Cartoonist’s latest project is picture of success

Posted on Dec 2, 2019 in Alumni News and News

Grant Snider, ’07, the orthodontist by day and illustrator by night who calls himself “the incidental comic,” this fall published his first picture book for kids. What Color is Night?, which explores the wonders and colors of night, came out in November from Chronicle Books. The read-aloud bedtime book’s target audience is 3- to 5-year-olds, but as Snider’s own experience suggests, kids of any age will delight in the book’s message that there’s plenty to appreciate in the night if only you look closer.

“Even before I had kids, I would read picture books,” says Snider, the subject of a 2013 feature in Kansas Alumni. “It’s a medium I think you can say so much in, and has so much possibility, and that’s why I hope I can master it or come close some day.”

The publication of his first book, The Shape of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity, in 2018 marked the realization of a longtime dream for Snider, who drew a daily comic strip for the University Daily Kansan’s editorial page in 2007 and in 2008 won the Charles M. Schultz Award for college cartoonists. His whimsical takes on life and literature soon found a place in the pages of The New York Times and The New Yorker.

In an interview with Kansas Alumni about The Shape of Ideas, the father of four acknowledged the deep satisfaction he got from launching his first book into the world, while hinting at another goal he hoped to fulfill.

What Color is Night? by Grant Snider“One thing I’ve been working on in both rewarding and frustrating ways for about three years now is a picture book,” Snider said. “Having kids and being interested in art and reading and drawing, the natural thing to do is draw a book your kids can read. It’s a fun process that’s a lot more challenging than I thought it would be, but that’s another thing that over the next year, five years, or 10 years I want to explore creatively.”

Just how difficult that process proved to be—and the many false starts Snider encountered along the way (who knew it would be hard to sell a book about a tapir learning to ride a tricycle?)—is the subject of a recent post on Snider’s excellent website,

What Color Is Night? will be followed in May by What Sound Is Morning?

“It feels incredible,” Snider says. “My children have been an eager sounding board for ideas over the long process of making a book, and they are always ready to hear a new story. When my wife, Kayla, showed them the first copy of the book, my son Trent (who the book is dedicated to) said ‘We’ve already read this before!’ They’d heard it over and over again in the revision process, so weren’t too impressed by seeing the exact same story in printed form. Reading to one’s own kids is a good way to stay humble as an author!”

—Steven Hill

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Alumna wins O’Connor Prize

Posted on Sep 22, 2016 in Alumni News and News

Becky Mandelbaum | photo by Anna Hurst

Becky Mandelbaum, c’13, is the winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the University of Georgia Press announced this week.

A graduate of the KU English department and winner of the Lawrence Arts Center’s Langston Hughes Creative Writing award in 2013, Mandelbaum will receive $1,000 and have her short story collection, Bad Kansas, published by the press in fall 2017.

Established in 1983 to bring the work of gifted emerging writers to a national readership, the Flannery O’Connor Award is regarded as a major showcase for short story writers. Previous winners have included alumnae Antonya Nelson, c’83, (The Expendables, 1989) and Kelly Wells, j’86, c’89, (Compression Scars, 2002). The award is named for the late fiction writer Flannery O’Connor, a Georgia native.

“This shows major promise in her career, and I think to many of us at KU it’s not a surprise,” says Laura Moriarty, s’93, g’99, associate professor of English, who taught Mandelbaum in her graduate-level writing workshop while Mandelbaum was still an undergraduate. “We knew she was going places and an award of this magnitude shows we were right. She worked with a lot of people and has many, many fans in the KU English department, and we were absolutely thrilled that she got this kind of award. It’s a huge honor.”

“What’s most impressive about this collection of stories, in which Kansas is as much a metaphor for dislocation and disconnection as it is a state, is that Ms. Mandelbaum has us fretting about matters worth the bother,” says fiction writer Lee K. Abbott, Flannery O’Connor series editor. “What lines we dare not cross, how deep love can cut, what to stop wishing for, when to worry that the world is wobbling out of round, and why we tell the lies we must. Hers are characters riven by need, kids and adults about to go which-away toward a betimes terrible self-knowledge. Bad Kansas is so good it hurts.”

