In the final minutes before the start of the 2017 Vets Day 5K, Nov. 12 at Memorial Stadium, 24-year Army veteran Scot Bird relished the joy of a rare visit to Mount Oread—“Iowa by birth,” he said. “KU by the grace of God”—and the pleasure he and his wife, 22-year Army veteran Mary Bird, would soon share in their leisurely run down Memorial Drive, Jayhawk Boulevard and Sunnyside Avenue.
“We’re not going for time,” Bird said. Holding up his phone and its camera, he added, “We’re going for this.”
The gray fall morning also brought reflective moods from the Birds, who live in Junction City, where Mary is a community volunteer and Scot works as the civilian transportation officer at nearby Fort Riley. Mary served in operation Desert Storm, Scot deployed to Iraq, and the spirit of Veterans Day weekend was very much on their minds.
“We both lost friends,” Mary Bird said. “It’s been going on for so long, it’s almost inevitable. So, yes, they are in our thoughts today.”
Generations of Jayhawks
As the runners, joggers, walkers, stroller-pushers and a few four-legged companions wound their way around campus—Dan Edidin won the race, in 18 minutes, 16.9 seconds, and Lucy Hardy won the women’s competition in 20:34.5—U.S. Air Force veteran John Forney raced with a rare advantage over the rest of the field: years of practicing and racing a similar 2-mile course around and atop Mount Oread while running cross-country at KU, from 1948 to ’50.
“This is in honor of coach Bill Easton,” said the jubilant Forney, c’51, who won the men’s 75-99 age group.
Forney, a third-generation Jayhawk who is now retired in Denver, was joined in the Vets Day 5K by his son, David, e’88, and grandson Sam, both of Charlottesville, Virginia. Cheering them on was Forney’s wife, Eleanor Kothe Hardy, c’57.
“When Grandpa called and said, ‘We’ve got to run this Vets Day 5K,’ we signed up immediately,” Sam recalled. “It’s not just my first visit to KU; it’s also my first time in Kansas, and we’re having a great time.”
High-five for the participants
Honoring KU ROTC’s centennial and hosted by KU Student Veterans of America and the Veterans Alumni Network, the Vets Day 5K attracted 391 registered participants, ranging in age from 7 to 88 and hailing from nine states and two countries (the U.S. and Thailand).
All participants received impressive medals, and age-group winners were awarded custom cooler cups as trophies. (A special shout-out to Kansas Alumni photographer Steve Puppe, j’98, winner of the men’s 40-44 age group.) And, a lucky few were also treated to a homestretch high-five from Ryker Butterworth, young son of racer Matt Butterworth, c’15, who served eight years as an Air Force crew chief.
Still riding a wave of euphoria after completing the 5K, Scot Bird explained another level of motivation driving him: He is a cancer survivor who finally forced himself to begin exercising again in February 2016, after months of recuperation following his intensive treatments. After starting with walks of little more than a few dozen yards, Bird rapidly progressed back to something resembling the fitness of his soldier days, and he is now a regular competitor at regional races of all distances.
“She’s really the runner,” Bird said of his wife, Mary, “and I was tired of sitting there watching her go out the door. So, I got up off the couch. I’m vertical because of her.”
After visiting historic Churchill Downs for their team dinner Tuesday, the top-seeded Jayhawks convened for open practice Wednesday in downtown Louisville’s cavernous KFC Yum! Center in preparation for their Sweet 16 showdown Thursday with the No. 5 seed Maryland Terrapins.
In their light-hearted but spirited open practice, KU guards—especially Wayne Selden Jr. and Devonte’ Graham—looked to be locked in as they made their way around the arc, launching shots from 2 and 3 feet behind the line that consistently swished elegantly through the net. The highlight of the afternoon session was Evan Manning’s swish from half court, nearly equalled by LaGerald Vick.
