Jayhawks give back during inaugural KU Cares Month of Service

Posted on Dec 20, 2017 in Alumni News and News

KU Cares Month of Service
After 19 different events in 16 different cities, the first KU Cares Month of Service brought Jayhawks closer to the communities they call home.

The KU Alumni Association set out to have participants in the Month of Service share the spirit of Thanksgiving by giving back, both in their networks and in the KU community.

A portion of all membership dues collected during the month of November was earmarked for the Wounded Warrior scholarship fund. Thanks to the generosity of those who joined, renewed, or donated, more than $5,500 will be given to the scholarship fund that helps qualified veterans and their family pursue their education at KU.

Continuing on the theme of an earlier post, we wanted to highlight some of the events where Jayhawks made a difference.

Wichita: Ronald McDonald House

Members of the Wichita Jayhawk Network came together to help those staying in the Ronald McDonald house. Volunteers brought, prepared and served dinner to the families with children in nearby hospitals.

Milwaukee: Fill the Freezer

Local KU alumni joined forces with the United Way to fight hunger at the first annual “Fill the Freezer” event. Network leader Jay Craig, b’85 g’87, brought area Jayhawk volunteers together with local chefs to prepare frozen meals for those in transitional housing and family support programs.

Phoenix: St. Vincent De Paul’s Watkins Kitchen

More than 15 Jayhawks gave their Saturday morning to prepare meals for the homeless at St. Vincent De Paul’s Watkins Kitchen. Phoenix Network Leader Chris Colyer, b’04 l’09, thanked everyone for representing KU and showing compassion for their community.

San Antonio: Haven for Hope

Area alumni put on their Jayhawk gear, along with aprons and gloves, and served food to those in need in downtown San Antonio. Network leader Morgan Bertram, d’02, thanked those who helped feed 383 at Haven for Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the homeless find a new beginning.

While the KU Cares Month of Service is over, Jayhawks can get together to give time and talents to their communities anytime! Visit the KU Cares page for more information, and reach out to your local network leaders. View our Flickr album of these events and more from the KU Cares Month of Service:


-Ryan Camenzind

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California watch party leads new Jayhawk to Lawrence

Posted on Dec 18, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Davis Rach attends a California watch party in Orange County

While many University of Kansas alumni head to local game watch parties to feel like they’re back home in Lawrence, one family came to see if Lawrence was home.

Curtis Rach of Orange County, California, says he always pushed his kids to explore things outside of their home state. So when his son Davis was choosing a college, he had narrowed it down to two choices: follow his twin brother to Auburn, or strike out on his own at KU. To help him make the decision, Curtis took Davis to a local watch party for KU’s tournament game against Purdue last season.

Rach reached out to Ramy Rahman, b’09, Orange County Network leader, beforehand and told him about his plans. When he arrived at the watch party with Davis, they both were more than impressed with the hospitality.

“When people at the event heard he was thinking about KU, they all came up, introduced themselves, and told us stories about their experience at KU,” Rach said.

Both alumni and current students on spring break took time to meet Davis and his father. “What helped with the decision for him was how warm and inviting everyone was, and that they were so passionate about KU,” Rach explained.

The camaraderie and excitement of KU watch parties may have surprised the Rach family, but Danny Woods, assistant director of legacy and alumni programs, knows it well.

“The goal of watch parties is to provide a venue in which alumni can gather and feel like they’re back on campus for a big game,” Woods said. “When you graduate you’re still yearning for that experience. ”

He added that watch parties are like the “front porch” of KU alumni events. “They are often the first alumni gathering that people attend, and it opens the door for them to attend other events in their area.”

Davis carried through on his promise and is now a freshman at KU.

-Ryan Camenzind

Interested in finding a watch party near you? Visit our website for a list of watch sites by state, and check out the online calendar for official watch parties organized by alumni networks.