Photo by Anna Hurst

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Alumnus and former CIA officer helps tell story of secret communications that reached POWs held in infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’

Posted on Apr 24, 2015 in Alumni News and News

The thrilling story behind clandestine communications that linked U.S. prisoners of war in North Vietnam with military and intelligence officials in Washington, D.C., will be told in a “first-ever report” to be broadcast April 27 on the Smithsonian Channel.

Bob Wallace“The Spy in the Hanoi Hilton” will feature interviews with veterans of the secret operation, along with commentary by Robert Wallace, g’68, a retired Central Intelligence Agency operations officer, chief of station and director of the CIA’s Office of Technical Services [“Cold War Wizards,” Kansas Alumni magazine, issue No. 4, 2008].

“The program is a Smithsonian Channel exclusive,” Wallace writes in an email to the Alumni Association, “a first-ever report on the clandestine network inside the POW camps of the Vietnam War, linking Americans imprisoned inside Hanoi directly to the Pentagon and the CIA. Secret for 40 years, this story is told through historical film clips, reenactments, and interviews of former POWs.”

Wallace, who earned a KU master’s degree in political science before serving as a U.S. Army Ranger in Vietnam and eventually joining the CIA, recounted his agency’s involvement in the POW communications network in his 2008 history of the Office of Technical Services, Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA’s Spytechs from Communism to Al-Qaeda.

In his book, written with intelligence historian H. Keith Melton and approved for publication by the CIA, Wallace described the daring and brilliant work by CIA Technical Services Division officer Brian Lipton, who spent long, late-night hours toiling in secret—even from his colleagues—to devise ways to send and receive coded information in letters and photographs exchanged by Sybil Stockdale and her husband, prisoner James Stockdale, a future vice admiral and Medal of Honor winner who was then a U.S. Navy captain who had been shot down over North Vietnam in 1965.

“Over the time that I worked at night on the project, I had the deeply satisfying personal pleasure of seeing how grateful the military was that they had this channel,” Lipton told Wallace, as recounted in Spycraft. “For years, it had been unknown what happened to many of the guys, whether they were KIA or MIA or POWs. After we had the communications link, not only did the military know, but a lot of these families also began to get reliable information about their sons, fathers, and husbands.”

Lipton was later declared an honorary “prisoner of war in Vietnam” by an association of American POWs.

“A heck of a lot of the guys came up to me and said, ‘I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for what the CIA did. That’s what kept me going,'” Lipton told Wallace. “That’s how I was able to go in and work all night long, then come back and work the next day. I knew that we were doing things that really made a difference; not only in military value, but for those warriors and their families.”

The Smithsonian Channel’s broadcast coincides with nationwide commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the 1965 start of the Vietnam War. “The Spy in the Hanoi Hilton” premiered for a standing-room-only audience April 22 at the U.S. Naval Academy.

—Chris Lazzarino

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“Genius Grant” winner helps celebrate February Sisters anniversary

Posted on Feb 13, 2015 in Alumni News and News

Sarah Deer, KU alumna and MacArthur Foundation fellowSarah Deer, a professor at the William Mitchell College of Law and the recipient of a 2014 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” for her work on sexual violence against native women, visited campus Thursday to help celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the February Sisters movement at KU.

Deer, c’96, l’99, was the featured speaker at an event sponsored by the women, gender and sexuality studies department, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of Law and the Institute for Policy and Social Research to commemorate the group of 30 women known as the February Sisters. On Feb. 4, 1972, they occupied the East Asian Studies building until KU administrators agreed to hear their demands.

