How did your career at the KU Alumni Association begin?
During the second semester of my freshman year at KU, my girlfriend (now wife) worked for the Alumni Association as a receptionist on the first floor of the Adams Alumni Center. She secured the job through a connection she made with the director of the Kansas Honors Program, an Association program that annually recognizes the top 10 percent of high school seniors in Kansas. Carrie was a Kansas Honor Scholar and received the Woodward Scholarship from the Alumni Association.
During my second semester at KU, the Association had an opening for a “blue shirt” position. “Blue Shirt” is a term we still use today to describe students who work in banquet services and maintain the appearance and cleanliness of the Alumni Center. Naturally, they wear blue KU alumni polo shirts. My girlfriend put in a good word for me, Bernie Nordling served as a reference, and Mike Wellman hired me.
My first opportunity in a professional position occurred when Bryan Greve, senior vice president for hospitality services, and our interim president at the time, Del Shankel, promoted me to director of the Adams Alumni Center. Later, Kevin Corbett hired me in 2005 for a newly created position focused on developing alumni networks in the state of Kansas. At that point, I made the decision to pursue a career in alumni relations.
It’s bizarre for me to look back and realize how the Alumni Association began to make connections with both my wife and me before we became KU students. If not for the Nordlings, my wife’s brains and the Kansas Honors Program, I would likely be in a different career, and I might have suffered the misfortune of not being a Jayhawk.
Next time, learn about Heath’s favorite KU tradition. Have a question or comment to share? Email us at email@example.com.
I am a first-generation Jayhawk. Outside of KU basketball, I had very little exposure to the University of Kansas growing up, particularly six hours away in Hugoton. Ironically, my first meaningful encounter with the University occurred through a KU alumni event. In the late ’90s, I was invited to a KU summer picnic at the home of Barbara and the late Bernie Nordling, two very dedicated Jayhawks who lived in Hugoton at the time. The purpose of the event was to welcome incoming freshmen from southwest Kansas to KU and also to connect with students interested in attending KU. I had a great conversation with Bernie about his KU experience and how his KU degree prepared him for his career and leadership in his community.
I remember being struck by the passion he showed for his alma mater and how KU was still a significant part of his life many years removed from being a student. It also wasn’t lost on me that I did not receive an invite from alumni of any other institution. The experience motivated me to take a visit during the fall of my senior year in high school. I remember driving over the crest of Daisy Hill on 15th Street, seeing campus for the very first time. At that moment, I knew I wanted be a Jayhawk. Holding two degrees from KU and now having the opportunity to interact with thousands of alumni, I now understand why Bernie went out of his way to serve his alma mater! It’s also one of many great examples of the immeasurable ways the KU Alumni Association impacts KU. I’ve remained friends with many Nordling family members, who continue to do a great deal for KU.
Next time, Heath talks about how he began his career at the KU Alumni Association, in Meet Heath: Part 2. Have a question or comment to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Year 32 and the “Bowl Guys” keep on rolling, this time at the inaugural Arizona Bowl, Dec. 29 in Tucson, Arizona.
Shortly after their KU graduations, Tom Hall, b’82, and Brian Dixon, b’81, hatched a plan to attend every college football bowl game at least once. There were 18 such games when their journey began at the 1984 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans; three decades later, they still have eight (as the postseason lineup now stands) to check off their list.
“Brian is a little bummed because he doesn’t know when this thing is ever gonna end,” Hall, of Kansas City, told CBS Sports.com in a profile published Dec. 23. “He’s of the opinion we can just finish and move on to something else. I’m like, ‘Brian, this is our life mission. No one will ever be able to repeat this accomplishment.'”
With growing fame in football circles, the guys haven’t paid for game tickets since 1990, and their quest comes with a few other ground rules: Inaugural games, final games and least-expensive venues are given priority when planning their annual excursion, and the outings come with wagers. With first choice given to the loser of the previous year’s game, Hall and Dixon pick sides, buy school gear, cheer madly, and the loser is on the hook for postgame celebrations.