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From Feeding America to Friends of Trees: The KU Cares Month of Service begins

Posted on Nov 21, 2017 in Alumni News and News

As the KU Cares Month of Service continues, the pictures and stories from the events are rolling in. We’re sharing a few from the first events to show how Jayhawks are making a difference in their communities. Visit the KU Cares Month of Service homepage to learn how you can participate in giving back to those in need.

Portland: Friends of Trees

The Portland Jayhawks joined forces with other volunteers on a misty Saturday afternoon to plant more than 200 trees in southeast Portland. Network volunteer Meg Viezbicke, c’97, organized the event and praised Friends of Trees for helping ensure the Jayhawks could be involved. Friends of Trees, a local nonprofit, aims to to inspire community stewardship of the area’s urban forest by planting and caring for trees in both neighborhoods and green spaces.

Seattle: Food Lifeline

Network volunteer Deanna Marks, b’16 e’16, brought together 10 Seattle Jayhawks who donned aprons and hairnets over their KU gear and packed 1,420 meals for their community at Food Lifeline, a nonprofit that provides meals to residents of Western Washington. Food Lifeline is a member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of over 200 food banks.

Tampa Bay: Feeding America

The Tampa Bay ’Hawks also partnered with Feeding America by collecting over 100 pounds of food. Network leader Chris Longino, b’06, thanked those who brought donations to their watch site for football and basketball watch parties. “I am always impressed with the generosity and goodwill of the Jayhawk Nation,” Longino said. “Hopefully, we can plan many future opportunities for our KU group to give back to our adopted Tampa Bay community.”

San Diego: Sunset Cliffs beach cleanup

San Diego Jayhawks spent a Saturday morning by the ocean, but instead of lounging in the sun they opted to beautify the beach. Network volunteer Stephanie Shehi, b’86, partnered with the San Diego Coastkeeper organization, which helps keep Sunset Cliffs Park clean and beautiful for the community. The network picked up 20 pounds of trash, enjoyed stunning views, and heard lots of “Rock Chalks” from bystanders.

The easiest way to participate in the KU Cares Month of Service is to join or renew your Alumni Association membership. During the month of November, a portion of all dues will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund. Join, renew, or upgrade your membership to participate in this initiative!

-Ryan Camenzind

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Lawrence Network leader earns Wintermote award

Posted on Sep 28, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Brandon Petz, b'06, g'07, Lawrence Network Leader and Wintermote Award recipient

With volunteers all across America, it takes a lot for one in KU’s backyard to stand out. Brandon Petz does that and more for local alumni as the Lawrence Network leader. The KU Alumni Association is proud to name Petz, b’06 g’07, a Dick Wintermote Network Leader of the Year Award recipient. The annual award recognizes volunteers who brought extraordinary leadership to their network.

“I am so honored to be named a Wintermote Award recipient. All the years volunteering for various networks has been so much fun and I cherish being a part of the KU Alumni Association and all it stands for,” Petz said.

Uniting local alumni

Petz’s work to bring together a group of alumni that already feels connected to the University due to their proximity to campus has impressed many inside the Alumni Association.

“Brandon Petz has gone above and beyond to revamp the Lawrence Network in the shape of the new alumni network strategy,” said Nick Kallail, assistant vice president of alumni and network programs. “He has recruited a team that have provided diverse events and continues to move forward engaging alums to make KU better. This is no easy task in Lawrence, where opportunities to connect with KU are so plentiful.”

Fellow Lawrence network volunteer Tom Larkin, a’09, echoed Kallail’s comments, noting Petz’s enthusiasm for KU “that clearly started before he became president of our Lawrence network. He’s extremely organized and focused, and has a knack for getting everybody energized about the current mission or task at hand. His leadership and positive disposition makes him a joy the be around and a true asset to the Association.”

Petz, a Cimarron, Kansas, native, lives in Lawrence with his wife, Bonnie, and his daughter, Eleanor. Petz is chief financial officer of Grandstand Glassware and Apparel, a local custom screenprinting company that specializes in glassware and apparel.