A list of six demands included a call for free day care for students with children, the hiring of more women for faculty and administrative jobs, stronger recruitment of female high school graduates and the creation of a women’s studies department “controlled and chiefly taught by women.” KU’s women’s studies program, launched in 1973, and Hilltop Child Development Center, started in 1972, grew out of the group’s protest and subsequent work to see the changes through.

Deer—a Wichita native who earned her bachelor’s and law degrees from KU—welcomed the chance to return home and acknowledged feeling a personal connection with the group.

“In particular, 1972 is the year of my birth,” she said. “I will be turning 43 this year, and it’s special to have that connection with the February Sisters … to know that that generation of women, my mother’s generation of women, stood up for so much and took so many risks to make change. That’s so inspiring to me, and I think you’ll see how some of that plays out in the work that I do today.”

In her presentation, “Sovereignty of the Soul: Native Feminism and Violent Crime,” Deer spoke of her work on behalf of native women, who experience rates of sexual violence 2.5 times higher than the national average. Federal data shows that 34 percent of Native American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped at some point in their lives. Having traveled extensively to tribal lands, Deer said, “My experience is that this data is an understatement; that in fact, the rate is much, much higher.”

After outlining the jurisdictional restrictions that limit tribal nations from prosecuting crimes on their lands, the MacArthur winner noted the passage of two laws that have strengthened the rights of native women: The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

“I was privileged to be in the room for both signings,” Deer said, before sharing with her KU audience video clips of the moving stories told at each signing ceremony by women who had been victims of sexual assault. “Both were special moments.”

In response to a question about her plans to more broadly share her views on the issues touched on in her talk, Deer noted that she has a book coming out in October called The Beginning and End of Rape In America: Confronting Sexual Violence In Native America.

“I wanted to call it Sovereignty of the Soul, because that’s my thing,” Deer said, but she agreed to her publisher’s wishes for a stronger, more provocative title. “It’s nerve-wracking to have a book coming out with that title. Like I think I have all the answers. I’m more about posing questions.”

For more on Sarah Deer, see the current issue of Kansas Alumni.

—Steven Hill

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What’s cooking, Kansas?

Posted on Nov 12, 2014 in Alumni News and News

Calling all cooks: The University Press of Kansas and authors Frank and Jayni Carey are seeking original recipes from Kansas residents to be included in The New Kansas Cookbook.

Twenty-five years ago, Frank, c’75, and Jayni co-authored The Kansas Cookbook: Recipes from the Heartland. That cookbook became a staple in the kitchen and focused on recipes based on farm traditions, early settlers’ ethnic heritage and favorite family recipes. Now, 25 years later and the Kansas culinary scene is vibrant with bustling farmer’s markets, CSAs and locally sourced ingredients from artisan cheese makers, wineries, and other local producers. To chronicle this dynamic shift in Midwest cooking, the Careys seek recipes that reflect how Kansans cook today.

Do you have a favorite sweet corn recipe? Know what to do with too much zucchini? Or maybe you have a great story about your backyard garden, growing your own crops or the bees you keep.

Current Kansas residents are eligible to submit original recipes and stories for possible inclusion in the cookbook. Only original recipes will be considered, and the recipes should focus on fresh Kansas ingredients—no canned soups or packaged mixes.

Kansas cooks have much to contribute to the Midwestern foodscape. In addition to culinary pride, if your recipe is selected for the project, you’ll receive a free copy of the book.

Stories and recipes can be submitted through Facebook at, using the tab on the page that says “submit your recipe.” Or, mail your recipe to The New Kansas Cookbook, P.O. Box 1351, Lawrence, KS 66044. More information is available here.

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Outland’s dream fulfilled: The Kansas Relays

Posted on Apr 18, 2014 in Alumni News and News

relays_coverJust in time for the 87th edition of the Kansas Relays, a KU alumnus has published a complete history of the meet all the way back to its origins. In The Kansas Relays: Track and Field Tradition in the Heartland, Joe D. Schrag, g’68, chronicles this history of the meet, which along with the Drake, Texas and Penn Relays, is one of the most storied collegiate track and field meets in the country.

