The University of Kansas Alumni Association hosted its first-ever virtual fundraising event, Jayhawks Flock Together, Thursday, Nov. 19, in support of student and alumni programs and KU’s Campus Cupboard, a food pantry for students, faculty, staff and affiliates. The event, featuring KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, Alumni Association President Heath Peterson and Fox 4 News co-anchor John Holt, was presented in partnership with Dimensional Innovations, Helix Architecture + Design and McCownGordon Construction and supported by video production sponsor, KJO Media.
Nearly 750 Jayhawks worldwide participated in the event, which raised $80,000 from sponsorships and the silent auction to support the Association’s Jayhawk Career Network and the Student Alumni Network, and $20,000 from the Fund-the-Future portion of the live program to benefit the Campus Cupboard, which the chancellor selected to highlight the seriousness of food insecurity and its effect on Jayhawks.
According to KU, approximately one-third of its students experience food insecurity during their time on campus, and those needs have only intensified this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as many student-held jobs on campus or in the Lawrence community have been eliminated or reduced.
“We deeply appreciate the generosity of KU alumni and friends who contributed financially to the KU Campus Cupboard,” said Jennifer Wamelink, associate vice provost for KU Student Affairs and Food for Jayhawks committee member. “Your gifts help the pantry provide students with the specific food items, hygiene products and school supplies that meet their unique needs and are particularly meaningful as we prepare for what looks to be another difficult semester for many.”
“We are especially proud to support the KU Campus Cupboard to help students who are struggling with food insecurity and hunger,” said Peterson. “In addition, funds raised from Jayhawks Flock Together are critical to the Association’s efforts to expand industry and career connections between all Jayhawks and significantly enhance the student experience. We are grateful for all event sponsors and Jayhawks who came together during a very challenging time to positively impact thousands of students and alumni.”
Last week we announced we will not host fans at Kansas Athletics competitions for the rest of November in light of the regional surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
I write today to inform you that we will continue to not host fans during the first week of December, which includes all events through and including Saturday, Dec. 5. For contests after that week, we will make decisions about attendance on a week-by-week basis so we can be responsive to the most current circumstances and medical guidance.
This decision has been made after consultation with our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team and other university leaders. We will continue consulting this group regarding upcoming events and will communicate updates with you as appropriate.
We know this is disappointing to those of you who planned to be on campus to root for the Jayhawks in early December. While we are not aware of any incidents of COVID-19 transmission at any home athletics competitions, the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations across the region makes it unwise to host fans at this time.
As I wrote in last week’s message, this is a critical moment for our state and nation. Throughout the fall, Douglas County has had lower positivity rates than most other parts of the region, thanks to the commitment of our community to curb the spread of the virus. But the spread of the disease in neighboring regions has caught up to us. Kansas and adjacent states are at a tipping point, with the number of new COVID-19 cases increasing each day, and hospitals at or near capacity. The next few weeks will be crucial, particularly as many of us consider whether to gather for the holidays.
Now is the time for each of us to renew our commitment to mitigation efforts, particularly with respect to mask-wearing and social distancing, which have served us well so far. Each of us must commit to thinking not only about ourselves, but about the entire community, in every decision we make. The safety of our friends, families, colleagues, classmates and neighbors depends on it.
Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to students, faculty and staff Nov. 17, 2020.
Faculty, staff and students,
In light of the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the region, we have determined we will not host fans at any Kansas Athletics home competitions for the rest of November. This includes volleyball matches this Thursday and Friday, our football game this Saturday, women’s basketball games Nov. 25 and Nov. 29, and our football game Nov. 28.
This decision has been made after consultation with our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team and other university leaders. I will be consulting this group later this week regarding December athletics events, including men’s basketball games, and will communicate updates with you as appropriate.
We know this is disappointing to those of you who planned to be on campus to root for the Jayhawks. While we are not aware of any incidents of COVID-19 transmission at any home athletics competitions this year, the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations makes it unwise to host fans at this time.