About the award

The award is named for Dick Wintermote, c’51, who served as the executive director of the Association from 1963 to 1983. His legacy represents the importance of building a strong volunteer network, the need for a dues-paying membership program and establishing the KU Alumni Association as one of the premier associations of graduates in the country.

—Ryan Camenzind

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Houston Jayhawks join forces to help after Harvey

Posted on Sep 5, 2017 in Alumni News and News

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!”

Houston Demolition

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.”

KU Cares Box

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.”

KU Houston Watch Party

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.”

-Ryan Camenzind

The University of Kansas, Kansas Athletics, Inc., KU Endowment, and the KU Alumni Association support relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Alumni and fans should work directly with their preferred charity to support relief efforts. For Jayhawks looking for groups to support, four organizations were suggested to fans attending last Saturday’s football game: Team Rubicon, Save the Children, Texas SPCA, and the Greater Houston Community Foundation’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

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KU Alumni Association student programs evolve to Student Alumni Network

Posted on Aug 15, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Students with Baby Jay at Hawk Fest
In order to better serve the students of the University of Kansas, the KU Alumni Association’s student program is evolving from the Student Alumni Association to the Student Alumni Network.Student Alumni Network logo

Replacing the term “association” with “network” highlights a renewed focus on connecting KU students with the vast network of KU alumni around the world. In addition to the name change, Student Alumni Network memberships are now free for all KU degree-seeking students due to support from KU Endowment.

With the networks of over 28,000 students and 300,000 alumni around the world available, the Student Alumni Network will help students develop their own professional networks for career advice and opportunities long before they leave the Hill.

“As the largest student group and the premiere networking organization on the KU campus, the rebrand of the Student Alumni Association is a precursor to a much more robust plan to launch new programs to foster high-level career connections across industries,” Heath Peterson, KU Alumni Association President, said. “The effort will include a dynamic KU alumni mentoring platform, programs featuring industry leaders across the country, new internship pipelines and job connections, enhanced career data, and new partnerships across the KU enterprise.”

In addition to these new and upcoming initiatives, traditional Student Alumni Network events such as Home Football Fridays and Finals Dinners will be offered to all students, and the Student Alumni Leadership Board will continue to serve as the student representatives of the KU Alumni Association.

To activate a student membership, simply complete the online activation form, download the KU Alumni mobile app and register, or attend any of the numerous SAN events throughout the year.

To learn more about the Student Alumni Network, visit our website.

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Alumni Programs team travels across America boosting network activity

Posted on Jul 26, 2017 in Alumni News and News

New York City Jayhawks network meeting at a rooftop happy hour
Nick Kallail and Danny Woods continued their work to boost alumni networks by traveling cross-country visiting with local Jayhawks.

The pair of KU Alumni Association program staffers are looking at potential growth cities as part of their goal of unique and diverse programming across the nation. Their itinerary included visits to Atlanta, Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Phoenix, and New York City​.

Kallail, d’04, l’07, and Woods, j’13, hosted a meeting at each stop to connect existing network leaders with new area volunteers. They introduced their plan for successful networks to the group, and then let the local alumni plan amongst themselves.

“We really want to empower all of the network leaders,” Woods said. “These leaders know their network way better than we ever could. We just want to give them the tools to build a successful network and let them run with it. This will ultimately help the network sustain and grow for years to come.”

One of the main goals of the network visits was to promote planning events in all of the five event buckets such as Rock Chalk Connect, which provides networking opportunities, and Rock Chalk Cultivate, which gives alumni the opportunity to learn a new skill—often from other Jayhawks.

“For our network moving forward, I would like to see the meeting’s enthusiasm to continue,” Brandon Snook, New York City network leader, said. “I want us to fully embrace the new event branding, which I love…especially KU Cares. It will be a great way for us to give back to the community, and strengthen our bonds in the process. I hope the new branding will be a springboard for our network board, and that everyone involved won’t be hesitant in popping out fresh new ideas for programming.”

