KU connection brings confetti new life

Posted on Feb 11, 2020 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Super Bowl Confetti

The clock hit zero in Miami and red, yellow and white confetti rained down, some featuring tweets from Kansas City Chiefs fans and players. While every Chiefs fan would love to get their hands on a piece as a souvenir, a KU connection landed a full bag in the hands of a local artist with big plans.

Allison Smith, d’05, n’07, g’08, had a previous connection with Ryan Toma, a groundskeeper for the Chiefs and was keeping up with his experience in Miami through Instagram. She saw him post about the tweet confetti and loved it.

Fast forward to the next day, and Kansas City-based artist Megh Knappenberger, f’04, above, asked on Instagram how she could get her hands on some confetti for a project.

“I was on my way to the KU hoops game and happened to see Megh’s Instagram story asking if anyone had a ‘hookup’ or ‘connection’ for the confetti,” Smith says. “So, I messaged Ryan to see if he could spare some. They messaged each other and met up in person on Tuesday afternoon!”

As for the end result … we’ll see! That’s a lot of confetti to clean and dry.

Here’s hoping that this isn’t the last celebration for local teams this year. “Fingers crossed for another championship for KU in April 2020,” Smith says. “I’ve got a good feeling!”

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Stories of the Decade

Posted on Dec 31, 2019 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

In the grand scheme of our 155 year-old University, a decade is barely a blip. But that doesn’t mean the past 10 years have gone without notable accomplishments.

We welcomed presidential visits, brought the original rules of basketball home and said farewell to a home on Daisy Hill. We revered Jayhawks who won the Nobel Peace Prize, Rhodes Scholarships, MacArthur fellowships and an Academy Award.

Jayhawks have much to be proud of.

KU Cancer Center achieves NCI designation

“I am here,” said Kathleen Sebelius, g’80, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “to formally award the University of Kansas Cancer Center with the prestigious designation as a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center.” With that proclamation on July 12, 2012, the University succeeded in its longtime quest for NCI designation, transforming cancer research and care for Kansas and the region to a gold standard.

Alumnus wins Nobel Peace Prize

Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, received an honorary degree from KU

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his efforts at ending a civil war that ravaged his country for more than 50 years. Santos, b’73, visited KU in 2012 and returned in 2017 to receive an honorary degree. The Colombian leader was not the only sitting president to visit KU during the last decade: In 2015, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit KU in more than a century. 

Rock Chalk Champions

Fans celebrate on Mass Street after KU beats Duke to advance to the Final Four | 2018

It was a decade of dominance for KU men’s basketball, including 14 straight Big 12 titles and Final Fours in 2012 and 2018. Allen Fieldhouse hosted numerous legendary players and performances, including an overtime classic against Missouri in 2012 and Frank Mason III’s National Player of the Year season in 2017.

The women’s outdoor track and field team won the national championship in 2013, and KU’s volleyball team reached its first final four in 2015. KU Debate also won the 2018 National Debate Tournament—its sixth national championship.

Honors and Awards

KU students, faculty and alumni won numerous prestigious awards during the past decade.

The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and most celebrated fellowship in the world, and each year just 32 students from the United States are selected. Two Jayhawks received the coveted award: Kelsey Murrell, c’12, became KU’s 26th Rhodes Scholar in 2011, and Shegufta Huma, c’17, was named a Rhodes Scholar in 2016.

Two Jayhawks were named MacArthur Fellows in the past ten years. Often called “genius grants,” the fellowship provides a $500,000 no-strings-attached grant that helps exceptional artists, scholars, scientists and teachers to pursue projects.

Marla Spivak, PhD’89, was named a 2010 MacArthur Fellow. She is a McKnight Distinguished Professor in entomology at the University of Minnesota and an international leader on honey bee research.

Sarah Deer, c’96, l’99, was a winner of the MacArthur fellowship in 2014. Deer is a legal scholar, strategist and advocate for policies and legislation designed to help Native American tribal courts more effectively address violence against women. She returned to KU in 2017 as a professor in the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies and the School of Public Affairs & Administration.