“We know how it feels to take losses,” says forward Jamari Traylor, referencing opening-weekend NCAA Tournament losses the past two seasons. “We’re just a little bit more focused. When you take a loss, it sits in the back of your mind and you’re going to do anything you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Terrapins are coached by former KU guard Mark Turgeon, c’87, who in 1987 became the first Jayhawk to appear in four NCAA Tournaments. As for coaching against his alma mater, the veteran former coach of Wichita State and Texas A&M coach said, “The Kansas thing is not that weird to me anymore, or unique. It was a little bit that way the first time we played them, but being at Texas A&M, we played them a lot. You get used to it.”
Turgeon did, however, disclose that one boyhood sports loyalty will never fade: “I literally can’t go to bed at night,” Turgeon said, “until I get a Royals’ score.”
KU alumni, fans and friends are invited to gather for a pregame party starting at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Cascade Rooms A, B and C. The KU spirit squad, mascots and band will lead a pep rally at 6:15 p.m.
Miami and Villanova open the South Regional’s Sweet 16 action at 6:10 p.m. (Central) Thursday. The KU-Maryland game follows at approximately 8:40.
The two teams advancing to the Elite Eight will play Saturday (time to be determined Friday), with a trip to the Final Four in Houston on the line.
Homer Floyd, d’61, KU’s first African-American football team captain, and Ernie Shelby, f’59, KU’s first African-American track team captain, returned to Mount Oread for Martin Luther King Jr. Day events Jan. 19 in Lawrence.
After a program in Strong Hall, the two participated in a candlelight walk with about 125 students and faculty members to the Kansas Union for a Social Justice Celebration. Later that evening, Floyd and Shelby were honored during the Jayhawks’ rousing 85-78 victory over Oklahoma.
Floyd was an all-conference running back, and Shelby was a national-champion long jumper. In 1957, the two, along with All-America men’s basketball team captain Wilt Chamberlain, ’59, and All-America sprinter Charlie Tidwell, ’61, met with Chancellor Franklin Murphy to ask for his help in changing the discriminatory practices of Lawrence businesses.
At their urging, Murphy, c’36, convinced local businesses to provide equal service and access to African-Americans.
Floyd (left in photo below), who now lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, led the football team as co-captain in 1958 and went on to a distinguished career as a civil rights leader. Shelby (right), of Los Angeles, led the track team as captain in 1959, when the men’s team won the NCAA Outdoor National Championship. He won the national championship in the long jump in 1958 and ’59 and earned All-America honors. Shelby is a jazz composer and singer.
More than 1,000 alumni and fans filled a downtown St. Louis ballroom to supercharge their crimson-and-blue spirit in the hours before KU men’s basketball began its 2014 NCAA Tournament title quest against Eastern Kentucky at the nearby Scottrade Center.
The already festive atmosphere had an unexpected ghoulish tinge, as Jayhawks found themselves as neighbors in the sprawling America’s Center to a fun-loving bunch of Halloween entrepreneurs who gathered on the sunny St. Louis morning to share tricks of their haunted house trade. Good-natured Halloween boos turned to cheers as the KU pep band, cheerleaders and Big Jay rallied the crowd at the pregame rally co-sponsored by the KU Alumni Association and Kansas Athletics.
Among the celebrants was Gov. Sam Brownback, l’82, and his wife, Mary Stauffer Brownback, b’80, l’83, who are joint Life Members of the Alumni Association. The first couple of Kansas had a busy morning, as all three of the state’s Division I men’s basketball programs—KU, Kansas State and undefeated Wichita State—not only made the NCAA Tournament field, but opened on the same day on the same court.
“It’s an awesome day that really helps tell the story of Kansas being the cradle of basketball,” Brownback told Kansas Alumni magazine moments before the rally began. “And this time we have the opportunity to tell that story on a national stage. It’s a fabulous day for all Kansans.”
“Hopefully our league will pull for each other and our state will pull for each other,” coach Bill Self said shortly after KU’s Thursday practice. “It will be interesting.”