Kallail and Woods also introduced a new structure for network leadership. Instead of traditional roles such as president, vice president, and treasurer, networks will have leaders who manage event buckets. “I like the concept of having a group with individuals focused on different areas of outreach for the Alumni Association,” Scott Lundgren, Portland network leader, said.

After the planning meeting, other local Jayhawks joined for a happy hour. Both Snook and fellow New York City network leader Kellie Johnson were pleased with their meeting. “We assembled a nice variety of people who seem enthusiastic to lead,” Snook said.

Wherever they went, Kallail and Woods were excited to see the networks’ turnout. Johnson has a theory why.

“I think KU alumni attend the events to keep that special connection alive. I’ve met several people from other schools who have noted that KU alumni are the most loyal they have ever met. One told me he doesn’t get involved with his alumni because he left nothing there – and when I asked him to clarify – he said it was clear all of us had left our hearts in Lawrence.”

If you want to get involved, visit our website and check out a list of all alumni networks to learn how you can help connect Jayhawks in your community.

-Ryan Camenzind

P.S. If you’re on Twitter, follow Nick Kallail at @NiXstyle and Danny Woods at @dcwoods89. They won’t disappoint.

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Chicago alumni, students connect with local business leaders

Posted on Jul 24, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Chicago Innovation and Entrepreneurship Panel: David Grossman, Todd Holmes and Sherry Scott

More than 40 alumni and 15 current students met July 18 on Michigan Avenue to learn from some of the best and brightest Jayhawk alumni based in the Windy City.

The event, Chicago Innovation and Entrepreneurship Panel, featured a panel of business leaders who shared the stories of their journey with Chicago area alumni. A select number of KU Student-Alumni Network members also attended.

Bryce McMichael, d’08, Chicago Network leader, said “One of the main goals we have in Chicago is diversifying our event offering beyond watch parties for KU games and expand into the careers and lifelong learning space. This event definitely fit the bill in that regard.”

David Hoese, e’86, vice president at Goldman Sachs served as panel moderator, with Todd Holmes c’89, CEO at Liquidus Marketing and co-founder of Goose Island Beer Co., Sherry Scott j’91, president at Gagen MacDonald, and David Grossman j’89, president at Freshii comprising the panel.

“The panelists stemmed from a Presidents Club reception we had last year in which Todd Holmes suggested an event like this,” McMichael said. “David Grossman and Sherry Scott were also added due to their specific entrepreneurial experience, local ties, and fascinating life stories.”

The event was the first of a series highlighting business leaders and entrepreneurs in Chicago. The panel offered advice to students and young alumni on topics such as how to start a business and risk tolerance.

“With 15 current KU students who hail from the Chicago area in attendance, I believe they came away with inspiration and pointers on how to create your own destiny and do the work you truly love,” McMichael said. “I also hope that those who went also came away knowing that their Alumni Association can provide much, much more value than they had originally thought going into the event!”

Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, president of the KU Alumni Association, echoed McMichael’s sentiments for the Alumni Association as a whole.

“We want to do more to directly connect students to industry leaders and showcase the power and reach of the KU degree,” Peterson said. “We must leverage the story of successful alumni to ensure current students have direct and constant access to a powerful network.”

Peterson’s goals were realized for Rebecca Hans, j’18, a Student-Alumni Network member who made an unexpected connection.

“I didn’t expect to know anyone [at the event] but I saw a family friend,” Hans said. “He introduced me to someone who has a connection to the military at KU. My dream job is a military psychologist where I could work with soldiers or their families and help them with mental health issues.”

“This event helped me realize that I can be successful in Chicago. Knowing that I am graduating in the spring, it is comforting to see that KU stays with you forever.”