In 2012, the University began awarding honorary degrees at Commencement to recognize intellectual, scholarly, professional, or creative achievement, or service to humanity. It is the highest honor bestowed by the University.

Kevin Willmott, a KU professor of film & media studies, was nominated for and won his first Academy Award in 2019. Willmott was a co-writer on Spike Lee’s film “BlacKkKlansman,” which won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The rules come home

The original rules of basketball, penned by James Naismith in 1891, were brought to a public auction in December 2010. Jayhawk David Booth, c’68 g’69, spent a record $4.3 million to bring the rules home.

“[The rules are] incredibly important and they should be at the University of Kansas,” Booth said. “Naismith was there 40 years. He invented basketball and Phog Allen was one of the key figures in making it so popular.”

The DeBruce Center opened in 2016 to host the historic rules, along with other basketball history exhibits and a cafe.

Far Above: The campaign for Kansas raises more than $1.6 billion

Far exceeding its original goal of $1.2 billion, Far Above, The Campaign for Kansas, had raised $1.66 billion when it ended June 2016. The campaign, which began in July 2008 and was managed by KU Endowment, boosted support for students, faculty, facility and programs, creating 735 new scholarships and fellowships, 53 new professorships and 16 new buildings or major renovations. During the campaign, the University also celebrated its sesquicentennial, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first day of classes on September 12, 1866.

Changing campus

The implosion of McCollum Hall in 2015 changed the Lawrence campus skyline, as KU witnessed unprecedented building and expansion over the past decade. KU Housing alone saw several buildings built or renovated, including Self, Oswald, Downs and McCarthy halls, Stouffer Apartments plus Corbin and GSP. The KU School of Pharmacy received a state-of-the-art home on West Campus, and the school’s expansion in Wichita was made possible thanks to state support. The KU School of Business moved from Summerfield into beautiful new Capitol Federal Hall, while the KU Medical Center welcomed the new Health Education Building to its Kansas City campus. A new KU School of Medicine Salina Campus grew, along with major projects in Lawrence, including Rock Chalk Park, Central District, KU School of Engineering expansion, Spencer Museum of Art renovation and more.

Chancellor transition

The 2010s were a decade of unprecedented growth at the University under Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little’s leadership. In 2017, Gray-Little stepped down as chancellor of the University, a position she held since 2009.

Douglas A. Girod, formerly executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center, was named KU’s 18th chancellor in July 2017. At the KU Medical Center, he oversaw the educational, research, patient care and community engagement missions of the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions.

Association news

Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, succeeded Kevin Corbett, c’88, as Alumni Association president in 2015, continuing a decade of sustained growth and impact, including the creation of the KU Mentoring program and the Jayhawk Career Network. During that time, the Student Alumni Association became the Student Alumni Network (SAN), eliminating dues for student members. The group quickly grew to become the largest student organization at KU and the biggest of its kind in the Big 12. Similarly, loyal alumni fueled the growth of the Presidents Club to record numbers, allowing the Association continue its vital work to advocate for the University of Kansas, communicate with Jayhawks in all media, recruit students and volunteers, serve students and alumni, and unite Jayhawks worldwide.

Legends lost

The University lost some of its top Jayhawks including chancellors Robert Hemenway, in 2015, and Del Shankel, in 2018. Several other beloved Jayhawks left us in the last decade, including Max Falkenstien, c’47, the voice of the Jayhawks for more than 60 years; the legendary Coach Don Fambrough, d’48; and Hal Sandy, j’47, creator of our smiling Jayhawk, plus too many more to name. These incredible Jayhawks will forever be remembered fondly by alumni who love KU.

Bonus: Your favorites

To cap off this list, we had to include some of your favorites. Here are some of our readers’ most popular blog posts:

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Herford stamps passport to football championships

Posted on Nov 26, 2019 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Marcus Herford
Marcus Herford, Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year in 2007 and a member of KU’s victorious Orange Bowl team that season, is, more than a decade later, living his best life, coaching football and winning championships. That much is, more or less, going to script.

