As the first member of his family to attend college, David Graves, b’73, calls his KU experience transformational. “It was a wonderful four years of my life, and a time for growth in many ways,” he says, “not just in academic terms, but we all grow up emotionally as well.”
Graves’ career as a commercial real estate investment analyst began in his home community of Kansas City, but in 1983, The Travelers insurance company transferred him to Hartford, Connecticut, beginning a journey that took him to several cities across the nation. As the first in his family to move away, Graves says he was thankful he had become a Life Member of the Alumni Association soon after graduation. “I truly did want to stay connected to the University, the state and my family, and my life membership was one way psychologically to do that,” he says. “My commitment to KU has always been strong. I owe a great deal to the University, because I’ve been blessed with a pretty interesting 40-year career.”
After 14 years with Travelers, Graves began a 17-year stint with State Farm Insurance companies in Bloomington, Illinois, where he became vice president of real estate and mortgages. When he retired from State Farm, he and his family settled in Dallas. Through the years, Graves had become a close friend of Dallas real estate developer and fellow Jayhawk John Eulich, b’51, who ultimately coaxed Graves out of retirement to become managing director of The Belmont Group, the Eulich family’s trust.
Eulich, who died Sept. 3, and his wife, Ginny Walsh Eulich, c’51, in the early 1980s provided a gift to the Alumni Association to fund the bronze “Eulich Jayhawk” sculpture outside the Adams Alumni Center. Graves has followed their example with his gift of $30,000 to create the David Graves Alumni Excellence Fund , which he hopes can help KU students and young alumni make valuable career connections with successful Jayhawks. He praises the Association’s Dallas Network for linking many young graduates who are beginning their careers.
As the second of three siblings, Graves began a KU tradition in his family, inspiring his younger brother, Dean, b’75, to follow him to the Hill, and his older sister, Donna Cooper Graves, PhD‘94, to choose KU for her doctoral degree. Naturally, their 93-year-old father, Don, is a converted Jayhawk, ardent basketball fan and, until recently, quite the hoops sensation in his own right. “He played basketball about a year ago,” Graves says. “You don’t want to take him on in a game of horse.”
Graves returns home several times each year to visit his dad. His January trip will include a visit to Allen Field House to watch his Jayhawks take on the Texas Longhorns as part of his annual birthday celebration with lifelong friend and pledge brother, John Ballard, b’73. “I always chide him into obtaining a ticket for me,” Graves says. “There’s a big piece of my heart that still resides in Kansas at KU.”
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.
Scott Collin and Jeff Goldfarb both attended the KU School of Journalism, graduated together in 1994, and have crossed paths plenty of times in their professional careers—first at a WPP Advertising Agency in the late 1990s.
Last year, the two Jayhawks worked together again, this time with Jeff, j’94, as one of Scott’s clients. Jeff is the director of cooperative marketing for ASI, the for-profit side of AARP, while Scott is the chief creative officer for Influent50, a full-service advertising agency that focuses on people 50 and older.
The photo above was taken in May in Budapest, Hungary, where the pair was on a television shoot. “We shot the commercials in Budapest because of the incredible efficiencies and savings we were able to realize there,” explained Scott. “Those savings allowed us to work with The Mill, one of the top and most respected CG and Virtual Reality production shops in the world. Ten days in Budapest with an old friend and fellow Jayhawk just firmed up why I got into this business.”
Scott, j’94, shared more insights about his time on campus, advice for students and alumni— and explained the photo above.
So, what about the mug shots?
The “mug shots” were for fun. We had brunch one morning in Budapest at this fantastic little restaurant. That whole scene was just there. Just a wall with words and graphics on it with two cut-out frames. Behind the frames was a wall of flowers. So I thought it would have been a total missed opportunity if we didn’t take our photos there.
Tell us about your experience at KU.
