This time of year always makes us thankful for the people in our lives who have helped us along the way, and many of those generous souls are Jayhawks. Whenever KU alumni gather together for a networking event, a common question put to the crowd is this one: “Raise your hand if a Jayhawk helped you in your career.” Inevitably, every hand goes up.
Whether it was a special professor, a KU staff member, alumnus or friend, KU connections weave in and out of our lives and unite us as Jayhawks. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we asked some of our Alumni Association staff members to thank their KU mentors by reminiscing about the Jayhawks who made a difference in their lives.
Here are a couple of their responses:
I was in the Sports Management program right as Dr. Bob Frederick was transitioning to being a professor in the department from his career as Athletics Director. His real world way of teaching, stories of his time in the industry, and focus on not losing sight of being a good person first made an impact on me that continues to this day.
– Nick Kallail, d’04, l’07
My advisor in the J-School was Associate Dean Dana Liebengood, who would scribble out my academic future with a pencil on his bright yellow legal pad, like he did for so many students. Once we’d covered the required courses, we would discuss elective opportunities, and this is when he would light up! He became like a kid in a candy store, encouraging me to sample some of KU’s best professors, making sure I took advantage of all the university had to offer. Without his guidance, I might have missed out on Dick Wright’s ‘History of Jazz,’ one of the best courses I took at KU. His guidance enriched my KU experience–and ultimately my life–immeasurably.
–David Johnston, j’94, g’06
Did you have a KU mentor who made a difference? Go to our Facebook page to share your story, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And have a happy Thanksgiving, Jayhawks. Rock Chalk.
A group of Flying Jayhawks embarked on the Baltic & Scandinavian Treasures cruise August 22 to September 2, 2017. The 10-day adventure across Eastern Europe included time in eight countries for the 24 Flying Jayhawks on the trip. Nick Kallail, assistant vice president of alumni and network programs, hosted the trip and provided us with his account of the journey.
Many from our travel group met each other at Chicago O’Hare before the long flight to Copenhagen: The crimson and blue gear helped our travelers pick each other out! Our time in Copenhagen was limited to a short bus ride to the ship for embarkment, but we got a glimpse of the city and enjoyed a nice Jayhawk welcome reception at the Horizons Lounge.
The Flying Jayhawks departed early from our port in Warnemünde for tours in Berlin and the historic city of Rostock. Highlights in Rostock included the Rostock Astronomical Clock located at St. Mary’s Church and a river cruise back to the ship.
Guests were greeted to Lithuania with a traditional folk-style band right on the port. The excursion included a stop at the Palanga Amber Museum, where our host shared that the mansion where the museum is housed once belonged to her ancestor – the Countess. A brewery stop provided the opportunity to sample Lithuanian beer and snacks (pig ears, anyone?), while shopping at a nearby market closed our stay.
The stop in Latvia’s capital city of Riga was brief on a quiet Sunday morning, but those on the “Charming Riga” excursion toured some of the nearby sights, including St. Peter’s church. A flute player in the town square cleverly serenaded the many cruise tour groups with a rendition of the Titanic theme song, “My Heart Will Go On.” An evening happy hour provided the Flying Jayhawks an opportunity to relax and meet our fellow travelers.
Monday morning in Helsinki started with a stop at Senate Square and the striking Helsinki Cathedral. After viewing the Sibelius Monument and the Temppeliaukio Church, many travelers took the opportunity to enjoy some free time. They checked out Market Square and watched various street musicians perform.
St. Petersburg, Russia
We spent Tuesday through Thursday in the cultural capital of Russia. The Yusupov Palace and Canal Cruise took several Flying Jayhawks to the site of Rasputin’s assassination. This was followed by a boat ride through some of St. Petersburg’s many canals to the Neva River. Viewing sites included Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Isaac’s Square, and the Church of the Savior on Blood. Wednesday included the evening opportunity to visit either the ballet or an evening of Russian song and dance. Thursday included a visit to the Hermitage Museum, capped with a Flying Jayhawk family photo and dinner in the main dining room.
Our stop in Tallinn happened to fall on the first day of school, so local schoolchildren in their traditional first day dress colliding with camera-wielding tourists made for some funny encounters. The tour around Old Town included learning quite a bit about the history of this historically well-defended city, incredible panoramic views, and visits to local shopping and restaurants.
Our Baltic voyage concluded on Saturday morning in Stockholm where we said goodbye to the Oceania Marina. Those who stayed in Stockholm before flying home saw the Stockholm Palace and found Swedish Meatballs in Gamla Stan.
Watch the slideshow below to see more pictures from the trip, or view the photos on Flickr. You can download photos for personal use. For more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, visit our website.
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.”
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!
Nick 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.
When Nick Kallail and Danny Woods joined the Alumni Association as staff members in August 2016, their mission was simple: Grow the Association’s 59 national networks and connect more alumni with KU. Less than a year into their new roles, the two Jayhawks have found a distinct way to accomplish that.