“We’d still be friends,” Dixon, of Denver, told CBS Sports.com of the unique journeys that have brought college buddies closer over the years, “but I don’t think we’d be as close as we are without taking a trip with a friend 30-plus years in a row.”
Fun fact: When the Alumni Association staff heard that the Bowl Guys would travel to Arizona this year, we had no idea that a lucky coincidence was in the works. Staff photographer Dan Storey is a graduate of Colorado State University, which played Nevada in the Arizona Bowl. Dan’s wife, Angie, b’04, g’07, vice president of donor relations, surprised him at Christmas with tickets to watch his alma mater. The Storeys met up with the “Bowl Guys” before the game in Tucson to take this photo. Colorado State lost, 28-23.
Each of the 32 NFL teams nominates a member of their team for the award, with each nominee receiving a $5,000 donation to the charity of their choice. Stuckey’s selected charity is “Teammates for Kids.”
Fans are invited to show support for Stuckey using the hashtag #StuckeyWPMOYChallenge on any social media platform through Dec. 31, 2015. The winner will receive an additional $20,000 donation to their charity.
Trainer Henry Parker (l-r) and Steve and Teri Durr with Beware of Phog, Oct. 17 at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, Florida.
When readers of Kansas Alumni magazine were introduced to the charismatic greyhound Beware of Phog with an item in the Jayhawk Walk section of issue No. 4, 2014, the fleet black flash was already making a name for himself at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, Florida, with 11 victories in his first 33 starts.
“He’s a really cool dog,” Derby Lane’s Vera Rasnake said then. “There are no strangers with him. He loves people, he’s really nice looking, and just a cocky little guy. He knows he’s good.”
We’re sad to report that a tendon injury in his right hind leg prematurely ended Phog’s racing days; we’re thrilled to report he’ll soon be living the life of leisure in Enid, Oklahoma, with stalwart Jayhawks Steve, c’74, and Teri Wiggans Durr, j’76.
The Durrs, already the owners of two adopted greyhounds, have long supported the cause by assisting Tulsa’s Halfway Home Greyhounds, and their heartfelt allegiance to the splendid animals was rewarded in 2013 with the honor of naming a pair of unraced puppies.
They chose Beware of Phog and Wins Jayhawks, and both dogs with the KU-themed monikers established themselves as formidable athletes. Though not quite the caliber of his stakes-winning brother, Wins Jayhawks—who has moved from Tennessee’s Southland Park to Wheeling Island in West Virginia—is a quality runner at the AA level, one notch below Beware of Phog’s A races.
Even though they’d never attended a greyhound race, the Durrs followed both dogs’ progress in race results posted online. When they learned that Beware of Phog was injured May 23, during his 109th career start, the Durrs anxiously tracked the sometimes frustrating news about his recovery.
Beware of Phog won his first post-rehab schooling race, but was scratched from his second start. He reinjured the troublesome tendon and was officially retired. That’s when the Durrs swung into action, and were soon granted their wish: They could adopt Beware of Phog and bring him back to Oklahoma.
With a work trip already scheduled to the Tampa area, the Durrs on Oct. 17 made their way to Derby Lane to finally meet Beware of Phog and trainer Henry Parker. It was their first visit to a greyhound track.
“We asked his trainer to tell us some stories about Phog,” Teri Durr says, “He thought about it and said, ‘Do you remember back in high school, where there’s the good guy who was the quarterback and the star athlete and just an all-around good guy? That’s Phog.'”
He must first recover from his injury and also be neutered before he can be released for adoption, so the Durrs anticipate making the long drive to Florida in about three weeks to pick up Beware of Phog. Teri Durr can’t wait to introduce Phog to his own bed, a well-earned reward after a lifetime spent in kennels.
“We’re just thrilled that he gets to come to us,” Durr says. “It’s not something we were planning on, but when he got hurt, we said there’s just no way that we could not bring him home.
