Sasha Kuchinski, j’09, c’09, coordinates the Hawk Mentor program and serves as a KU admissions representative for Wichita. “At the banquet we had each mentor and mentee share their favorite moments from the past year and it was pretty incredible to hear all the things they’ve done together, but mostly how close some of these mentees and mentors have become,” said Kuchinski.
Azhai Williams, a senior from Wichita West High School, shared advice on succeeding in high school. Williams is headed to KU in the fall and spoke about her college search process.
Mentors and mentees left with KU mugs and glasses filled with candy and Jayhawk pennants.
The HAWK Mentor Program scheduled events for mentors and mentees throughout the school year. Events included KU campus visits, game watch parties and volunteer opportunities. Mentees also shadowed mentors at their jobs to learn more about professional workplaces.
As a local and national KU volunteer, Camille Bribiesca Nyberg is known for her warmth, dedication and hospitality—qualities that earned her a 2017 Dick Wintermote Volunteer of the Year Award. As her hometown Wichita Network alumni gather this week for the 15th annual Jayhawk Roundup, Alumni Association president Heath Peterson will honor Nyberg, c’96, g’98, who has contributed countless hours to the Roundup and, with her husband, Glenn, ’79, chaired the event in 2014 and 2015.
Nyberg’s guidance was critical for Danielle Lafferty Hoover, c’07, when she joined the Association staff in 2015 as assistant director of Wichita programs. “Camille was instrumental when I first began my role,” says Hoover, who is now director of donor relations and Wichita programs. “She spent a lot of time helping me get to know the other volunteers and network board members. Anyone who knows Camille would agree that she is one of the nicest people you will ever meet.”
As a new KU graduate, Nyberg left her home state to live in Dallas, where she quickly became involved in the local network, helping to host alumni and athletic events and Jayhawk Generations picnics for new freshmen and their families. Her fellow alumni nominated her to serve on the Association’s National Board of Directors, which she joined in 2009. Nyberg led the Association as national chair from 2014-’15, shortly after she moved back to her hometown. Back in Wichita, she attended numerous activities in addition to the Roundup, and she hosted events for alumni mentors and Wichita North High School students through the Helpful Alumni Working for KU (HAWK) Mentor Program with KU’s Office of Admissions.
Peterson, d’04, g’09, credits Nyberg for strengthening the Wichita Network: “Camille has invested considerable time in our events. Thanks to her efforts, KU has a much more visible and active presence in the largest city in Kansas.”
Nyberg was one of three alumni in 2017 to receive the annual award named for Dick Wintermote, j’51, who served as the Association’s executive director from 1963 to 1983 and helped establish the strong Jayhawk tradition of volunteering to help alumni and current students as well as prospective Jayhawks. The other winners were Kate Feller McSwain, b’12, who leads the Dallas Network, and Brandon Petz, b’06, g’07, who leads the Lawrence Network.
About the Award
This annual award recognizes network volunteers who demonstrate extraordinary leadership to their network and the KU Alumni Association during a one-year period (July 1-June 30). An internal staff committee within the KU Alumni Association consisting of those who work closest with volunteers meets each year to decide on award winners.
In recognition of their service to Wichita-area alumni, Jerry and Lucy Burtnett will be presented with the Mildred Clodfelter Alumni Award, affectionately known as the “Millie” award, at Jayhawk Roundup on April 13.
Jerry, p’69, and Lucy have helped organize the Jayhawk Roundup since 2006, and they hosted the event in 2011 and 2012. KU Alumni Association president Heath Peterson thanked the Burtnetts for giving “a tremendous amount of sweat equity to Jayhawk Roundup, both serving on the volunteer committee and later as chairs of the event.”
Danielle Hoover, director of donor relations and Wichita programs, echoed Peterson’s praise, stating the Burtnetts “are some of the hardest working volunteers I have ever worked with. They’ve spent many, many hours helping set up, decorate and clean up the Murfin Stables for Jayhawk Roundup.”
“We got involved because of our local KU contacts and wanted to help,” said Jerry. “Working with our KU friends was very enjoyable and we continue to help with Roundup.”
The Burtnetts, who are Life Members of the KU Alumni Association, now split their time between Wichita and Florida.
The Burtnetts as “event chairs” at the 2011 Halloween-themed Jayhawk Roundup
About the award
The Mildred Clodfelter Alumni Award was created in 1987 to thank alumni and friends for sustained volunteer service to the University at the local level. The award honors Mildred Clodfelter, b’41, who worked for the University for 47 years, including 42 at the Alumni Association.