It was fantastic. On every level. What I love about it is that it wasn’t easy. In fact, it seemed at every turn I was up against obstacles I didn’t think I could navigate. But I did. Both with my classmates and, when things seemed insurmountable, my professors. There was a day when I was presenting what I thought was the best idea I’d ever had to a class and professor Bengston tore me to pieces. I was devastated. Yet, after class he told me it was his favorite idea…and he wanted to teach me how to keep a good idea alive. Best lesson I was taught the entire time I was at KU. My career since then has been all about making good ideas great…and keeping great ideas alive.
People are afraid of anything that’s new or difference. So…keeping new ideas alive is far from easy.
What advice do you have for current students or recent graduates?
Be curious. Never stop asking why. When things seem to stagnate or you don’t think new ideas are coming, throw something completely inane or bizarre into the mix. Take walks. Hydrate. Offer to help other people with things that don’t necessarily connect to what you do.
Be nice. Be kind. Be astute. But the most important thing of all is to outwork those around you. Especially when it comes to creative, those who work the hardest are rewarded the most. If you want your idea to live, will it to. Give it life. Give it the support it needs. And never give up. The minute you do, someone else will sweep in and take over.
But at the end of the day, be genuine. A happy client means a happy agency. Celebrate your friends successes. Applaud winning efforts. Do this, you will be healthy and go far.
At the end of the day…
Advertising affords you many amazing opportunities. But at the end of the day, advertising is a job like any other. Lawyers. Garbagemen. Politicians. We all love to think we do the most interesting thing in the world.
We don’t. We do what we do. Ideally, we do it really well.
The most interesting people in the world are the ones with the best stories. So it’s in your best interest to take good notes and learn to own the stage.
Here’s one more photo from Scott, taken at the Statue Park outside of Budapest. He explained that this is where the Hungarians took all the old Russian statues after they took back their own independence. Jeff and Scott are pictured along with Scott’s art director partner, Rebecca Mabie, and their chaperone, Zília Tóth. Scott welcomes messages from alumni—you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured left to right: Zília Tóth, Rebecca Mabie, Scott Collin, Jeff Goldfarb
David O’Brien, j’86, has been the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Braves beat writer since 2002—but he’s been a Jayhawk since his arrival on the Hill in 1982. David joined the KU Alumni Association as an annual member immediately following his 1986 graduation, and after faithfully renewing for nearly 30 consecutive years, he recently demonstrated his unwavering loyalty by becoming a Proud Life Member. He always enjoys talking baseball, music, motorcycles, cool new restaurants he finds on his travels and, most especially, all things crimson and blue.
What was your favorite class, instructor or professor as a KU student?
I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Bob Frederick’s courses in the Health, Sport, and Exercise Science Department. I had the opportunity to take multiple courses from him. He was many, many things—he genuinely cared for his students, possessed a tremendous amount of industry experience and wisdom that he applied to course content, he had the best stories from his time as KU’s Athletics Director. Most of all, he was a true gentleman and one of the finest Jayhawks to ever live.
What advice do you have for today’s KU students?
1. Start building your network now – as we say through the Student Alumni Association, one Jayhawk connection can change your world.
2. Understand the experience you are having today was built on the backs of generations of alumni.
3. When you leave the Hill, join the Alumni Association, get involved in your local alumni network, advocate for the university, and when you have the ability, give back to an area of KU that you are passionate about to ensure future generations continue to receive the same quality education and experience you are receiving now.
That’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed this six-part series about our new president. Still have questions? Email us at email@example.com.
Scot Pollard originally didn’t want to attend college anywhere east of California.
He took a few recruiting trips, and he verbally committed to Arizona. Then, he made a trip to Kansas.
“Late Night,” he says. “Come on, you just cannot touch walking in that building, there’s nothing like it in the whole world.”
And if you’ve ever been in Allen Fieldhouse, you know what he means. Fortunately, the atmosphere at the University of Kansas convinced him that this was the place to be, and Jayhawk fans for years have embraced the colorful character that is Scot Pollard, black fingernail polish and all.
