University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas A. Girod sent the following message to KU faculty and staff members Wednesday, December 18.
Today is a special day for our university as we have the occasion to celebrate a former chancellor’s many contributions to the University of Kansas and to our society.
The Kansas Board of Regents voted today to give us the authority to rename our Integrated Science Building in honor of Bernadette Gray-Little, our 17th chancellor.
The building will be officially renamed as Gray-Little Hall, effective in spring 2020.
Today’s news continues a long tradition we have at KU of honoring our former leaders and recognizing their service to our university and our state. Our former chancellors all have a building named for them, and there is not a more fitting selection for Chancellor Gray-Little than the Integrated Science Building.
In her time at KU, Chancellor Gray-Little led a physical transformation of our campuses, particularly with regard to our Central District. There, the Integrated Science Building is the focal point of a new hub of education and research that addressed immediate infrastructure needs and positions KU for excellence for decades to come.
In addition to the building, the Kansas Board of Regents also granted Chancellor Emerita status today for Chancellor Gray-Little, in recognition of her distinguished administrative service.
Please join me in celebrating both of these honors, which are apt recognitions for a leader whose special dignity and grace made her a role model and an inspiration to students, faculty, staff, and alumni alike.
The 2018 recipient of the Fred Ellsworth Medallion for extraordinary service to the University of Kansas is Bernadette Gray-Little, the University’s 17th chancellor, who retired in 2017 after eight years of leadership. The KU Alumni Association will honor her Sept. 14 during the fall meeting of the Association’s national board of directors. Since 1975, the medallions have recognized KU volunteers who have continued the tradition of service established by Ellsworth, a 1922 KU graduate who was the Association’s chief executive for 39 years, retiring in 1963.
During her tenure as chancellor, Gray-Little led the record-breaking $1.6 billion Far Above fundraising campaign and led the successful proposal and implementation of new admissions standards and the launch of a new undergraduate curriculum, KU Core, both aimed to increase student retention and graduation rates. From 2012 through 2016, KU’s freshman class experienced growth for five straight years.
Gray-Little oversaw the physical transformation of the University in 50 capital improvement projects totaling $700 million in Lawrence as well as on the Edwards Campus in Overland Park and KU Medical Center campuses in Kansas City, Wichita and Salina. Most notable is the Central District in Lawrence. Other highlights include the expansion of the schools of Engineering and Medicine, including the construction of the new Health Education Building at KU Medical Center; a new home for the School of Business; new residence halls; and the restoration of Jayhawk Boulevard.
KU also made historic strides in research, achieving National Institutes of Health designations for the Alzheimer’s Disease Center, the KU Cancer Center and Frontiers, the KU Clinical and Translational Science Institute. KU is one of only 26 U.S. universities to house three NIH-designated research centers. The research enterprise also expanded with the recruitment of 12 Foundation Distinguished Professors, a key component of the Bold Aspirations strategic plan to enhance research initiatives on campus.
“We are pleased to recognize Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little with the Fred Ellsworth Medallion,” said Heath Peterson, president of the KU Alumni Association. “One of the most visible and important parts of her legacy at KU was making a commitment early in her tenure to establishing a strategic enrollment management plan. The plan was anchored by a data-driven, highly customized approach to recruitment and supported by a new and very robust four-year renewable scholarship model. The results from this transformation over the previous eight years speak for themselves. Of course, there are many other significant milestones, but enrollment growth stands out for me because it is incredibly important to the health of the entire institution.”
Heather Biele’s feature story in Kansas Alumni magazine, issue No. 2, 2018, describes how the center came to be.
Turmoil on campus
In September 2014, the Huffington Post detailed the story of an anonymous KU student who accused the University, Lawrence police and the local district attorney of failing to properly respond after she reported her sexual assault.
Within days, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little assembled a task force to examine how the University prevents and responds to sexual assault.
As the 2015 spring semester came to a close, task force delivered a report to the chancellor with 27 recommendations for improvement. She approved 22 of them. One of the recommendations was the creation of a sexual assault prevention and education center.