Wichita is the site of first and second round games in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region. It’s also the largest city in Kansas and home to more than 10,000 Jayhawks. We reached out to some of our alumni to get the scoop on what to do while you’re in town, and they were more than happy to share their favorites.
You might be surprised at just how much there is to do in this bustling midwestern city—and you might even find yourself coming back for another visit.
As Monique Pope, one of our Wichita Network volunteers, put it, “What’s there not to do!”
The museum’s new curator, Dr. Tera Hedrick, is a proud Jayhawk who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art history from KU. Don’t miss the Monet to Matisse exhibit that showcases 59 masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum collection.
“We’ve taken many out-of-town family members to the art museum, and they’re always surprised at the quality of art—especially the Chihuly glass pieces,” said Elaine Level.
Learn about Wichita’s transformation from a frontier settlement to a cattle town to an agricultural and manufacturing area at this one-of-a-kind museum. Take a walk through history and see over 40 buildings that replicate the late 1800s, filled with a 10,000-piece permanent collection that includes textiles, furnishings, tools, art and more.
This “botanical paradise on the plains” includes more than 18 acres of gardens that change with the season. It features more than 4,000 plants, both native and new to the region. Sculptures, streams, fountains, and waterfalls help create a visually stunning atmosphere.
The top outdoor family tourist attraction in Kansas, the zoo is home to 3,000 animals of nearly 400 species. It has been recognized with national and international awards for its support of field conservation programs and successful breeding of rare and endangered species. Be sure to check out the new elephant exhibit!
On March 16, basketball-themed activities will be featured throughout the zoo. Get $5 off zoo admission through March 25 with your NCAA ticket stub.
Old Town, nestled in the heart of Wichita, is home to over 100 businesses including restaurants, shops, clubs, galleries, museums and more. The charming district includes brick-lined streets and historic lampposts, along with a collection of converted brick warehouses dating back to the mid-1800s.
The 44-foot tall steel sculpture stands at the juncture of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers in downtown Wichita. It is also home to the Mid-America All-Indian Center.
The Keeper of the Plains sculpture was created by Blackbear Bosin and erected in 1974 to celebrate the United States Bicentennial. It is celebrated by Wichitans as one of the main icons of the city. Time your visit for 9 p.m. to see the ring of fire!
Bringing the kids? Check out Kansas’ premier science center, located along the Arkansas River in the scenic downtown Museums on the River district.
The 100,000-square foot facility includes permanent and traveling exhibits, a planetarium, and an 18-hole mini golf putting course. Exploration Park is a free area nearby that includes a wetlands habitat, adventure play yard and picnic groves.
Another kid-friendly option for your off day: one of the largest family-owned zoos in the country, right outside of Wichita. The park has grown into the third largest animal collection in Kansas, and one of the largest attractions in the state.
Enjoy more than 40 exhibits with interactive stations and more than 400 animals. The first day of the 2018 season is March 16.
Where to eat
Wichita is a true foodie town with diverse and authentic ethnic cuisines. Dine on anything from Mexican to Mediterranean to Vietnamese—and everything in between.
Wichita is known as the “Air Capital of the World,” and kids will love watching the planes at Stearman Field, a family-owned and operated airport located just outside the city. Grab some food at Stearman Field Bar & Grill, and Stearman Sky Tours is available if you want to catch a different view of the area.
Coffee fans will love Reverie, which serves premium specialty coffee beverages as well as breakfast and lunch in the cafe. The wholesale coffee roastery opened in 2013 and quickly grew into what it is today.
One of the central tenants of Clifton Square, a collection of boutiques and restaurants in renovated houses, Ziggy’s Pizza offers indoor and outdoor seating with pies that serve two to three. Be sure to stop by College Hill Creamery next door afterwards for a cone!
Connie’s is Wichita’s oldest family-owned Mexican restaurant, celebrating 55 years in business next month. It’s located in the historic NOMAR (North Market) neighborhood in North Wichita, among a long-established enclave of Hispanic-owned businesses.
Craft beer fans will love Central Standard Brewing south of Douglas on Greenwood. With a fun atmosphere on a giant outdoor patio, it’s a popular hangout on warm days, and you can often find a food truck or live music nearby.