This year, the Kansas Relays will relocate to Rock Chalk Park, vacating Memorial Stadium where the meet first took place in 1923 and has resided since on the third weekend in April, giving thousands of high school students (and future Jayhawks) from across the Midwest their first glimpse of the University of Kansas.

Alumni and fans who attended the Relays will recall history-making performances from legends like Jim Ryun, Al Oerter and Wes Santee, each of whom are featured among many others. Look for the book to arrive late April from Adina Publishing. Here, the author provides an exclusive excerpt from the first chapter describing the origins of the Kansas Relays.


Dr. Outland’s Dream Fulfilled: The Tradition Begins

“From the sun-kissed slopes of Mount Oread, on the banks of the majestic Kaw, there was sent in the spring of 1923 a call to athletes of America inviting them to meet on the Kansas memorial stadium field in a major outdoor relay classic.”
— 1926 Kansas Relays meet program

When a University of Kansas multi-sport athlete named John Outland made the decision to attend medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, the Kansas Relays was conceived. Outland gained fame for his exploits on the gridiron as he was named the first football player to be named All-American at two different positions. Most sports fans who know of him today don’t think of track and field. They know Outland by the trophy he brainstormed that now bears his name. He believed tackles and guards deserved more credit, so the Outland Trophy was established in 1946 and awarded to the best interior lineman in college football.  

Outland starred in baseball and football at Kansas in 1895 and 1896, after which he went to Philadelphia to pursue a medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania, where he continued to play football.  Here he became enamored of the Penn Relays, which was established in 1895 and almost immediately was reputed to be the largest track and field meet in the world in terms of participation.  

In 1900, Outland returned to Lawrence as Dr. Outland, established his medical practice, and coached football at KU for a year. He then moved his practice to Topeka, Kan., and coached football there at Washburn University for two years before joining the Trinity-Lutheran Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., as a surgeon. While practicing in Kansas City, he served on the KU athletic board with such notables as Dr. James Naismith and Dr. Forrest C. “Phog” Allen. Especially with Allen, Outland shared his vision of a large-scale track and field meet similar to the “carnival” at Penn.  It would be, Outland said, a way to promote the university. As he said in a Relays “pep” convocation prior to the 1924 Relays, “The name of Kansas can go further through the Relays than any other form of athletics because of the numbers competing” (University Daily Kansan, April 15, 1924).

While KU’s geographical location in the heartland of American was an advantage, there were no facilities adequate to hold such an extravaganza. That all changed in 1921 when construction of Memorial Stadium, built to honor KU students who served and died in World War I, was completed. The venue is recognized as the first stadium built on a college campus west of the Mississippi, and claimed to be the eighth oldest collegiate stadium in the nation. Allen, football coach for one year in 1920, coached in the last football game at old McCook Field. On Monday after that game, a 20-20 come-from-behind tie with Nebraska, exuberant students and faculty pledged over $200,000 toward the building of a new stadium. Construction of the facility began, under the watchful eye of Allen, who was also director of athletics.  Allen envisioned a horseshoe-shaped, concrete stadium and insisted that a track be built inside. A “Stadium Day” on May 10, 1921 brought more than 4,000 students to demolish McCook Field in what is considered the groundbreaking date for the new stadium. It was ready for football on Oct. 3, 1921, a 21-7 victory over the rival Kansas Aggies (Kansas State), which the Jayhawks won 21-7 in front of 5,160 fans.