The part he never saw coming? Most of Herford’s players, fellow coaches, team ownership and fans speak English, if at all, as a second language. Turns out, coaching—or, more precisely, teaching—American football in Italy, Germany and Brazil offers unexpected joys.

“It’s football at its purest moment,” Herford says from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, shortly after joining Galo Futebol Americano as offensive coordinator. “They play with passion and enthusiasm. It definitely makes coaching that much more fun.”

Herford, c’09, a Dallas native, was in his first coaching job, at Valdosta State University in Georgia, when he was introduced to overseas football while watching clips posted by former KU teammate Jocques Crawford, ’10.

“He was tearing it up,” Herford recalls. “I’m like, man, where is this? He told me everything, as far as getting overseas and how to get looked at.”

Marcus HerfordHerford’s overseas playing career didn’t last long, with brief stints in France and Turkey in 2011 and ’12. He was newly married at the time, and carrying too much weight, so he returned stateside and accepted a job as passing game coordinator and receivers coach at Kentucky Wesleyan College. When he heard the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes, a dominant team in Germany’s pro league, were looking for an offensive coordinator, he made a snap decision to apply.

Herford landed the job, but, three days before arriving in Germany, he learned that Baltic’s head coach, Dan Disch, had resigned to become defensive coordinator at Southern Miss. Baltic promoted Herford to the top job and he led the Hurricanes to within one game of the championship in consecutive seasons.

When Herford three years ago joined Seamen Milano, a powerhouse in the Italian league, as offensive coordinator, the club was coming off its third championship in four seasons. Seamen has since twice defended its title, including a 28-point fourth-quarter rally to win Italian Bowl XXXIX last July.

Shortly before that game, Herford was contacted by an international football talent scout who was helping the Galo Roosters hire an offensive coordinator. Rather than drift back to Dallas in the offseason, Herford accepted the gig; not long after he joined Galo, Milano announced it had promoted Herford to head coach for the 2020 season.

“It’s definitely been a blessed ride. My whole coaching career, how things have gone, it’s been pretty awesome. If I complain, I’ll be lying. I’m definitely excited about what’s going on.”

Fans eager to track Marcus Herford’s overseas success can follow him on Twitter, @Coach_MHerford; Seamen Milano streams games on YouTube and the team’s Facebook page.

—Chris Lazzarino

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Attention, football fans: Here’s your 2019 game-day planner

Posted on Aug 27, 2019 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Football quarterback | 2019 game day planner
The Les Miles era in KU football launches at 11 a.m. Saturday, as the Jayhawks take on Indiana State in David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. As fans prepare for the much-anticipated premiere, take note of a few new wrinkles planned for the game-day atmosphere, including:

The “preferred” ride-share drop-off point for pregame Uber and Lyft traffic is on Memorial Drive, atop the Hill south of the stadium. A pickup location outside of the postgame traffic pattern has been established for ride-share traffic at metered parking on Indiana Street, in front of HERE Apartments.

Rather than walking down the Hill, players and coaches will now be dropped off at the stadium’s south perimeter, near the practice fields, two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff, and walk from there to the Anderson Family Football Complex. Fans are encouraged to line the walk to greet and cheer on the ‘Hawks.

Watch for players taking the field through a new team tunnel, now outfitted with pyrotechnics, and new high-definition ribbon boards in the north end zone that will feature updated game stats and crowd prompts.

New concessions from Centerplate will include loaded tater tots, cheeseburger rollers, chicken rollers and bacon-wrapped chops.

And, yes, we’ve saved the big news for last: Under KU’s new beer-and-wine sales policy, the following will be available for purchase inside the stadium: Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Goose Island IPA, Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Note that with alcohol sales now permitted inside the stadium, a no re-entry policy will be strictly enforced, and alcohol sales will stop at the end of the third quarter.