Right in the heart of Wichita’s Delano district, right off the Arkansas river, the Monarch offers a wide variety of specialty bourbon cocktails along with plenty of appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches, all under $10.
Walking distance from Intrust Bank Arena, Public at the Brickyard features a gastropub menu with a local, green focus: their website lists where in the area all ingredients come from. A wide selection of beers continues the trend, with options from breweries across the U.S. with a Midwestern focus.
This speakeasy serves craft cocktails in downtown Wichita. Located beneath the Ambassador Hotel, it prides itself on exclusivity and discretion. The location also has an important historical context: it’s where the 1958 Dockum sit-in took place. The sit-in served as one of the catalysts of the civil rights movement.
Many thanks to volunteers from our Wichita Network for their recommendations! The top two photos in this post are used with permission of the Wichita Art Museum.
After 19 different events in 16 different cities, the first KU Cares Month of Service brought Jayhawks closer to the communities they call home.
The KU Alumni Association set out to have participants in the Month of Service share the spirit of Thanksgiving by giving back, both in their networks and in the KU community.
A portion of all membership dues collected during the month of November was earmarked for the Wounded Warrior scholarship fund. Thanks to the generosity of those who joined, renewed, or donated, more than $5,500 will be given to the scholarship fund that helps qualified veterans and their family pursue their education at KU.
Continuing on the theme of an earlier post, we wanted to highlight some of the events where Jayhawks made a difference.
Wichita: Ronald McDonald House
Members of the Wichita Jayhawk Network came together to help those staying in the Ronald McDonald house. Volunteers brought, prepared and served dinner to the families with children in nearby hospitals.
Milwaukee: Fill the Freezer
Local KU alumni joined forces with the United Way to fight hunger at the first annual “Fill the Freezer” event. Network leader Jay Craig, b’85 g’87, brought area Jayhawk volunteers together with local chefs to prepare frozen meals for those in transitional housing and family support programs.
Phoenix: St. Vincent De Paul’s Watkins Kitchen
More than 15 Jayhawks gave their Saturday morning to prepare meals for the homeless at St. Vincent De Paul’s Watkins Kitchen. Phoenix Network Leader Chris Colyer, b’04 l’09, thanked everyone for representing KU and showing compassion for their community.
San Antonio: Haven for Hope
Area alumni put on their Jayhawk gear, along with aprons and gloves, and served food to those in need in downtown San Antonio. Network leader Morgan Bertram, d’02, thanked those who helped feed 383 at Haven for Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the homeless find a new beginning.
While the KU Cares Month of Service is over, Jayhawks can get together to give time and talents to their communities anytime! Visit the KU Cares page for more information, and reach out to your local network leaders. View our Flickr album of these events and more from the KU Cares Month of Service:
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.
Fourteen sophomore students at Wichita North High School made valuable KU connections Sept. 20, when they were introduced to alumni who will serve as their mentors for next three years.
The group is part of the University’s new initiative, a product of the Office of Admission’s existing Helpful Alumni Working for KU (HAWK) program, to help underrepresented and minority students make a smooth transition from high school to college. The program was launched this spring in Wichita.
Participating students and their parents attended the induction ceremony, which was held at KU’s School of Medicine in Wichita and included appearances by Keon Stowers, c’15, a former KU football player who works for the Office of Admissions; Nate Thomas, KU’s vice provost for diversity and equity; and Baby Jay, who was on hand to take pictures with the students and their mentors.
Kim Madsen Beeler, c’93, j’93, g’99, who coordinates the HAWK program and has worked with alumni for years recruiting prospective students to KU, oversees the new Mentor Leadership Development program. She teamed up with Danielle Hoover, c’07, the Alumni Association’s assistant director of Wichita programs, to enlist area Jayhawks as mentors.
“These alumni are so passionate about KU, and they have told us for years they want to help,” Beeler says. “They want to make a difference and recruit great students.”
Students must have a GPA of at least 2.5 and complete an application and essay to be considered for the program. Those who are accepted are assigned mentors, who will coordinate opportunities for the students to shadow working professionals in various fields, participate in volunteer activities in the community and develop skills to be successful in the workforce, including learning how to fill out job applications, dress appropriately for interviews and create a résumé. In addition, the students will visit KU and participate in sports events, campus tours and discussion panels with current University students.
Hoover presented the opportunity to alumni on the Wichita Network board and was overwhelmed by their enthusiastic response. Five board members, Jim Spencer, c’82; Andy Ek, b’05, g’11; Monique Garcia Pope, c’96; Anna Ritchie, c’05, j’05, and Bob Nugent, c’77, l’80, signed up to be mentors, and other board members offered to host events for the students or help with their community service projects.