Jennifer Brockman arrived on Mount Oread in Jaunary 2016 as the first director of SAPEC, and she embraced the significant task ahead of her. She has spent her career providing support for those affected by sexual and domestic violence. Today, she leads a staff that includes two full-time prevention educators.
This spring, SAPEC moved into a stunning new space in a coveted location—the recently completed Burge Union in the booming Central District.
Find out what fellow Jayhawks are up to in our biweekly edition of “In the News.” It’s like an online version of Class Notes.If you’ve seen Jayhawks in the news who should be featured, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Engle flew everything from Super Sabres to the Space Shuttle, but it is as an X-15 pilot that he is perhaps best known. Born in Kansas in 1932, Engle graduated from the University of Kansas at Lawrence in 1956 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. From the start he set his sights on the sky, joining Air Force ROTC and earning his wings in 1958. Read full article.
CAM Integrated Solutions, LLC, a provider of EPCM services to the onshore oil and gas industry, recently hired Chris Reischman. He will lead the company’s new office in Denver. Reischman is a University of Kansas graduate and holds a Bachelor of Science in both Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration. Read full article.
A new study led by a University of Kansas urban planning researcher sheds light on tradeoffs between taking a narrow approach focused on connections between climate change adaptation and reducing risks from hazards like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and taking a broader approach connecting adaptation to a wide array of city functions. Read full article.
KU alumna Jacque Miller, now a graduate student at the University of Maine, helps conduct research on shell middens along the coastline in Maine. The research was featured in the New York Times. Read full article.
Bernadette Gray-Little, former University of Kansas chancellor, was honored during the 14th Annual Gordon Parks Celebration Tribute Dinner. Kevin Willmott, the 2016 Choice of Weapons Award recipient, introduced Gray-Little and led a conversation with her. Read full article.
Thirteen years after graduation, artist Megh Knappenberger has returned to the University with “The Original Six” project. The six-piece display represents the six different iterations of the Jayhawk. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 2004 with a degree in visual communication. Read full article.
Kansas man and visual effects producer Barry St. John went from recreating a Beastie Boys music video for a class at KU to managing effects for films at Disney and Warner Bros. Now at 36, his career has continued to rise, with a timeline that includes work on the Oscar-winning 2016 animated feature “The Jungle Book” and the upcoming Spielberg flick “Ready Player One.” Read full article.
At age 21, Christina Warinner cut her teeth on that incredibly complex sacrificial burial left behind by the Maya in a Belize rainforest. Today, at age 37, the molecular anthropologist scrapes at not-so-pearly whites to investigate similar questions. She splits her time between the University of Oklahoma in Norman and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. Read full article.
Have you heard news about a fellow Jayhawk, or maybe you have news of your own to share? Email us at email@example.com, or fill out our Class Notes form to be included in a future issue of Kansas Alumni magazine. Read more about newsworthy Jayhawks.
Former KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little will receive the “Gordon Parks Choice of Weapons Award” at the annual Gordon Parks Celebration on October 12 in Fort Scott, Kansas. The award, named after Gordon Parks’ autobiography of the same name, was established in Parks’ honor to be given annually at the celebration of the photographer, writer, filmmaker, and musician.
“We are honored to have Dr. Gray-Little as our award recipient,” said Jill Warford, Executive Director of the Gordon Parks Museum. “Her dedication to and accomplishments in education are outstanding. Gordon Parks was a self-educated man who sought to learn every day of his life, so it is very appropriate to honor Dr. Gray-Little with this award.”
Chancellor Gray-Little served the University from 2009 to 2017. She guided KU to unprecedented success by elevating the university’s national stature and transforming the way KU serves the state and world.
The following message was sent by email to alumni from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
Earlier this year at Commencement, I told the Class of 2017 that I had some insight into their state of mind because, like them, I too was preparing to leave Mount Oread and was experiencing a range of emotions.