—Ryan Camenzind

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Dallas Jayhawk named Wintermote Award Recipient

Posted on Jul 21, 2017 in Alumni News and News

Kate Feller McSwain, b'12, 2017 recipient of the Dick Wintermote Award
Kate Feller McSwain faced a big challenge taking over as network leader for one of the largest University of Kansas alumni groups. Her hard work bringing Dallas Jayhawks together will be honored with the Dick Wintermote Network Volunteer of the Year Award, to be presented at a wine-tasting event July 26. The annual award recognizes volunteers who provided extraordinary leadership to their network.

McSwain, b’12, a fourth-generation Jayhawk, has four years experience volunteering with the Alumni Association, including serving as network leader for the past year. Fellow Dallas Network volunteer John Jacobs praised her leadership, saying she “consistently looks to empower members to lead their projects but is willing to help out herself where and when she can.”

McSwain’s work in establishing more frequent network gatherings year-round, such as the Jayhawks & Java breakfast, has impressed Nick Kallail, assistant vice president of alumni & career programs.

“The Dallas Jayhawks Network has led the way on providing compelling and diverse events that connect Jayhawks from all walks of life,” Kallail says. “Kate has been a huge part of our network growth in Dallas and was able to amplify programming even more in her first year as Network Leader. We are fortunate to have many great Jayhawk volunteers across the nation, but Kate is truly a star of stars.”

McSwain works at Match Group, a Dallas-based company that owns several online dating websites and apps including Match.com, OkCupid, and Tinder.

The award is named for Dick Wintermote, c’51, who served as the executive director of the Association from 1963 to 1983. His legacy represents the importance of building a strong volunteer network, the need for a dues-paying membership program and establishing the KU Alumni Association as one of the premier associations of graduates in the country.

—Ryan Camenzind

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Looking back on another great season

Posted on Mar 30, 2017 in Alumni News and News


Always proud to be a Jayhawk!

The KU men’s basketball season ended abruptly in Kansas City when the Ducks of Oregon ousted the Jayhawks from the NCAA Tournament in the Elite 8. While the road to the Final Four has ended for the ‘Hawks, the accolades keep rolling in, including first-team AP All-American honors for senior Frank Mason and third-team honors for freshman Josh Jackson. That adds to the team’s haul of Big 12 honors, including Player of the Year (Mason), Freshman of the Year (Jackson) and Coach of the Year (Bill Self), in addition to KU winning its thirteenth consecutive Big 12 title. Obviously, it’s been a busy year.

The KU Alumni Association also kept busy connecting fans and alumni for watch parties coast to coast. Nick Kallail, assistant vice president for alumni and career programs, tallied up his attendance at KU basketball gatherings during his first year on the staff, sharing the total with friends and alumni volunteers on Facebook:

Reflecting on an incredible first basketball season with KUAA –
3 home games
4 games in KC
5 road games – Las Vegas, Ft Worth, Norman, Waco, Austin
14 watch parties – LA (3), Denver, Chicago (2), Manhattan Beach, Seattle (2), San Francisco (2), San Diego, Houston, Dallas

And loved every second of it… because of the time spent with so many of you. Heading home!

IMG_news_crowncarKCNick ended the season with our L.A. Jayhawks, where halftime festivities include a highlight video celebrating our loyal alumni and fans (see below). Similar celebrations took place all season every place Jayhawks flock, from Maine to Seattle, and last Saturday was no different. All told, the KU Alumni Association hosted 68 watch parties during KU’s Elite 8 contest with Oregon in Kansas City.

And throughout the postseason, our staff was able to travel in style, thanks once again to our postseason partner Crown Automotive. The Crown Jayhawk Car didn’t log as many miles as we had hoped, but fans loved seeing it and snapping pics with it when we hit the road to Tulsa and KC.

More awards and recognition will continue to come before Monday night’s national championship game, and we have one more to add, for the Best Fans and Alumni in the Nation, always proud to be a Jayhawk.

Rock Chalk!


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