With this edifice, Outland’s dream of a large-scale track meet could become a reality (although the horseshoe didn’t connect the east and west bleachers until 1927). The university’s athletic board gave the go-ahead. Head coach Karl Schlademan, who in his first four years had built KU into something of a regional track power, was given the responsibility of putting it all together in time for the 1923 season. This job of directing the Relays became the responsibility of the head coach in the formative years of the Relays.  
Once the decision was made to hold a relays carnival, the next order of business was to find a suitable date. Already in place was the State Inter-Scholastic Track Meet, which Chancellor Frank Strong established in 1904 as a ploy to get students on campus at a time when recruiting by athletic teams was illegal (see Chapter 4 for more on the origins of the high school meet). This one-day meet had been held successfully for 19 years on an April weekend at McCook Field, so it seemed logical to put the university relays, also conceived as a one-day meet, on the same weekend. Thus the two separate events were permanently linked as the Kansas Relays.

University ArchivesIn the inaugural Kansas Relays, the Saturday schedule of collegiate and university events included two Kansas high school championship relays and three high school open relays, which made it possible to get non-Kansas students on campus. After the first year, the two Kansas relays were dropped and four open high school relays were contested on Saturday.       

On April 21, 1923, people arrived by Model T, bus and train to attend the first Kansas Relays. Stadium capacity at this stage of construction was 22,000. Entered in the event were over 1,000 competitors (about 400 from high schools alone) from 23 universities, 19 colleges, four military academies and 35 high schools. The program consisted of 18 relay events and nine individual events. Almost every event was run in steady rain, and a downpour the day before left the track a muddy mess. Still, an estimated 7,000 fans endured the windy and cloudy conditions, paying 75 cents to $1.50 for the privilege of doing so.  

The visions of Outland, the “Father of the Kansas Relays,” and Allen, “The Founder of the Kansas Relays,” had come to fruition. The Kansas Relays, which skeptics called “Phog’s Folly,” became, and continues to be, one of the premier track and field carnivals, not only in the Midwest but also in the nation.

Presaging future years, the inaugural KU Relays featured notable performances and star athletes. Despite a soggy track, the Kansas quarter-mile relay team ran 43.0 and missed the world record by one-fifth of a second.

Two Kansas athletes would become Olympians for the 1924 Games in Paris, France. All-American Tom Poor won the high jump at 6 feet, 1 ¼ inches and defended that title the next two years.  He placed fourth in the 1924 Olympics. Merwin “Marvin” Graham jumped 22 feet, 1 ½  inches in the broad jump. Graham placed ninth in the hop-step-jump in Paris.  

For more information about The Kansas Relays: Track and Field Tradition in the Heartland, by Joe Schrag, go to

– David Johnston

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Basketball legends featured in new book

Posted on Feb 22, 2014 in Alumni News and News

A new book by Kenn Johnson, g’70, highlights some of the greatest figures ever associated with Kansas Basketball. In Kansas University Basketball Legends, Johnson writes about notables from James Naismith to Andrea Hudy, providing a 160-page primer for KU hoops enthusiasts. In conjunction with KU Alumni Association’s Lawrence Chapter, Johnson presented a lecture on the KU basketball legends in November, attend by Max Falkenstein, who is also featured in the book, and Lawrence Journal-World sportswriter Bill Mayer, who provided the forward. The following excerpt was provided exclusively for KU alumni.

PAUL ENDACOTT (Player: 1921-23)

KennJohnson_bookcoverNamed to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in April, 1972, legendary coach Phog Allen often called Endacott “the greatest player I have ever coached,” and was fond of telling about Endacott’s heroics during KU’s game at Missouri on Jan. 16, 1923, which the Jayhawks won 21-19. Endacott grabbed 16 straight jump balls in the closing minutes to preserve the win and later collapsed in the locker room from exhaustion.

Endacott was born July 3, 1902 and after learning basketball from Dr. James Naismith at the Lawrence YMCA, he graduated from Lawrence High School in 1919 and attended Kansas as a walk-on to play for coach Allen. He earned All-Missouri Valley Conference honors in his sophomore year. A 5’10 guard, he then led KU to two national championships in 1922 and 1923, and was named All-MVC and All-American both years, along with being named Helms Athletic Foundation Player of the Year in 1923. He was KU’s first Honor man, an annual award given to the student displaying leadership, scholastic achievement and greatest overall contribution to the student body and University.