That bond continues beyond college.
“The unique family atmosphere that you have when you go to the University of Kansas…it’s really grown even more, because everywhere I go in the whole world, and I’ve been around the world, I’ve stayed in a lot of different places, I’ve had some very unique experiences, it’s just different being a Jayhawk,” Pollard, d’97, explains.
He describes attending a Pacers game last year when Ben McLemore played. “I don’t know if I’ve ever shaken Ben McLemore’s hand, but he knows who I am, and I know who he is, and we know we have that common bond,” he says. “We’re in a family of Jayhawks.”
Jayhawk fans will have another opportunity to watch Scot Pollard—he’s a contestant on season 32 of the popular reality show “Survivor,” which premieres Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m. CT.
Roses are red,
crimson, not blue.
Matt Gowen loves his job,
and he went to KU.
Okay, let’s face it. Not all of us are gifted in poetry, romance or humor, myself included. But Lawrence native Matt Gowen used his KU journalism degree to land a pretty good gig writing for greeting card giant Hallmark Cards in Kansas City.
A former opinion editor for the University Daily Kansan and reporter for the Lawrence Journal-World and Kansas City Business Journal, Gowen, j’95, started to burn out on the grind of news journalism. In 2000, his career took a turn, thanks to the help of his Jayhawk connections and some thoughtful siblings who steered him toward Hallmark, where writing became fun again. And funny too.
We went behind the scenes at one of Kansas City’s most famous companies to learn how this Jayhawk journalist went from writing headlines to humor.
So if you care enough to send your valentine a card from Hallmark, don’t be surprised– it might have been penned by a Jayhawk.
I have two. I will never forget when we unleashed years of frustration on the gridiron against Nebraska at home in 2007. We won 76-39. After winning on the road at KSU, at CU, and at Texas AM, we knew we had something special in the making. The other event was easily the 2008 Final Four. Beating Carolina, winning the title in dramatic fashion, and then taking over Rita’s on the River Walk is about as good as it gets. The only thing better would have been to be able to walk out of the arena onto Mass Street!
Last week, we found out Heath’s hidden talent. Next week, find out who Heath’s favorite professor at KU was, and read the advice he has for today’s students. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My time and energy outside of the office is mostly invested in family. My wife and I are raising three little Jayhawks: Beau (8), Presley (4), and Claire (2). We have our hands full keeping them fed, bathed, healthy, on time to various activities and in their own beds at night! I enjoy being involved in my kids activities— school, sports, and otherwise. Carrie and I also enjoy raising them in Lawrence and the KU community.
Do you have any hidden talents?
My trailer backing abilities are off the charts high. My family owned a small trucking company in Hugoton. As a kid, I backed semi trailers into the shop for maintenance. I also spent six years pulling the Rock Chalk Wagon (the Alumni Association’s cargo trailer, generously provided by Monte and Kay Johnson) around Kansas, as well as in downtown Chicago, Dallas, and numerous other places for KU events. I can drive backwards almost as well as I can drive forward!
Next week, Heath tells us about his most memorable KU sporting event. Have a question or comment to share? Email us at email@example.com.
It’s hard to beat the Rock Chalk Chant in Allen Field House or waving the wheat in Memorial Stadium, but my favorite KU tradition as a student was easily walking through the Campanile for the very first time on Commencement, followed by the walk down the hill into the stadium to celebrate earning a KU degree and becoming an alumnus. My pride in KU was off the charts high that day, right along with the temperature. It was blazing hot, but well worth the sweat!
Over the years, I have grown to believe our greatest traditions are those of service and giving provided by alumni and friends. The contributions of time, talents, and resources from alumni and friends are the reason the Jayhawk experience is second to none.
Next week, Heath shares a little about how he spends his time out of the office—and also reveals a unique hidden talent. Have a question or comment to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.