“Everybody needs a greyhound. They’re awful sweet, and they’re so beautiful. They just need homes.”
Few Jayhawks would appreciate being surrounded by a pack of tigers at a sports event, let alone on a daily basis at work. Reuben Shelton, a St. Louis attorney and immediate past-president of the Missouri Bar, is used to it. Not only does he accept his fate, he happily makes the most of it.
“Everywhere I go, I tell people I’m a Jayhawk,” says Shelton, j’78, who frequently speaks to large audiences of Mizzou-loving attorneys. “All over the state—from Cape Girardeau to Brookfield. Everywhere.”
Given Shelton’s diehard dedication to his alma mater—a particularly brave undertaking in Tiger territory—it was only fitting that the bar would find a special way to honor its outgoing president at its recent annual meeting in St. Louis. The organization enlisted the KU Alumni Association to write a humorous, Jayhawk-themed resolution for Shelton, one that would applaud his crimson-and-blue commitment in the rival school’s domain.
Sebrina Barrett, executive director of the bar, presented the resolution. A Mizzou graduate, she worked closely with Shelton during his tenure as president and knew she had to do it right. “I just thought, ‘I can’t do this unless I truly get into it and put on a Kansas T-shirt,’” she recalls. “I wasn’t even sure whether I could find one in Columbia where I live, but I did.”
When the time came, Barrett put on the KU T-shirt and began reading the resolution, much to the surprise and delight of the nearly 40 Missouri fans in the room.
“Everybody in the room was just dying,” says Shelton. “It was so funny because Sebrina is a dyed-in-the-wool tiger.”
Although it may have pained her to wear KU colors that day, Barrett was happy to honor the man who’s done so much for the bar during his presidency. “Reuben leaves behind a tremendous legacy of inclusion,” she says. “He believes everybody should have a seat at the table. This was a lighthearted way for me to show a willingness to do that, and to embrace Reuben’s culture and personality.”
This article was submitted by Mike Starkweather, c’67, one of the first residents to live in McCollum Hall after it opened. Read more of Mike’s memories of McCollum Hall here. Do you have stories of life in the residence hall to share with alumni? Email us at email@example.com. Photos are welcome, too!
Working as a resident assistant at McCollum Hall also meant attending staff meetings. At one particular meeting in April 1967, something happened that changed the course of my professional career. It had nothing to do with the content of the meeting, but what several of us did while the meeting was going on.
We always looked in our mailboxes, located across from the meeting room, before going into the room, just in case there was something besides the meeting agenda that needed our attention.
One day our mailboxes held a recruitment booklet from the United States Peace Corps advertising for participants in some of the first programs going to the South Pacific—specifically Western Samoa, the Kingdom of Tonga and Fiji. The meeting wasn’t particularly captivating (sorry, Dean), and by the time it was over, several of us had completed the multi-page, in-depth Peace Corps application. We asked each other, “What shall we do with them?”
The answer was simple: We sealed the self-addressed, postage-paid envelopes, and dropped them in the mail box and forgot about them.
In June telegrams from the Peace Corps arrived, inviting us to training in Hawaii. After three months of training, I headed off to the Kingdom of Tonga while a fellow staff member went to Fiji. It turned out to be the single most life-changing event for me. After participating in the Peace Corps, I directed Peace Corps training in the South Pacific, earned a master of arts degree from the University of Hawaii, and lived and worked in education and international development in Hawaii for thirty years.
I returned to the mainland and continued working in international development, switching my interests from Asia and the Pacific to Africa. My resume now reads “lived and worked in 42 countries on five continents.” Not bad for a kid from Wichita.
Two years ago our Peace Corps crew from Tonga celebrated the 40th anniversary of our arrival there. Forty of the 57 of us who completed the program talked about the collective 1,600 years of experience among us. There’s something we all share: Don’t be satisfied with the things you’ve done. Keep looking for something new and different to accomplish. Basically, what do you want to do when you grow up?
And those are the minutes of a staff meeting in McCollum Hall, April 1967. Do I have a second for the approval of these minutes?