Kansas Athletics has partnered with the Jayhawk Buddy System, a student-led safety initiative, to provide four hydration stations throughout the stadium, and fans can bring in one unopened or empty bottle of water per person. In addition, four Designated Driver Stations will be available, one in each corner of the main concourse, and each fan who signs up as a designated driver will receive a voucher for a free Aquafina or Pepsi beverage.

–Chris Lazzarino

Heading to Lawrence for game day? Find all the information you need to enjoy game day at the University of Kansas, including tailgate information, local shuttles, clear bag policies, and more. 

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Thank you for supporting Hawks & Highways

Posted on Jul 19, 2019 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Hawks & Highways | 2019 Hawks & highways
Thanks to the more than 800 alumni, friends and University partners who participated in the 2019 Hawks & Highways events! The ongoing series supports Chancellor Douglas Girod’s priority to strengthen KU’s statewide outreach.

The KU Alumni Association and Kansas Athletics coordinated this year’s events, which featured the chancellor, athletics director Jeff Long, head football coach Les Miles and leaders from KU Endowment, KU Admissions, KU School of Medicine-Wichita, the Spencer Museum of Art, the KU Medical Center Alumni Association, the schools of Journalism and Social Welfare and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

We’re grateful to Alumni Association members and donors and Williams Education Fund donors whose support is critical to this program. Together we will continue to bring the best of KU to communities throughout Kansas.

Rock Chalk!

Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09
President

See pictures from the Hawks & Highways events in the slideshow below, or click here to view or download them from Flickr.

Hawks & Highways 2019

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Woodland reminisces about KU after U.S. Open victory

Posted on Jun 21, 2019 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Gary Woodland wins U.S. Open
Ross Randall, the coach and mentor who recruited Gary Woodland to the KU men’s golf team after Woodland spent a year playing basketball at Washburn University, was “always to the point. There was no sugarcoating it, at all,” Woodland recalls.

Coach Randall, who passed away two years ago, wasn’t the only KU coach with a straight-talking reputation, and Woodland says he was especially glad to have closed out his first major-tournament victory, Sunday’s final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, so he wouldn’t catch heat when exchanging post-tournament text messages with his pal Bill Self.

“You talk about not sugarcoating anything,” Woodland, c’07, said with a laugh Thursday while driving to his home course in Palm Beach County, Florida, for his first practice session since a three-stroke victory over Brooks Koepka. “Coach has been hard on me at times when I haven’t finished, so I was glad to finish this time so he had nothing bad to say to me. He couldn’t get on me like he does some of his guys.”

Woodland, a Topeka native who now lives with his wife and son in South Florida while also maintaining a home in Lawrence, told Kansas Alumni magazine that he’s eager to return to Kansas and celebrate with family, friends and fans, and he promises he’ll bring along the gorgeous U.S. Open trophy when he does.

That’s down the road. For now, it’s back to work. Woodland entered the U.S. Open No. 9 on the PGA money list and exited at No. 4. He also vaulted from No. 12 in Presidents Cup standings to No. 7; the top eight automatically qualify for the U.S. team in the biennial match between the best American and international (minus Europe) golfers.

The Presidents Cup, this year set for December in Australia, has long been a goal for Woodland, as has the even more prestigious Ryder Cup, which features spirited matches between American and European stars. The next Ryder Cup is Sept. 25-27, 2020, in Wisconsin.

“I’ve always believed in myself, but it’s hard sometimes to get other people to buy in without results,” Woodland said. “I think I’ve proven that I’ve become a more complete player and I belong on the bigger stage. I have to continue to get better and continue to go out and prove myself, but I think I’ve proven that I belong.”

Among other highlights from Kansas Alumni’s conversation with Woodland: He again emphasized the joy he felt in sharing the spotlight with his young friend Amy Bockerstette—a Special Olympics golfer who had her own star turn on NBC’s “Today” show, during which Woodland surprised her with his unannounced visit—and bringing attention to Folds of Honor, an organization founded by retired fighter pilot Maj. Dan Rooney, c’96, g’97, that delivers scholarships to family members of fallen members of the U.S. armed forces.