This week, as I approach my final day as chancellor, I still feel that combination of excitement, pride, happiness and sadness. But more than anything, I feel thankful. I feel fortunate. And I feel honored to be part of the University of Kansas and to have had the chance to work with KU friends and alumni like you along the way.
We have achieved great things during the past eight years — from revamping the student experience, to earning National Cancer Institute designation for our cancer center, to leading a historic fundraising effort that will support KU for years to come. We have elevated the University’s national stature and transformed the way KU serves the state and world. The University is stronger than ever, thanks to your support.
I am especially excited about the future of the University under the leadership of our incoming chancellor, Dr. Douglas A. Girod. As many of you know, Dr. Girod brings tremendous experience and leadership abilities to this role, and it makes me happy to know KU is in good hands. Moving forward, under Dr. Girod’s guidance I urge you to remain committed to our mission as a public research university. Never lose sight of our sacred obligation to provide a quality education to our students, to serve our state, and to improve our world through research and scholarship.
Most of all, in this final message to you, I want to say, “Thank you.” Thank you for supporting the University of Kansas, and thank you for supporting me. I will always be grateful to you for welcoming Shade and me to the University in 2009 and for making this a remarkable experience for us. Leading this institution is a privilege I will always cherish.
Forever a Jayhawk,
University of Kansas
The 145th Commencement of the University of Kansas took place Sunday, May 14, 2017, in Memorial Stadium.
Nearly 5,000 graduates made the traditional “walk down the Hill,” followed by a program and the conferral of degrees by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
This year, an honorary degree was presented during Commencement to William McNulty, a U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran who created Team Rubicon, a non-profit agency that recruits military veterans to provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid around the world. Read McNulty’s address to the graduating seniors.
Chancellor Gray-Little closed the ceremony with a farewell address to the graduating seniors. In that address, she urged the Class of 2017 to “run toward the chaos. Run toward the situations where you can make a difference. Use the knowledge and the sense of civic responsibility you’ve developed at KU to improve those situations, help people and make this world a better place.”
New graduates receive a one-year membership in the KU Alumni Association, compliments of KU Endowment and the Association, that runs through May 31, 2018. Graduates should update their mailing and email addresses with the University to ensure they receive information.
One of the most treasured traditions at the University of Kansas takes place every spring, when thousands of graduating students walk through the Campanile and down the Hill for Commencement.
Brian Palermo, a KU Admissions representative based in St. Louis, never got to experience that moment. Shortly after graduating in December 2012, he accepted a job at a mental health facility for children in Oklahoma City. Knowing it would be difficult to take time off in May for the ceremony, he let the opportunity slip by.
Earlier this year, Palermo, c’13, shared with his supervisor, Elisa Zahn Krapcha, c’05, j’05, g’11, that he never participated in Commencement. She mentioned that the Admissions team should stage a small ceremony for him.
“I kind of knew we might do a little something, but I didn’t expect too much,” Palermo says.
Krapcha and Heidi Simon, g’00, senior associate director of Admissions, had a surprise in store. On May 8, they summoned nearly 20 team members to the Campanile, where Palermo was given a traditional cap and gown, as well as party beads and a crimson and blue lei.
“As I’m getting ready to walk through the Campanile, Heidi hands me a bottle of sparkling cider,” he recalls. “I got so focused on trying to open it, because people were shouting ‘Pop it, pop it!’ I was looking down at it and still walking when I heard someone say ‘Whoa, whoa! Hold on a moment.’”
When Palermo looked up, he saw Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little standing in front of him. “I was just floored,” he says. “I couldn’t believe she was there.”
The chancellor congratulated Palermo and delivered remarks, reminding him of KU’s noble mission: to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world.
“I challenged the graduates at the 2012 Commencement to continue to do all of these things after they walked down the Hill,” Gray-Little told him. “You’ve done these things even without being there to hear my call.”
As Palermo wraps up his first year as a KU Admissions representative, he’s more determined than ever to continue serving the University, thanks to the kindness and support of his team and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
“It was just a really special moment that I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” he says.
