
“Pursuing hip-hop in Lawrence has been different. They put me on a lot of alternative shows, and the audience sees this hip-hop opener and it’s totally different than what they’ve signed up for. The rewarding part is when they say, ‘Now I’m a hip-hop fan.’
“I take the blank stares as a challenge, and I love challenges.”
A finger-snap ago, Central District was nothing more robust than an artist’s rendering, a wish list, part of a master plan for what our beloved campus could one day be, how it should live and breathe and teach and embrace, for the next half-century or more.
Less than two years later—“We tried to build it as fast as we could,” said one project architect—and this thing is done.
Or, if not done, close to it, at least for now, and all those fears we might have silently nursed about too much, too soon? Park them. The newly christened Central District—40-plus acres of mostly empty or under-utilized space bordered by Allen Field House, Oliver Hall, 19th Street, Daisy Hill and Irving Hill Road—is suddenly a vibrant center of student life, faculty research and science education.
Read more in the cover feature of issue No. 4, 2018, of Kansas Alumni magazine.
University architect Jim Modig, a,’73, and former University architect, Warren Corman, e’50, guide a tour of KU’s Central District. The Integrated Science Building is the focal point, but it’s joined by new student housing, parking, a new Burge Union, and a utility plant.
Watch a two-minute timelapse video of the Central District under construction.
Watch the videos below to learn more about the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center (KLETC). Read additional coverage in issue No. 3, 2018, ofKansas Alumni magazine.
The Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in Hutchinson, a division of KU Professional & Continuing Education, trains the majority of municipal, county and state law enforcement officers—more than 400 in basic training or related programs and nearly 10,000 in continuing education annually. Watch as Gary Warner, a 28-year law enforcement veteran and KLETC instructor, explains the weeklong firearms training course and how the center takes a building-blocks approach to ensure all officers learn proper gun handling and safety skills.
Ed Pavey retires
Plus, hear from longtime director Ed Pavey, who retired in June after leading the center for nearly 25 years, and Darin Beck, who succeeds Pavey as KLETC’s new executive director.
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.
Librarians Beth Whittaker and Becky Schulte lead KU Alumni Association videographer Dan Storey on a tour of Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s renovated North Gallery. As also featured in Kansas Alumni magazine’s “View to a Thrill,” the new North Gallery now includes an array of interactive displays that introduce visitors to the research library’s fascinating collections, as well as a newly framed Campanile vista that is perhaps unrivaled on Mount Oread.
Whittaker and her colleagues encourage alumni to drop by on their next campus visit and see for themselves.
“We love books,” Whittaker says, “but it’s not just books.”
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.
Your support and dedication are helping us gain momentum in several vital areas as we work to build a more relevant, effective Alumni Association that increases the value of the KU degree.
I believe our long-term success depends on our ability to prepare current students to become the next generation of Jayhawk alumni leaders. Our investments in the Student Alumni Network, in partnership with KU Endowment, more than doubled student membership last fall. With more than 3,000 members, we are well on our way to building the country’s biggest student network—a large, captive audience!
More important, we are in the early stages of providing students meaningful ways to tap into the powerful Jayhawk network around the globe, with technology that connects them to mentors, internships and discussions with industry leaders. We are building a stronger network for all students who are willing to invest time in these opportunities, and we are teaching them about the many way sin which alumni volunteer leadership and philanthropy helped create this world-class university.
Our goal is simple. When students walk down the Hill at Commencement and official join the alumni network, we want them to feel the Alumni Association added real value to their lives through alumni and career connections. We also want them to deeply appreciate and understand their responsibility as Jayhawks to ensure that KU remains a premier university. Our message to them: Join the Alumni Association, be a mentor, hire a Jayhawk, volunteer, give back and help strengthen your alma mater.
Cheers to 2018, and Rock Chalk!
—Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, president of the KU Alumni Association
This message also appeared in issue no. 1, 2018, of Kansas Alumni magazine, a bi-monthly publication mailed to members of the KU Alumni Association. Members can also log in to read the full version online. For more information about membership, visit www.kualumni.org/join.
Rod Ernst, third-generation owner of the iconic downtown Lawrence hardware store Ernst & Son, died Jan. 23, the store announced today on its Facebook page. Ernst is the subject of a feature story in the current issue of Kansas Alumni. He was 84.
Ernst began working summers at 12 and became a full partner in 1961. For many years the three generations worked side by side in the Mass Street store, which Philip Ernst Sr. opened in 1905.
“The store was what he did, and he did it to the very end,” said Gregg Anderson, ’81, who began working for Rod Ernst as a KU student and returned to work part-time at the store after a long career in the hardware industry. “He could have retired and sold out, but he chose to keep doing his family’s work.”
Anderson added that Ernst’s definition of “family” was expansive; it took in employees past and present, including the dozens of KU students he hired over the decades.
“It was a foot up for kids who wanted to go to school. If you had a big test, Rod had no problem with you sitting at the front desk looking at notes between customers, and he took an interest in what you were doing,” Anderson said. “A lot of them never lost contact; they’re still part of the hardware family.”
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 Sunday, Jan. 28, at Warren-McElwain funeral home in Lawrence, and the funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 29, at First United Methodist, 10th and Vermont.
Read Steven Hill’s feature about Ernst for Kansas Alumni magazine below.
Learn more about the award-winning Kansas Alumni magazine, mailed bi-monthly to members of the KU Alumni Association. Members can log in to read the full version of the magazine. Free preview articles are available here.