“I’ve been a huge part of Folds of Honor since 2009, when Major Dan, a fellow Jayhawk, got me to buy in. Men and women who go sacrifice for us to be free and to follow our dreams while they go sacrifice everything, it’s pretty special and it’s an honor to give back.”

Woodland also revealed that he’s spent the past year and a half working on his putting game with his new coach, Pete Cowen. They started retooling his full swing in December, and only recently Cowen also convinced Woodland to change his preshot routine.

“I’ve had the same routine—I’m a creature of habit—since I was in college,” Woodland said. “He changed it all about a month ago and it’s really been clicking for me.”

Told that his inspirational U.S. Open victory had convinced many of his fellow KU basketball fans to now make time to follow him on the PGA Tour, Woodland, who keeps a Jayhawk emblem on his tour bag, affirmed his devotion to the crimson and blue.

“Obviously I’ve been a fan my whole life,” he said, “but I’ve matured, I grew up, I became a man at the University of Kansas, and I’ll never forget that.”

—Chris Lazzarino

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The Rock Chalk Roundball Classic

Posted on Jun 20, 2019 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Rock Chalk Roundball Classic | Dagen Korynta

KU basketball athletes become legends when they wear the crimson and blue in Allen Fieldhouse. But what they do with that fame is up to them.

Since 2009, the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic has invited KU alumni back to Lawrence for a charity basketball game to raise money for local children fighting cancer.

Check out our online feature to learn more about the charity event that gives area kids in need a night they won’t forget, and the stories of their experiences.

The 2019 Rock Chalk Roundball Classic is Thursday, June 20th at Eudora High School. Tickets are available at 23rd St. Brewery.

—Ryan Camenzind

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Former KU defender living out World Cup dreams

Posted on Jun 10, 2019 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Estelle Johnson at KUEstelle Johnson, a four-year anchor on some of the most stifling defensive units in KU soccer history, this week launched her FIFA World Cup dreams as a member of the Cameroon National Team, which opened its Group E play against Canada Monday in Montpellier, France.

Johnson, c’11, who grew up in Colorado, is eligible for the Cameroon squad because she was born in the Central African country to an American father and Malian mother. Her father, Jerry, worked with subsistence farmers across the continent until moving the family to Fort Collins for a job at Colorado State University when Estelle was 7.

“I had been thinking about playing for Cameroon since 2015,” Johnson told the Sun newspaper, of Edmonton, Canada, shortly before the Cameroon-Canada match, “when I saw them play in the last World Cup.”

Johnson appeared in all 85 games of her four-year KU career, from 2006 to 2009, and was named to multiple All-Region teams. She began her professional career with the short-lived Philadelphia Independence, then stepped away from the game for graduate school at Avila University in Kansas City. After earning her MBA, Johnson returned to professional soccer with the National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit; she now plays with New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC.

Johnson was unable to reach any team officials in Cameroon until coach Alain Djeumfa took over in January, and she didn’t make her first international appearance with Cameroon until shortly before the World Cup began.

“I’ve been playing professionally now for nine seasons, so I’ve played with some of the best players in the world,” Johnson told the Fort Collins Coloradoan. “Just watching them achieve this and knowing I can hang with them … that’s when it hit me: I think I can do this and I want to actually try to make this happen.”

Cameroon advanced to the second round in its first World Cup four years ago in Canada. After Monday’s match, a 1-0 loss, Johnson and her Cameroon teammates face the Netherlands on Saturday and New Zealand on June 20.

—Chris Lazzarino

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KU rower continues the family legacy

Posted on May 3, 2019 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Bailey Blood receives her K ring

Each spring Kansas senior student-athletes experience one of the proudest traditions bestowed upon a Jayhawk—receiving their K Rings.