Beyond athletics, I want to take this opportunity to emphasize how critical this moment is for our university, state and nation. Throughout the fall semester, Douglas County and KU have had lower positivity rates than most other parts of the state and region, thanks in large part to the commitment of our community to curb the spread of the virus. This is something we can be proud of.
But the spread of the disease in neighboring regions is catching up to us. Kansas and adjacent states are at a tipping point, with the number of new COVID-19 cases increasing each day, and hospitals at or near capacity. The next few weeks will be crucial to our region’s ability to weather this latest wave, particularly as many of us consider whether to gather for the holidays.
With this in mind, now is the time for each of us to renew our commitment to mitigation efforts, particularly with respect to mask-wearing and social distancing, which have served us well so far. I implore each of us to commit to thinking not only about ourselves, but about the entire community, in every decision we make. The safety of our friends, families, colleagues, classmates and neighbors depends on it.
Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to University of Kansas faculty and staff Thursday, Oct. 1.
I write to share a few thoughts about our annual 20th day enrollment numbers, which were released today in coordination with the Kansas Board of Regents, and to describe how recent enrollment trends will impact KU both in the short run and in the years ahead.
First, our overall enrollment fell 2.8 percent this year – a decrease of 804 students – due largely to declines in international students and first-time freshmen. Specifically, more than half of the decrease stems from a drop in international students (down 18.1 percent), while more than a third of the decrease stems from a drop in first-time freshmen (down 7.2 percent), which includes a 29.3 percent decline in international freshmen.
Additionally, today’s data show the one-year retention rate for last year’s freshmen is 85.7 percent – the second-highest rate in KU history – while the two-year retention rate for the 2018 freshmen is an all-time high 77.1 percent.
Given the hardships the pandemic has presented students and families – and the uncertainty it has created in the higher education market – we are pleased to have experienced such a modest enrollment decline. To have limited the decline to just 2.8 percent, and to have maintained historically high retention rates, is a testament to the great work you’ve done to help students continue their coursework during these turbulent times. To put it simply, we exceeded our expectations and outperformed many of our peer institutions, thanks to you.
While we are pleased with this year’s enrollment, the reality is the university – and in particular the Lawrence campus – still faces unprecedented fiscal challenges that necessitate painful cost-savings measures in the months ahead. In the short term, we need to address the current fiscal year deficit, which we previously projected to be $120 million. While we likely will be able to revise that projection down due to our better-than-expected enrollment, the current fiscal year challenge remains substantial. We will provide a revised projected deficit soon.
Beyond the current fiscal year, the decline in international students and freshmen presents ongoing revenue shortages that will follow us for years. When freshmen enrollment falls, that isn’t a one-year tuition hit; rather, we lose tuition we would have received for multiple years. Additionally, the decline in international students disproportionately impacts tuition revenue because these students pay the higher non-resident rate.
In summary, while we should pause to celebrate today’s enrollment data, we must be mindful of the unprecedented financial challenges we continue to face. As I’ve written before, KU will need to adopt new business models, reorganize and restructure, and implement cost reductions. All options – including furloughs, layoffs, and salary reductions – must be considered for us to manage through this. The decisions ahead will be hard, but they are necessary to ensure the long-term health of the university.
Thank you for your efforts to help students become and remain Jayhawks. It is, quite simply, the most important thing each of us can do for the university right now.
The University of Kansas will celebrate its 108th Homecoming Sept. 28-Oct. 3, culminating in the KU football game against Oklahoma State Oct. 3 in David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. The theme for this year’s event is “Rock Chalk Around the World.”
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, several traditional Homecoming activities have been replaced with digital events, including a weeklong game of bingo and a virtual scavenger hunt for students and alumni, both of which can be played via the KU Alumni app.
To further unite and engage Jayhawks around the world during Homecoming week, the Alumni Association and its Jayhawk Career Network will host Kyou Networking Week, a series of 11 virtual events for students and alumni in a variety of fields, including journalism, design and architecture, business and education. Details for these programs, along with reunion activities for the schools of Health Professions, Law, Nursing and Medicine, can be found at kuconnection.org.