Kallail, d’04, l’07, assistant vice president of alumni and career programs, and Woods, j’12, assistant director of legacy and alumni programs, developed a new volunteer support strategy that makes it easier for Jayhawks to volunteer their time and service and participate in alumni events across the country.
“We took everything that was already in place and put a brand on it,” says Woods.
That meant funneling popular alumni events like watch parties, networking breakfasts and community service projects into clear, concise categories, or “buckets.” They are:
A few of the more memorable events Kallail and Woods have organized in the past year include a KU vs. Iowa State men’s basketball watch party for 180 Jayhawks at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle and a toy drive in Tampa, Florida, that raised more than $2,000 in gifts for foster families.
New roles for volunteers
The two also created new designations for alumni volunteers who serve their networks. Instead of assigning traditional titles like president, vice president, treasurer and secretary, Kallail and Woods developed roles based on the volunteers’ primary responsibilities in their respective Jayhawk communities, including social media and event coordinators and admissions and legislative liaisons.
“We wanted to empower more people within the network,” says Woods.
Communication is key
Each alumni network maintains its own Facebook page to promote local events and share photos and updates. Network leaders also share a private Facebook page, which Kallail notes is a great way for networks to learn what other Jayhawks are doing across the country and discuss best practices for alumni engagement.
“I look at our network leaders as a family,” Kallail says. “They need to know each other and see what others are doing.”
Preparing future leaders
Also important to Kallail and Woods is preparing current KU students to become active alumni when they leave the Hill. The two meet regularly with the Student Alumni Leadership Board and other student groups in KU Admissions, Endowment and Athletics. They also are planning an event to introduce students to the Lawrence alumni network.
As evidenced by the enthusiastic turnouts and strong alumni response to events in the past few months, Kallail and Woods are confident they’re on the right track.
“This isn’t a new plan,” Kallail says. “The house was already built; we’re just tricking it out.”
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.”
Jayhawks in the Dallas Network assembled Oct. 23 at the Omni Hotel for the first installment of Jayhawks on Business (JOBS), a new series that highlights the strong partnership between the Alumni Association and the School of Business.
JOBS events will feature Dean Neeli Bendapudi and local Jayhawks who can share career stories, professional advice and their perspectives on the current business landscape. In Dallas, Dean Neeli hosted a discussion with Forrest Hoglund, e’56, arguably one of the most loyal Jayhawk volunteers in recent memory. Following his graduation from the School of Engineering, Hoglund began a distinguished career in the energy industry, including many years in top management with Exxon, Texas Oil and Gas and EOG Resources. He now serves as the chairman of SeaOne Maritime Corporation, and he is a leading philanthropist through several nonprofit organizations, including his own Hoglund Foundation. For KU, Hoglund and his wife, Sally Roney Hoglund, c’56, led the successful KU First fundraising campaign for KU Endowment from 2001 to 2005. They each have received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion for their extraordinary service to KU.
During the JOBS discussion, Hoglund shared tales of his journey from the KU baseball team to the military and eventually to Texas, where he had a front-row seat for some of the wildest times in the history of America’s energy industry. He also welcomed questions from the crowd.
“Seeing his passion for his current projects was inspiring and served as a great reminder of the phenomenal Jayhawk Nation we are a part of, ” said Nick Kallail, d’04, l’07, Dallas network board member.
The event also was a prime opportunity to showcase renderings of the future home of the KU School of Business—currently under construction—as well as provide attendees an opportunity to network with fellow Jayhawks.
“It was great to hear directly from a fellow KU alumnus on what it took for him to get from the classrooms in Lawrence to operating wildly successful businesses and philanthropic foundations,” said Aaron Brinkman, j’98, a member of the Alumni Association’s national Board of Directors. “I was also left feeling proud and confident in the future of the School of Business, knowing that someone with the passion, energy and experience of Dean Neeli is at the helm of the school.”
Be on the lookout for future editions of Jayhawks on Business in other U.S. cities!
Last Saturday, the Dallas Mavericks hosted more than 60 members and guests of the KU Alumni Association’s Dallas Chapter, including seven new members, for a home game against the Phoenix Suns. The evening kicked off with exclusive courtside access to the shootaround, where Jayhawk fans watched our own Marcus and Markieff Morris go through their pregame routines. The twins smiled and waved to Rock Chalk cheers from the alumni crowd as they prepared for the important late-season matchup.
After the shootaround, a happy hour was held in the American Airlines Center restaurant and bar Pira. The Jayhawk faithful enjoyed a VIP patio area on a pleasant spring evening, with drinks and appetizers provided by the Alumni Association. Finally, it was game time—and the action did not disappoint as the Mavericks came back from an early deficit to clinch a playoff spot, 101-98, in a tense, down-to-the-wire finish. For basketball-loving Jayhawks, it was a great game and overall experience at the American Airlines Center! KU Night with the Mavericks will be a highly anticipated event on the alumni calendar in years to come.
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.