After years of competition in the Crimson and Blue, practices and classes, triumphs and defeats, the senior class joins a group of extraordinary individuals who have poured their hearts and souls into their sports and studies.

The K Ring symbolizes a uniquely shared experience among generations of varsity letter-winners at Kansas. For senior rower Bailey Blood, it was an opportunity to celebrate the connection of three generations in her family.

Bailey received her K Ring April 22 on the tail end of her fourth season with Kansas rowing. For the special occasion, she honored her late grandfather, Bill Cole, by wearing his Kansas letter sweater—another treasured item earned by Jayhawks during his competition days.

Read more on the third-generation Jayhawk’s story at kuathletics.com.

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Hot hockey ‘Hawks ready for Mizzou and long-awaited trip to nationals

Posted on Feb 18, 2019 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

KU hockey’s leading scorers, sophomore Dane Johnson (19) and junior Dawson Engle (25). | KU hockey
Let’s get this out of the way right up top: Yes, KU has a hockey team. It’s not varsity competition, but it is the next-highest level, University-sponsored club sports, which compete against teams from other schools. As documented a year ago in Kansas Alumni magazine, the hockey ‘Hawks, who play in Independence, Missouri, have made a mighty resurgence, and this season has been their best yet.

The Jayhawks completed their American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 3 schedule 20-0-1, capped by a two-game sweep at the U.S. Air Force Academy Feb. 1 and 2. Next up: a pride game against Division 2 Mizzou, Feb. 21 at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.

“Mizzou has been struggling all year,” says junior Jimmy Samuels, KU’s club president, “but they’re going to be a whole new team when they step on the ice against Kansas, and we’re not going to hold back, either. It’s much more than just a game. It’s a historic college rivalry and we’re one of the few sports that gets to continue that tradition.”

The ice ‘Hawks feature two of the ACHA’s top-10 scorers, who both hail from Overland Park: sophomore Dane Johnson, who has a dazzling 38 goals and 30 assists in 19 games, and junior linemate Dawson Engle, with 28 goals and 34 assists in 21 games. Close behind is hard-charging team leader Preston McConnell, a senior from Liberty, Missouri, who sports 16 goals and 21 assists in 17 games.

“Give a lot of credit to [coach Andy McConnell, j’16],” Samuels says. “He really analyzed each line and their chemistry. He has matched each line with their speed, chemistry, passing abilities, positioning, everything. Every line has great potential to produce amazing plays.”

KU and Mizzou are both depending on strong fan support at the game, which faithfully replicates the intense border contests of old. The ‘Hawks, however, also need fan and alumni support to help them travel their next challenge: the ACHA playoffs.

If, as expected, KU is awarded a bye for the first round of regionals, KU would likely head to the Division 3 finals in Frisco, Texas, at the end of March.

KU’s club sports fund awarded the hockey team $9,000 for its $60,000 annual budget at the start of the season, with the rest being covered by players, their families, and a few faithful supporters. Now the Jayhawks are looking at a likely bill of $15,000 to rent a team bus to travel to and from Texas, secure hotel rooms and buy meals.

They have raised $6,000, and are asking fellow Jayhawks to assist the hard-earned journey by contributing through a GoFundMe account. All donations go directly to the club’s account at KU Endowment.

KU-Mizzou T-shirts will be available at the Feb. 21 game, as will team hats and pucks. Team officials are still working with vendors to produce a KU hockey game jersey available for purchase, but that won’t happen soon enough to help cover expenses for the Texas trip.

Samuels says players and their families will have to cover any budgetary shortfalls for the trip to nationals; should there be a surplus, any remaining funds would carry over and help alleviate player costs next season.

“It’s been a crazy ride the past few months,” Samuels says. “It’s been awesome, and there’s still more to come.”

—Chris Lazzarino

Photo: KU hockey’s leading scorers, sophomore Dane Johnson (19) and junior Dawson Engle (25).

Read more about the KU Hockey team in the January 2018 issue of Kansas Alumni Magazine.

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