The following events will also be featured:
Sept. 28: Homecoming in a Box—The Homecoming Steering Committee will deliver an assortment of T-shirts, cups, stickers and pens throughout campus.
Sept. 29: Homecoming Digital Banner Display—Students are encouraged to create original Homecoming-themed artwork, which will be highlighted in a social media campaign.
Oct. 2: Home Football Friday—The Alumni Association will provide a grab-and-go lunch at the Adams Alumni Center, followed by a Facebook Live event in the evening, featuring a performance by the Marching Jayhawks and a celebratory flyover.
The winners of the Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership (Ex.C.E.L.) Awards and the Jennifer Alderdice Award will be announced at the conclusion of the week.
Chancellor Girod sent the following message to faculty, staff and students Sept. 20, 2020.
It is with a heavy heart that I write you regarding Reggie Robinson, one of our most accomplished and beloved Jayhawks, who passed away this weekend at the age of 63.
Reggie leaves behind his wife, Jane, their two daughters, Clare and Paige, and countless Jayhawks whose lives he touched. He also leaves a legacy of public service and leadership unlike any in recent memory. With his passing, our community has lost one of our most respected leaders, a humble giant and a beautiful soul.
Reggie was a brilliant and devoted public servant whose passion was to help others and make the world a better place. He most recently served as CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation, a position he described to me as a dream job. Prior to that, he was vice chancellor for public affairs at the University of Kansas, director of KU’s School of Public Affairs and Administration, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, a faculty member at the Washburn and KU schools of law, chief of staff to Chancellor Robert Hemenway, a White House fellow, special assistant to Attorney General Janet Reno, and deputy associate attorney general for the United States.
In addition to these leadership roles, Reggie gave back to the KU community through his service on boards of directors for the Friends of the Spencer Museum of Art, Hall Center for the Humanities, Kansas Leadership Center, Douglas County Community Foundation, and Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. He also was a life trustee of KU Endowment and held advisory roles with the KU Alumni Association.
Reggie was a 1975 graduate of Salina High School South and received both his undergraduate degree and law degree from KU. As an undergraduate, he was student body vice president. In law school, he was editor in chief of the Kansas Law Review. Between college and law school, he served four years as a field artillery officer in the United States Army and was honorably discharged at the rank of captain.
Reggie was a pillar in the KU community for more than four decades, and his legacy lives on in the many students and colleagues who benefitted from his teaching and mentorship. I have heard from so many former students who have told me Reggie was their favorite professor, and from so many colleagues who have said how much they grew as a result of working with him. While they admired his skills and expertise, it was his personal interest in their success that set Reggie apart.
Beyond his remarkable intellect and record of service, Reggie will be remembered for his uncommon kindness, warmth, generosity and decency. To put it plainly, Reggie was the nicest and most compassionate person one could ever hope to meet. He was humble, thoughtful and gracious. He had a disarming wit and an easy smile that lit up the room. He cared deeply about people and made those around him feel special — because to Reggie, everyone was special.
In recognition of a life well lived, gifts in Reggie’s memory can be sent in support of the Reginald L. Robinson Law Scholarship through the KU Endowment Association, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044-0928, or given securely online at kuendowment.org/give.
I am confident the best way to honor Reggie’s legacy is to follow his example of serving others with kindness, generosity and grace. Reggie’s life was a life of meaning because he consistently worked to advance causes bigger than himself. We can now carry on in his stead. His example calls us to follow our passions, be active citizens, lift up others, value education, pursue justice and work for healing. In the days ahead, when I reflect on my friendship with Reggie, like so many of you who knew him as a friend, I will feel the warmth of his spirit, remain in awe of his character and be grateful that he inspires the best in those who knew him.
Reggie Robinson embodied the best of what it means to be a Jayhawk and a Kansan, and he will be missed.