Jessica Nelson knew from a young age that she would go to KU.
With two parents who attended the University, Nelson was born and bred a Jayhawk. “The experience that I had at the University of Kansas, I want others to experience,” she says, explaining that while the level of education and learning opportunities at the university are incredibly useful in day-to-day life, “you also have that tradition and that legacy and that camaraderie…and I think that’s something you can’t find everywhere.”
Nelson, j’11, leads Team KC Life+Talent for the Kansas City Area Development Council, a regional economic development organization tasked with promoting Kansas City as a top lifestyle and business destination. Her role includes working with a variety of people—including college student interns and corporate level executives. Finding common ground as a Jayhawk often helps break the ice.
“My job is to tell the Kansas City story, and so much of the great talent in Kansas City comes from great individuals from KU,” she says.
This article was submitted by Mike Starkweather, c’67, an early resident of McCollum Hall. Do you have stories of life in the residence hall to share with alumni? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos are welcome, too! Read more of Mike’s memories of McCollum Hall here.
Ah, McCollum Hall. Being one of the first residents to move in during the fall of ’66 was historic enough, but who knew what was yet to come?
McCollum was the first residence hall on campus to allow men and women to live in the same building. Even though they were separated by the “iron curtain” dividing the floor in the lounges, you don’t really think that stopped them from mingling, do you?
As McCollum residents, we wasted no time making a name for ourselves. We joined Alpha Omicron Pi sorority to become the first independent living organization to participate in Rock Chalk Revue. It was a big deal to take part in the iconic event. Having been the lead actor in the skit, “Where There’s a Will There’s a Play,” I appreciate the hard work, long hours and dedication of the many people that make Rock Chalk Revue happen. At the time, the sole beneficiary was the KU YMCA.
Today, Rock Chalk Revue serves the entire Lawrence community—congratulations on making this happen. I truly appreciate the annual invitation extended to Rock Chalk Revue alumni to return to the Hill and continue to be part of this long-standing tradition. It’s on my bucket list.
Serving as a resident assistant at McCollum, I was privy to many events not found in the pages of the University Daily Kansan.
One hysterical event that may have led to serious car insurance issues comes to mind. One night while I was working in the office, the phone rang. The caller was Dean Fred McElhenie. He said, “Mike, we have a situation I need you to check out. To confirm it, please look out the window and tell me what you see on the south end of Ellsworth Hall.” He asked me to defuse the situation and let him know what transpired.
I went outside and looked up to the eighth floor, taking note of where a particular blue-tinged light appeared. I ventured to the eighth floor, knocked and entered the room full of male residents looking out the window at the facing wall of Ellsworth. The blue-tinged light belonged to a slide projector that was showing a cavalcade review of Playboy Playmates of the Month on the blank wall of Ellsworth—in three-story dimensions.
Given the proximity of the wall to the adjacent highway, traffic had definitely slowed down in the area. Fortunately, no brakes were squealing, but the review was not going unnoticed by residents, drivers and pedestrians in the area. I asked the men to aim the projector onto their own wall. The auto insurance companies should appreciate not having to pay claims for inattentive driving and bumper damage.
Other incidents from McCollum Hall rival this one, but they’ll remain under wraps to protect the guilty.
Chip Hilleary fell in love with the University of Kansas after a football recruiting visit and knew Lawrence was where he wanted to spend the next four years.
Football fans will recall Hilleary as the quarterback who helped lead KU football to its first bowl win in 31 years with a 23-20 victory over Brigham Young University in the 1992 Aloha Bowl.
In our new video, Hilleary, d’94, describes how despite campus always changing with new construction and new faces, it’s always the same university that he remembers. “The leaders that are present now at the University of Kansas definitely have a vision and respect the past and the history of what it’s like to be a student here,” he says.
Hilleary, a Life Member of the Alumni Association, cherishes his memories of KU, including the final time he wore a Jayhawk football uniform his senior year and the camaraderie of the friends he made.