Should KU advance to Sunday’s Round of 32, the Association and Kansas Athletics will again sponsor a rally at the America’s Center, adjacent to the Edward Jones Dome, about a 15-minute walk from the Scottrade Center. Doors will open 4 hours prior to the session’s start, again with no door charge, and cash bars, concessions and a KU Store stand offering Jayhawk gear. As with Friday, television screens will be available for fans without tickets to stay and watch the game with fellow Jayhawks.
See pictures from the pep rally in the slideshow below, or click here to view the photos on Flickr.
All photos by Steve Puppe.
KU’s men’s basketball team went through an easy practice, open to the public, at the Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis Thursday afternoon, in preparation for Friday’s NCAA-tournament opener against Eastern Kentucky.
The Jayhawks (24-9) will be playing their fifth game without injured superstar freshman center Joel Embiid, but foremost on their mind was moving past their most recent game, a 94-83 loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament’s semifinal. The Cyclones’ 94 points were the most scored against any of coach Bill Self’s KU teams in a regulation game.
“A loss isn’t all bad if you learn from it,” said senior forward Tarik Black, “and that’s what we did. We’d rather learn our lesson earlier than later.”
Eastern Kentucky (24-9) is one of the country’s best 3-point shooting teams, forcing the Jayhawks to find the defense that’s been missing since Embiid’s departure.
“It does change,” Self said of his defense without Embiid guarding the rim, “because we can make mistakes before and mistakes can be wiped away. And now mistakes turn into layups. … In the games in which we lost, teams shot a lot of easy baskets, in large part because we made a lot of the mistakes we have been making but he wasn’t there to clean them up. So we have to be much sounder out on the perimeter.”
Self said that should KU advance from St. Louis to Memphis, he hopes Embiid, who has a back injury, will be able to practice next week and perhaps be ready to join the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16 next Thursday in Memphis.
The KU Alumni Association’s pregame rally is set for Friday at America’s Center Convention Center, adjacent to the Edward Jones Dome, about 1 mile from the Scottrade Center. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. for Alumni Association and Williams Education Fund members, and open admittance for the general public begins at 10. The pep band, cheerleaders and mascots are expected to arrive at 11:45. The event will remain open as a TV watch party site for those without tickets to the game.
The is no cost to attend, and concession stands and cash bars will be available, as will a stand to purchase crimson-and-blue gear from the KU Store.
Ted Johnson’s Stop Day campus walking tours–featured in the story “A Beautiful Mind” in Kansas Alumni magazine’s issue No. 5, 2011–are justifiably renowned for their thrilling, day-long immersion into campus history and iconography.
The campus walking tour’s sublime cousin, Johnson’s “Autumnal Equinox Starlight Walking Tour,” offers the delightful opportunity for Johnson–a treasured, white-bearded professor emeritus of French and passionate proponent of curiosity and intellectual vibrancy–to lead early-rising Jayhawks through contemplations about how the alignments of certain campus buildings and landmarks with astral entities reflect ancient beliefs in honoring each equinox.
Although this year’s autumnal equinox happens Sunday morning, Johnson will lead a “preview” tour on Friday morning. Beginning at 5 outside Spooner Hall, the tour will consider elements of Dyche Hall, Daniel Chester French’s Uncle Jimmy Green statue, Watson Library and Stauffer-Flint Hall before returning to the Natural History Museum at about 7 a.m. to witness the rising of the sun directly above 14th Street.
For further information, contact the Department of the Humanities and Western Civilization at firstname.lastname@example.org or Johnson at email@example.com.
More than 800 Jayhawks–including Coach Bill Self and his wife, Cindy–turned out for the 18th annual Rock Chalk Ball April 27 at the Overland Park Convention Center. The ball is the largest annual event hosted by the KU Alumni Association’s Kansas City Chapter.