Chancellor Girod sent the following message to faculty, staff and students Sept. 8, 2020.
I am sad to report that former Chancellor Gene Budig has passed away at the age of 81. He leaves behind his wife, Gretchen, their three children and five grandchildren, and countless Jayhawks whose lives he touched.
While we are saddened by Chancellor Budig’s passing, we can be grateful for the opportunity to celebrate his life and contributions to KU. I encourage each of you to set aside some time in the coming days to reflect on his legacy at KU.
Gene Budig was named the university’s 14th chancellor in 1981. On the day he accepted the job, he said he aimed “to help a great public university become greater” — a goal he undoubtedly achieved over the next 13 years as chancellor.
An experienced university administrator as well as a major general in the Air National Guard, Chancellor Budig presided over an impressive amount of physical growth on campus, including the Dole Human Development Center, the Adams Alumni Center, the KU Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Anschutz Science Library, the Lied Center for the Performing Arts, and the opening of the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park.
Under Chancellor Budig’s leadership, KU enrollment reached an all-time high of 29,161 in 1992, the KU Medical Center returned to sound financial footing, and the number of distinguished professorships at KU nearly tripled.
Additionally, Chancellor Budig helped lead KU through Campaign Kansas, a five-year fund drive that brought in $265 million in gifts and commitments. During his chancellorship, annual giving for KU’s benefit rose from about $12 million to $34.6 million.
In 1991, tragedy struck the campus when lightning caused one of the KU’s oldest and best-loved landmarks, Hoch Auditorium, to burn, leaving only the historic facade. But through Chancellor Budig’s tireless lobbying efforts, KU received an $18 million appropriation from the state to rebuild the structure. In recognition, the new building was christened Budig Hall when it was officially dedicated in 1997.
Chancellor Budig resigned in 1994 to become president of Major League Baseball’s American League – an unsurprising next chapter for a man with an unabashed lifelong passion for baseball.
The family requests memorials to the Gene and Gretchen Budig Teaching Professorships in care of KU Endowment, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044-0928, or give online at kuendowment.org/budig.
Before leaving the university, Chancellor Budig told the Oread magazine, “I will leave the university with a sense of satisfaction and appreciation. Many things have been made better, and it has been the highest honor to be associated with the people of KU. Lawrence will always be special to our family. It is home.”
Well, Gene — we promise to look after your home in your absence.
Please join me in reflecting on Chancellor Budig’s life and contributions to KU.
Douglas A. Girod Chancellor University of Kansas
Recollections from friends and colleagues of Chancellor Budig
Bill Tuttle, Professor Emeritus of American Studies
Always thoughtful and generous, Gene Budig was a marvelous friend. In my mother’s waning years and in her last visit to us in Lawrence, Gene and Gretchen invited her to visit for tea at The Outlook. We had a wonderful time, and afterwards, Gene wrote my mother. “Bill and I talk about our mothers often,” he wrote. “You are very important to him, and have had a great impact on his life. As you know, he is one of the university’s real academic stars.” My mother was thrilled.
Gene’s sense of humor was also legendary. On my 50th birthday, he arrived at my house decked out in his tuxedo. He was there, he announced to my guests, to park cars. Gene and I considered ourselves to be “brothers.” In his 13 years at KU, Gene Budig was one of the university’s great chancellors.
Dale Seuferling, KU Endowment President
Chancellor Budig left an indelible legacy at the University of Kansas. His leadership during Campaign Kansas resulted in numerous benefits which, more than 30 years later, continue to serve our KU students and faculty.
Following his service as chancellor, he would delight in meeting successful KU alumni around the world who had a “Gene Budig” diploma on the wall in their homes or offices.
Gene and Gretchen never forgot KU as evidenced by their personal gifts which endowed six Gene and Gretchen Budig Teaching Professorship and Award Funds. He was a great friend.
David Ambler, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Emeritus
We have lost one of the great chancellors of the University of Kansas, and I mourn the passing of a valued and important friend, mentor and colleague.