The following message from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was sent to KU students, faculty, staff members and alumni at the close of the spring 2017 semester.
Two years ago at Traditions Night, I shared with the freshmen how Shade and I enjoy evening strolls across Mount Oread. I even revealed my favorite location atop Daisy Hill, from where you can look east and see clear across campus to Fraser Hall.
Today, that view looks very different than it did a few years ago. During the past eight years, we have transformed the University of Kansas with 50 capital improvement projects totaling $700 million and launched a once-in-a-generation redevelopment of our Central District that will change the face of education and research at KU.
But as I have said before, the transformation goes deeper than buildings and encompasses every aspect of our mission. As the semester comes to a close and we reflect on the 2016-17 academic year, we can all be proud of our role in this transformation.
The transformation is apparent in the way we educate students, starting with how we bring them to KU in the first place. This year, our freshman class grew for the fifth straight year and was the most academically talented class in KU history — the result of strategic changes in how we identify, recruit, fund and enroll best-fit students. These record-setting freshmen joined KU students like Shegufta Huma, who this year became our 27th Rhodes Scholar, and Taylor Zabel, our 19th Truman Scholar.
The transformation of KU is also apparent in the way we build healthy communities. In September, our KU Cancer Center applied for Comprehensive Cancer Center designation through the National Cancer Institute. In October, our Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s national designation was renewed, empowering us to continue our efforts to prevent this devastating disease. And in June, we will complete construction on the new Health Education Building, which will enable us to accommodate a modern curriculum and increase the number of healthcare professionals we educate.
The transformation is apparent in the way we make discoveries. Last semester, Professors Alice Bean and David Darwin were named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Professor Raghunath Chaudhari was named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. In April, KU alumnus and Google Earth co-creator Brian McClendon joined KU as a research professor in electrical engineering and computer science. And last week, Cecilia Menjivar, our Foundation Distinguished Professor of Sociology, became the second KU researcher in three years to be named a Carnegie Fellow.
This past year, we sought opportunities to make campus more welcoming and inclusive. In September, our Office of the Provost responded to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group report. Work continues on our Climate Study, a university-wide examination of the living, learning and working environment at KU.
This year was not without challenges. Earlier this semester, we reacted to executive orders on immigration that have caused uncertainty about the future of immigration and international scholarship. We also face uncertainty about federal research funding and the state budget as it relates to higher education. I remain hopeful we can manage these challenges if we remain vigilant and committed to our core values.
Next weekend at Commencement, thousands of Jayhawks will walk down the Hill and receive their degrees. While the day is primarily a celebration of the new graduates, it is also a celebration of alumni and supporters like you who have paved the way for them. For that, I thank you.
“Now is an ideal time for the University of Kansas to identify a new leader to guide the next chapter in the university’s history,” said Gray-Little, who came to Lawrence in 2009 as a highly regarded administrator and researcher.
Visit the University’s tribute page to Chancellor Gray-Little to learn more about her legacy and see a timeline of achievements during her tenure. Check out favorite photos of the Chancellor at university events and watch videos including her encounter with Little James Naismith and her unforgettable drive in a KU race car.
A Twitter feed on the page displays tributes made by students, alumni, faculty and staff members.
Exclusively for members
The next issue of Kansas Alumni magazine, which will land in members’ mailboxes later this month, will feature a cover story on the outgoing chancellor.
Not a member? Join by Tuesday, May 9, to ensure that you receive this commemorative issue of the magazine.
Jayhawks are invited to donate to two funds Chancellor Gray-Little was instrumental in creating.
The Chancellor’s Doctoral Fellowships help recruit and support doctoral students. Twelve fellowships are awarded each year to provide a $25,000 stipend and cover tuition and fees.
The Rosalie Lanier Gray KU Staff Assistance Fund provides emergency assistance for KU staff members who are struggling due to a natural or personal disaster that has caused financial hardship. Chancellor Gray-Little established the fund in honor of her mother, Rosalie Lanier Gray.
Share your memories of the chancellor online using the hashtag #ThankYouBGL.