In keeping with the “Crimson and Blues” theme, guests picked up souvenir sunglasses as they entered the reception, serenaded by the sounds of live jazz, courtesy of student musicians in the Lucas Parker Trio. A special exhibition from KU Libraries, “Rhythm and Meaning: Jazz at KU,” highlighted the libraries’ Sound Archive, one of the largest jazz collections west of the Mississippi. Guests mingled during the reception as they kept their eyes on their bids in the silent auction.
Trumpet players ushered guests into the ballroom for a rousing performance of KU favorites by KU Spirit Squad, Pep Band and Mascots. Emcee John Holt, j’81, l’84, introduced event chairs Howard, b’79, and Debbi Cohen, assoc., and Nick, b’04, and Clare Blasi, assoc. along with Brooke Briley Robison, d’01, g’04, and Mark Frutiger, b’01, who led the Rock Chalk Ball committee for the Kansas City Chapter.
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and her husband, Shade Little, continued their tradition of being the first couple on the dance floor. This year they sported their souvenir sunglasses, as did many other dancers of all ages amid the soulful sounds of the Karen Davis Project. Those who craved dessert enjoyed flaming Bananas Foster, prepared by chefs stationed throughout the ballroom
When the dancing ended and the lights came up at midnight, the party was still going strong. Jayhawks, mark your calendars for the next Rock Chalk Ball, April 26, 2014!
–Jennifer Jackson Sanner
Check out photos from Rock Chalk Ball in the slideshow below:
Click here if you can’t see the slideshow. Photos by Steve Puppe and Dan Storey.
Today’s the day, Jayhawks. It’s game day in Arlington and a trip to the Elite Eight is on the line when KU takes on Michigan tonight at 6:37 p.m. Here’s a couple of updates for you.
Pregame party and pep rally
The festivities start at 2:30 p.m. at the Arlington Convention Center. Join your favorite Alumni Association, Kansas Athletics and KUStore.com for a free pregame party. Concessions and cash bars are available, and parking is $20 per car. The pep rally starts at 4:30 p.m.
Don’t forget your membership card, or a copy of a recent email from us that shows your current membership status, and pick up a free members-only gift at our table.
Show your spirit!
You can show your KU spirit in many different ways, and here are a few of our favorites.
The KU men’s basketball team is headed to its 30th Sweet 16 in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
Open practice, game times set
The public is invited to attend practices featuring the four teams that will be at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for the NCAA Tournament’s South Regional. KU, the region’s top seed, will be on the court in Cowboys Stadium from 2:10 to 3 p.m. The Jayhawks’ opponent, the University of Michigan, starts the Thursday session at noon, followed by Florida Gulf Coast University at 1, and, after KU’s session, the University of Florida at 3:10.
KU’s Sweet 16 game against Michigan is set to tip off at 6:37 p.m. on Friday, followed by Florida vs. Florida Gulf Coast. Winners advance to the Elite Eight on Sunday, with game times to be determined after the conclusion of Friday’s games.
Pep rally, pregame party info
The KU Alumni Association, along with Kansas Athletics and KUStore.com, will host a pregame party and pep rally for Jayhawk fans on Friday.
The festivities will take place at the Arlington Convention Center starting at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. The pregame party is free to attend, and there will be concessions, cash bars and parking on site ($20 per car). The convention center is within walking distance of Cowboys Stadium.
The pep rally, featuring the pep band, spirit squad and mascots, is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at the convention center.
Show your card!
Be sure to show your Alumni Association membership card at our table and receive a free, members-only gift! If you’re not already a member, visit www.kualumni.org/join today, and print out your purchase receipt to show to our staff members. Or, bring a copy of a recent email from the Alumni Association that shows your membership status at the bottom.
KU Alumni watch site
Don’t have tickets to the game? Head to the official KU Alumni watch site, Humperdink’s, at 700 Six Flags Drive, to watch the game with fellow Jayhawks. Be sure to send us your pictures of the watch party! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet them to us at @kualumni or post them on our Facebook page.