The career of this shy, adopted son of a used-car dealer in McCook, Nebraska, is a quintessential demonstration of the realization of the American dream. Before the age of 30, Gene had completed three degrees at the University of Nebraska and served as assistant to its president and that state’s governor. From there he went on to serve as the president or chancellor of three major state universities and ultimately realized his dream of being the last president of the American League of Baseball.
But for me, I shall remember him most for his personal integrity, kindness, sense of humor, wisdom, visionary leadership and his steadfast commitment to education as the means of making this a better world for all of us.
Jim Carothers, Emeritus Professor of English
Gene Budig was calm, modest, principled in academic values, and a responsible and enthusiastic KU Chancellor, as well as a great family man.
He also had a subtle and frequent sense of humor, which he was likely to share only when the microphones and cameras were turned off. “Would you take this job for a Buick?” he once asked a reporter who was interviewing him.
He also loved baseball. He once asked a colleague, “What role would you most like to have on a major league baseball team at this stage in your life?” His colleague offered, “I’d most like to be the radio color commentator for the Royals or the Cardinals. What would you be?” Quickly, Budig replied, “the owner.”
He was a steadfast champion of the faculty, of the good will of all of us, and interested in support for individual colleagues who needed help. When a faculty member got into front-page trouble in the local newspaper, the individual’s department chair got an early morning phone call from the Gene, asking, “How can we help him?”
He paid careful attention to student needs and opinions. Remarkable for any chancellor or president, he taught a class every year he was in Lawrence. He often showed up at individual classes “to learn something” or to “ask questions.”
His family life was often mixed up with his university responsibilities. He and Gretchen hosted students and faculty on a great variety of occasions. They watched carefully as their three children developed and grew up, and all five of them played jokes on each other. I especially remember one graduation present that seemed to be the most atrociously available used car they could find, then they pointed out the real gift car, hidden in another place. Gene and Gretchen quietly gave great amounts of money to the university, in support of scholarship students, particular KU schools, and myriad new distinguished professorships.
He saw as many KU basketball games as anyone, was faithful at KU football games, and, of course, baseball games. He was a genuine Jayhawk.
His term as Chancellor was, for many students and faculty, the best period of their academic years. We shall miss him. Rock Chalk, Gene.
James Moeser, Dean, KU School of Fine Arts, 1975-86
KU has lost one of its greatest chancellors. I was a KU dean for 11 years, and Gene Budig was my friend and mentor. I went on to another deanship at Penn State, became provost at the University of South Carolina, and then was Chancellor at two universities– the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At every step along the way, Gene was there. He was a wonderful friend. Susan and I will miss him.
Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to University of Kansas faculty, staff and students Aug. 31.
Earlier this year, we created the Pandemic Medical Advisory Team to guide our decisions related to campus operations. This team comprises nine of the region’s top public health officials and has been instrumental to our efforts to begin the fall semester in a way that prioritizes health and safety.
Today I am writing to let you know that, at the advice of the Pandemic Medical Advisory Team, we will begin our fall athletics season without fans in attendance. This includes our first home football game Sept. 12 against Coastal Carolina and all Kansas Athletics competitions at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena, Rock Chalk Park and Rim Rock Farm through September.
In addition, tailgating will not be permitted on campus for the Sept. 12 football game.
We know this is disappointing to those of you who planned to be on campus to root for the Jayhawks. Our football, volleyball, soccer and cross country contests will not be the same without you there. But this is the right decision for our community at this time.
We will continue to evaluate safety conditions with the hope that we can welcome fans to athletics events after September. We will report back to you as we approach our second home football game, which is slated for Oct. 3 against Oklahoma State.
For those of you with tickets to upcoming Jayhawks sporting events, Kansas Athletics will contact you in the days ahead.
One final thought: It will undoubtedly be disappointing for our student-athletes to not have you cheering from the stands. So if you have the opportunity to interact with these remarkable young men and women when they aren’t competing, please tell them how much you appreciate their resilience amid all this uncertainty, and remind them how important they are to our university.