After graduating with a degree in civil engineering, Endacott went to work for the Phillips Petroleum Company and played on their company AAU team for five seasons. He worked in the oilfields as an engineer, caught top management’s eye by persuading Chrysler Corporation to be the first to convert a big plant’s heating system to butane. He rapidly climbed the corporate ladder, rising to head of sales research in 1934, vice president in 1943, and eventually becoming the company’s president, before retiring in 1967.

PaulEndicott1While President of Phillips, his staff ironed out kinks in its innovative plastic production process and his sales force lined up new markets for the plastics, one of which was Wham-O, which sold more than 100 million Hula Hoops in the first six months on the market. Delighted Endacott kept a Hula Hoop in his office for impromptu demonstrations of the miracle plastic in action.

Endacott sat on the board of the KU Alumni Association from 1927-40 and served as its Chairman 1939-40. In 1977, he received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion for his service to KU. He championed the idea of a club for retired KU faculty and staff, donating funds to provide meeting space for the club, now known as the Endacott Society.

In 1969, he received the Sportsman’s World Award in the category of basketball, an honor given to athletes whose championship performances have stood the test of time and whose exemplary conduct have made them outstanding inspirations for the youth of today to emulate. In 1972, he was inducted in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Endacott’s jersey was retired in a ceremony at halftime of the KU-Nebraska game on January 25, 1992. He died January 8, 1997, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and was posthumously inducted in the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame on October 4, 2009.

Johnson’s book Kansas University Basketball Legends is available through the KU Bookstore.

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Longtime coach Ted Owens recalls life, career in new book

Posted on Nov 2, 2013 in Alumni News and News

Former men’s basketball coach Ted Owens, who led two teams to the Final Four and won a record 206 games in Allen Field House, has chronicled his life and career in At The Hang-Up: Seeking Your Purpose, Running Your Race, Finishing Strong. Written by Owens, Jim Krause and Jesse Tuel, the book takes its title from Owen’s childhood on a cotton farm in Hollis, Okla. He explains that “the hang-up” was a scale on which he and his brothers would weigh bags of cotton at the end of each day in the fields. Often the boys competed against their father. One day, as Ted was ahead of his father pulling cotton, his father shared a life lesson: “It’s not what you have now that’s important. It’s what you have at the hang-up.”

Owens will appear at a book signing with former player Bud Stallworth, s’78, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, in the KU Bookstore in the Kansas Union. The book can also be purchased online through the KU Bookstore. The following excerpt, including comment from Dave Robisch, d’71, concludes his chapter on his first Final Four team, which lost to UCLA in the semifinals in Houston:

 I went back to the Astroworld Hotel, trudging down the hallway with profound sadness. Our quest for a national championship had vanished, our 21-game winning streak broken. When I entered my room, daughters Nancy and Kelly, then 11 and 8, met me at the door. “Too bad about the game, Dad,” Kelly said. “Do you want to play some cards?” It was a great lesson in sports and in life: When faced with disappointment, pick yourself up and forge ahead with new goals and plans for the future. Sometimes those lessons come from unexpected sources. …

The 1970-71 season was incredible, with the first Final Four for members of the team and the coaches, an undefeated conference season, and a winning streak of 21 games. As I look back, though, the team’s most remarkable achievement was unifying a campus and city in a common cause. Our players demonstrated that people from divergent backgrounds and ethnic groups can set aside their differences and, by loving and respecting one another, can exceed expectations. Today, the team group continues their special bond and they held a touching reunion in 2011.

“I am most proud of running the table in the Big Eight my senior year. Not many teams in the league did that. We were 17-0, but I still feel like we missed our chance to be remembered as one of the greatest Jayhawk teams of all time.”

–Dave Robisch, KU forward, 1968-71

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