Sunny skies and soaring temps made for a near-perfect day as about 300 graduating students dropped by the Adams Alumni Center May 5 for Grad Grill. The annual event was presented by the Alumni Association and HERE Kansas, a new apartment community on the Lawrence campus.
Students mingled with friends throughout the evening and enjoyed free food and fresh brews, courtesy of Hy-Vee and Free State Brewing Company. The KU Bookstore and Kansas Athletics were also on hand with coupons, gift-card giveaways, and free posters, koozies, license-plate frames and sunglasses. Local DJ Scott Simpson kept things lively with the latest pop tunes and students took turns capturing not-so-candid moments in the photo booth.
Scott Bagley, a senior from Overland Park, stopped by to grab some food and socialize before diving into finals preparation. “A few good friends from high school are going to be here,” he said. “I’m hoping to see them.”
Yee Ming Khaw and Puteri Ahmad, seniors from Malaysia, and Katie Morales, a senior from Emporia, hit Grad Grill before going out for more Stop Day celebrations. “It’s Friday night,” said Ahmad. “It’s one of the last Friday nights before Commencement.”
When Alumni Association president Kevin Corbett, c’88, took the stage to welcome Jayhawk alumni and fans to the official rally before Friday’s NCAA Tournament opener in Omaha’s CenturyLink Center, he told the gathering that he and other members of the Association staff weren’t sure what to expect.
With a rally that began at 8 a.m., ahead of an 11:15 a.m. tipoff, they worried the early hour would keep fans from showing up in time for a gathering of the flock.
“And next thing we know,” Corbett noted to the crowd of about 1,000 Jayhawk faithful, “there’s a line outside the door to get in. Welcome to the Big Dance.”
The early risers soaked in the complete crimson and blue experience. With the giant inflatable Jay towering over the ballroom and D.J. Scott Simpson, ’85, cranking out the tunes, fans frolicked with Baby Jay, found themselves interviewed by television crews and scored official gear from KUStore.com, all while greeting old friends from near and far.
“We’re thrilled to have everyone back in Omaha,” said the Association board’s chair-elect Rick Putnam, c’77, l’80, a local attorney. “Every few years we get to see all of our KU friends return here for the tournament, and it’s always seems to work out well.”
The Jayhawks launched their 2008 national championship run in Omaha, and did the same on their way to the NCAA Tournament title game in 2012. Should they be fortunate enough to advance to the tourney’s second weekend three years from now, the Jayhawks could return again to Omaha, which will host NCAA regional play in 2018.
“Here we are again,” Corbett told the crowd, “ready to begin another run.”
Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, PhD’96, told the KU faithful about a few minutes he spent in the locker room with assistant coaches while coach Bill Self met with the media after the Jayhawks secured their 11th-consecutive Big 12 title. The coaches, Zenger said, thought back to the 72-40 drubbing by Kentucky Nov. 18; from that disappointment emerged 26 victories entering NCAA play, another outright conference championship, a trip to the Big 12 Tournament’s title game and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“The coaches said to me, ‘We’d have taken that and run,'” Zenger recalled. “What a job coach Self has done.”
Noting that KU is in its 26th-consecutive NCAA Tournament, Zenger closed with, “This is what we do, and nobody does it better.”
With the Spirit Squad and basketball band kicking the festivities into high gear, fans sang along with fight songs, the Alma Mater and, of course, the Rock Chalk Chant before descending in droves to the arena below.
The Big Dance had begun.
Check out our photos from today’s pregame party and pep rally in the slideshow below.
The 102nd Homecoming at the University of Kansas concluded Sept. 27 after a week that included events for KU students and the Lawrence community.
Throughout the week, KU student organizations collected points for their participation in events coordinated by the student-led Homecoming Steering Committee and the KU Alumni Association, along with campus and community partners. The theme of this year’s celebration was Roll with the ’Hawks. For information on the winners of individual daily events, visit www.kualumni.org/homecoming.
The overall winners for the week were Delta Delta Delta sorority and Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, which together won first prize in the Greek Life division, and the KU School of Engineering, which placed first in the Student Life division. The winners were announced at halftime of the KU-Texas football game Sept. 27.
In addition, Caleb Bobo, a junior political science and African-American studies major from St. Louis, won the Jennifer Alderdice Homecoming Award. The Homecoming Steering Committee selected him for his spirit and campus service. Bobo is vice president of membership for the Student Alumni Leadership Board and vice president for the Student Endowment Board. He also leads the KU Black Men’s Union as president. He represents the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Student Senate, and he helps recruit students for the Office of Admissions. He received the Jayhawk Generations Scholarship and was selected for the University Scholars program. He also mentors fellow students in the University Honors Program. He is the son of KU alumni Luke Bobo and Rita Holmes-Bobo, who now live in Shawnee.
The award honors Jennifer Alderdice, a former KU Alumni Association staff member who advised the Homecoming Steering Committee and the Student Alumni Association for many years. Alderdice, who still lives in Lawrence, earned her KU master’s degree in higher education administration in 1999.
KU alumnus Scott Simpson of Lawrence received the Rich and Judy Billings Spirit of 1912 Award for his contributions to KU Homecoming tradition through the years. Simpson attended KU from 1980 to 1985 and is the owner of Scott Simpson Productions. As a disc jockey for nearly 30 years, he has presided over countless KU events for Homecoming and pep rallies at home and away games. Most recently, he has helped the Alumni Association host the annual food festival and Jayhawk Jingles competition during Homecoming celebrations. In 2013, he was voted the “Best of Lawrence” DJ by readers of the Lawrence Journal-World.
The Spirit of 1912 Award honors Rich and Judy Howard Billings of Lakewood, Colorado. As 1957 KU graduates, the Billings attended 50 consecutive Homecomings following their graduation. In 2007, they received the Spirit of 1912 Award, which honors the year KU celebrated its first Homecoming. The Alumni Association renamed the award to honor the couple; they have created an endowment to fund future KU Homecoming activities.
An essential ingredient of the annual Jayhawk Jingles Homecoming contest is Jayhawk disc jockey Scott Simpson of Lawrence. As the Jingles competition concluded Sept. 24, Mike Davis of the Alumni Association called Simpson to the stage to receive his own well-deserved applause: Simpson received the Rich and Judy Billings Spirit of 1912 Award for his contributions to KU Homecoming tradition through the years.
“I’m humbled and honored to get this award,” Simpson told the crowd as the Campanile chimed. “It has been a true joy to work with KU folks and the Alumni Association these past 30 years, and I hope for many more years to come.”
Simpson, a Lawrence native, attended KU from 1980 to 1985. As a disc jockey and owner of Scott Simpson Productions, he has presided over countless KU events for Homecoming and pep rallies at home and away games. In 2013, he was voted the “Best of Lawrence” DJ by readers of the Lawrence Journal-World. Simpson is a Lawrence native and a graduate of Lawrence High School. In addition to his involvement in thousands of events, including wedding receptions, he volunteers for Senior Meals on Wheels.
The Spirit of 1912 Award honors Rich, c’57, and Judy Howard Billings, d’57, of Lakewood, Colorado. The Billings attended 50 consecutive Homecomings following their graduation, and in 2007 they received the Spirit of 1912 Award, which recalls the year KU celebrated its first Homecoming. The Alumni Association renamed the award to honor the two, who have created an endowment to fund future KU Homecoming activities.