Thank you for all you are doing to help us continue our mission of education, service and research while prioritizing health and safety.
Yellow tape blocking off every other booth wasn’t the only surprise awaiting a few longtime regulars who gathered for The Wagon Wheel’s first chicken-fried steak special of the fall semester (allowable under county health guidelines, with masks mandatory until patrons are seated and strict social distancing): A young, fit guy shouldering an enormous backpack made his way into the 14th Street tavern for lunch and an ice-cold beer. Ice cold, as in, a single can of light beer poured into a plastic cup packed with ice.
Hey, it’s hot out there for a hiker ambling coast to coast.
“I wanted to do something challenging,” says Keith Doubman, a Pennsylvanian who started his cross-country trek May 17 in Delaware, “and I’m just so grateful for my health. I also wanted to do something to better humanity, so I’m raising money for cancer research.”
Doubman, who previously hiked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage across northern Spain, is following a route called the American Discovery Trail, which—who knew?—passes through Lawrence. He’ll next walk south to Ottawa before turning west into the Flint Hills. The rest of his Kansas journey will take him to McPherson, Great Bend, Kinsley, Dodge City, Garden City and Coolidge; Doubman says he’s been grateful to find respite in homes of people following his trek online, so Jayhawks who would like to share their Kansas hospitality while making an interesting new friend can follow Doubman’s trek on Instagram and TikTok, @KCDAdventure.
We have posted the latest results from our community COVID-19 saliva testing.
As of Monday evening, 222 people have tested positive out of 19,452 entry test results received, for a positivity rate of 1.14%.
The overall positivity rate is in line with what we expected and are prepared to manage, and it represents a slight decrease from the initial round of results we shared last Thursday. We always expected to see some positive tests from this effort. Notably, our positivity rate is lower than rates of the general population from Douglas County. We know our situation is fluid and can change rapidly, but overall, these results suggest we are starting the semester in a good place.
As a reminder, we’ve conducted this testing upon return to campus before the beginning of on-campus activities and classes for two key reasons:
First, we want to identify positive cases early and ensure that they are isolating appropriately to prevent community spread. Those who test positive receive instructions to self-isolate, in accordance with guidelines from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, along with additional instructions from Watkins Health Services. All members of our community must follow these directions closely.
Second, we want to establish baseline levels of positivity rates among our campus populations to determine appropriate safety, infection prevention, education, and testing efforts moving forward. This baseline testing will inform more targeted testing efforts in the future.
Our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team, which features nine of the region’s top medical and public health professionals, guides our overall approach in these areas with an eye toward data and scientific evidence.
As we use these overall results to form a baseline, we will be able to move forward with more targeted testing efforts with specific populations.
Faculty, staff, and students who didn’t get tested during our initial rounds of testing can make an appointment online to receive a test near the mobile testing unit at Watkins Health Services at protect.ku.edu/covid-19-testing-information. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you should call Watkins Health Services directly at 785-864-9507 to arrange an appointment, or contact your primary care physician.
Some results from last weekend’s tests are not included in today’s update, and we plan to publish an additional round of results from our entry testing on Friday.
We also have updated numbers for our Greek community, which has an overall positivity rate of 5.47%. We applaud that community for participating in our testing efforts so far and for proactively working with us to take measures to improve health and safety. We commend the members of this community who are taking positive steps to this end, and encourage that work to continue.
No single group will be ultimately responsible for our overall success or failure in combating this disease. That responsibility rests with all of us.
The ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 remain clear: Wear a mask, stay six feet apart from others, and wash your hands. Again, all of us need to do our part.
In looking around campus this week, we saw a lot of positive signs: a lower-density overall environment, students wearing masks inside and outside, and social distancing in classrooms. Keeping that up will be key this semester.
While we may have fewer people than usual on Mount Oread this fall, it’s still good to see classes starting up again. To all of you who have worked so hard to enable us to reopen campus while continuing to prioritize health and safety – thank you.