“One of the biggest initiatives on our board is to give back to the community,” says Hoover. “That’s a big passion for all of our board members. And it’s right in line with this initiative.”
Beeler hopes to expand the program at Wichita North High School next year and eventually include other schools in the area.
“This year we have 14 mentees, next year we’ll have another class, and we’ll just keep building,” she says. “The goal is to help students transition from high school to college and, hopefully, to KU. But also we want to engage our alumni, because they’re so important in recruitment. If we can get the alumni engaged and to help with recruiting, it’s a win-win for both of us.”
It’s not every day you get to see Baby Jay jump out of a giant birthday gift box, start a conga line and dance with Chancellor Gray-Little and former KU basketball coach Ted Owens. But that’s exactly what awaited guests at the Jayhawk Roundup on Saturday.
The annual event, now in its 14th year, took place once again at Murfin Stables in Wichita. More than 400 Jayhawk alumni, fans and friends attended to help celebrate KU’s Sesquicentennial at the birthday-themed party.
Guests enjoyed a VIP reception where they mingled with special guests Bill Self and Ted Owens, followed by dinner and dancing to a live band. Live and silent auctions also gave Jayhawks a chance to bid on unique items, including a pair of tickets to the KU vs. Oregon State men’s basketball game at the Sprint Center, a football autographed by Steve Young and Jerry Rice, and a variety of KU-themed items.
This year’s centerpieces, custom-painted birthday boxes decked out in KU colors, were also available for purchase—just in time for holiday gift-giving!
The Jayhawk Roundup is the largest gathering of KU faithful in Wichita. Proceeds from the event help enhance alumni programs, including student recruitment, career networking and our alumni lobbying program, Jayhawks for Higher Education.
A special thank you to Jayhawk Roundup hosts Dave and Janet Murfin, event chairs Glenn and Camille Nyberg, decorations chair Chris Jeter, and our Jayhawk Benefactors: Kansas Athletics, A. Scott and Carol Ritchie, Linda and John T. Stewart III and Security 1st Title.
And to all the loyal volunteers who make this event happen every year: we couldn’t do it with you! Thank you for your dedication.
Wichita Jayhawks spent time yesterday not only building relationships with each other, but building a house for Habitat for Humanity.
“It was a fun, productive day with a great KU team,” said Margaret Lafferty, a member of the Presidents Club, adding “I had a good work out with that hammer!”
Jayhawks who volunteered their time and talents include Wichita Network board members Chris Howell, Byron Watkins, Anna Ritchie, and Jim Spencer; Danielle Hoover, assistant director of Wichita programs for the KU Alumni Association; and Mike Parmley of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita.
Stormy weather didn’t stop Wichita Network Jayhawks from proudly representing KU in a college and career night for AVID students, held earlier this month at Marshall Middle School in Wichita. Danielle Hoover, c’07, assistant director of Wichita programs for the Association, and Wichita Network volunteers Monique Pope, c’96, Geron Bird, c’97, l’01, and Janet Murfin, d’75, were on hand for the event, which helped young people learn about opportunities available to them after high school.
Marshall Middle School, a diversely populated school in the heart of Wichita, is one of more than 50 schools in Kansas that implement the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program to prepare students, especially those traditionally underrepresented in higher education, for success in high school, college and beyond.
“The students were very eager and willing to get information,” Hoover says. “They asked a lot of questions about what KU is like and what kind of programs we offer.”
Although tornado sirens in the area temporarily interrupted the event, the turnout was great and the event was a huge success, Hoover says. Most of the students attending were seventh- and eighth-graders from the middle school, although a few students from neighboring Wichita North High School also participated.
“These students look at college as a way of changing their lives,” Hoover says. “At some college fairs you hear students say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to college. That’s just what you do.’ It’s a standard. But with these students, they might be the first person in their family to go to school.”
Although the Wichita Jayhawks were earnest in their message to students about attending KU, the event wasn’t without its share of fun and games. When Hoover and the other school representatives stepped away from their tables to introduce themselves to parents and students, the Wichita Network volunteers jumped at the chance to have some fun with the Kansas State University representative.
“When we came back in, Janet, Geron and Monique had decorated his table with Jayhawks,” Hoover says. “He was a good sport about it, though.”