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.
Sarah Smarsh, 2003 J-School graduate and a reporter on socioeconomic class, politics, and policy for The New Yorker, The Guardian, Harper’s online, and other publications, discussed media coverage of class in the United States in this Harvard University Shorenstein Center program. Read full article.
Since 1970, the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity has honored a select group of women to be inducted into the University of Kansas Women’s Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees include Sarah Deer, Terry Hoyt Evans, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, Saralyn Reece Hardy, Colleen McCain Nelson and Jan Bowen Sheldon. Read full article.
Starting in fall 2017, Sarah Deer will join the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies and the School of Public Affairs & Administration in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences as a professor. Deer earned a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and philosophy from KU in 1995 and a juris doctor from the KU School of Law in 1999. Read full article.
Lisa Donnelly, a Lawrence native and singer-songwriter, died Friday, April 7, in San Francisco. She earned degrees in psychology and theatre in 2002 from KU and was featured in issue no. 5, 2009, of Kansas Alumni magazine. Read full article.
In 2014, Austin Barone launched Just Play Sports Solutions while he was still a student at the University of Kansas School of Business studying finance and accounting. The idea for a new company came to Barone, b’16, while he was a kicker for the Kansas Jayhawks football team. Read full article.
Global law firm Dentons has strengthened its Litigation and Dispute Resolution and Arbitration practices with the recruitment of Heiko Heppner, l’08, who will join as a partner in Frankfurt. He joins Dentons from Clifford Chance. Read full article.
Brian McClendon, who recently left his post as a vice president at Uber, has joined the University of Kansas as a research professor in electrical engineering and computer science. McClendon, e’86, is a former vice president at Google and co-founded Google Earth. Read full article.
The University of Kansas School of Business will honor Gary Padgett and Mike Thompson with its 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award.Padgett and Thompson received the award for their dedication to business excellence, community service and commitment to KU on Thursday, April 20, during a private reception at the Kansas Union. Read full article.
Towering, crystal-filled twisters periodically swirl in a valley nestled between two volcanoes in the Andes Mountains, newly reported observations show. Geologist Kathleen Benison, PhD’98, of West Virginia University in Morgantown spotted the whirlwinds during an expedition in 2007 to an otherworldly region of northern Chile. Read full article.
Mindie Paget, c’98, g’01, and Joanne Eden, c’96, have been named Employees of the Month by the University of Kansas. Paget is the director of communications and marketing for the KU School of Law. Eden, c’96, is a grant officer with the Office of Research. Read full article.
Cody Wamsley has joined McDonald Hopkins LLC, a business advisory and advocacy law firm, as an associate in the firm’s national Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice Group. Wamsley holds an LL.M. in intellectual property law from The George Washington University Law School, a J.D. from University of Kansas School of Law, and a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Kansas. Read full article.
Harry Herington, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of NIC Inc., was honored by Government Technology magazine as one of its “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers” of 2017. Mr. Herington, l’93, is the only individual honoree recognized this year from the private sector. Read full article.
Jordy Altman, a social media producer for CBS’s “The Talk” and 2008 University graduate, has worked for the multi-time Emmy nominated show since September 2016. Altman, c’06, coined the hashtag #EverybodyTalks to get followers involved online. Read full article.
Boise State Sen. Grant Burgoyne is one of 12 candidates seeking to fill a coming vacancy on the state Court of Appeals, Idaho’s second highest court. Burgoyne, 62, has a 26-year litigation practice and now concentrates on alternative dispute resolution and mediation. He is a graduate of the University of Idaho and the University of Kansas School of Law and has lived in Idaho since 1975. Read full article.
Justin Bauman, a 2004 and 2006 graduate of the Sport Management program, answered five questions for department chair Jordan Bass. Justin currently serves as the Director of Operations for the the Wake Forest Men’s Basketball team and head coach Danny Manning. Read full article.
Golden Globe nominated actor Kurt Russell, AKA Mr. Nobody, dons a Niall GMT “Noir” watch in the eighth sequel in the Fast and Furious series. Niall was founded five years ago in Kansas City, Missouri, by Michael Wilson, a graduate of the KU School of Business. Read full article.
Hannes Zacharias, county manager of Johnson County, has been named the 2017 Outstanding Public Administrator by the Kansas chapter of the American Society for Public Administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Wichita State University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas. He is a native of Dodge City, Kansas. 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.
More than 100 faculty, staff, students and guests attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony March 9 at the newly named Lt. Gen. William K. Jones Military-Affiliated Student Center at the University of Kansas.
The nearly 3,000-square-foot center, located in Summerfield Hall, honors Jones, c’37, a highly decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran whose 33-year military career included tours in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
“We’re honored to name the center after a distinguished KU alumnus and Marine Corps veteran who served for more than three decades,” said Director April Blackmon Strange. “This center provides us with an inviting space to better serve our growing number of military-affiliated students—from the first time they express interest in KU to Commencement and beyond.”
More than 1,100 military-affiliated students on campus have access to the center, which includes a lounge with computers and televisions; quiet spaces for tutoring and studying; meeting and conference rooms; free printing and copying services; and assistance from an onsite Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs representative.
For the past two years, the University has been named a top-10 school for veterans by the Military Times and has also been recognized by other organizations that rate schools on their military student services.
Several of Jones’ family members attended the ceremony, including his son, William K. Jones Jr., who also served in the Marine Corps; his daughter; his nephew, Jim Jones Jr., a retired Marine Corps general and the former U.S. National Security Adviser for President Barack Obama; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“We’re all really excited about this honor to my father,” said Bill Jones Jr., c’81. “He loved KU, and he loved being a Kansas Jayhawk.”
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little praised Jayhawks for their persistence in making the center a reality for military-affiliated students and noted its critical role in the University’s mission to build strong, healthy communities.
“This center represents another commitment to our veterans and military-affiliated students,” she said. “I am proud that our University recognizes and addresses the unique needs of this population of students.”
JR Cadwallader, a Marine Corps veteran and president of KU’s Student Veterans of America, noted that the organization’s new home on campus was “well worth the wait.”
“The Lt. Gen. William K Jones Military-Affiliated Center is here to leverage the unique strengths and talents we bring to the University of Kansas,” he said. “We now have a center to help us create better students, a better campus, better communities and a better nation for the next generation of successful veterans.”
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little sent the following email message to University of Kansas staff and faculty on Feb. 27, 2017.
Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education DeVos, along with 10 other APLU presidents and chancellors in Washington DC. It was our first chance to visit with her, and we appreciated the chance to establish a working relationship and broadly define the key issues facing higher education.
With new leadership comes new ideas, and that has certainly been the case in Washington since January. Some of the ideas proposed by the new administration have caused concern at universities nationwide – including the University of Kansas – and I believe many of those concerns are valid. I want to assure you we continue to work with peer universities and our congressional delegation to be part of the policymaking process on issues affecting higher education.
Given the tremendous volume of news coverage of the new administration, it is neither feasible nor prudent for university leaders to publicly address every idea, proposal, tweet or rumor coming out of Washington. But it is always appropriate for university leaders to reiterate their institutions’ core principles and remind elected officials that there are some policy preferences and values that are fundamental to our mission. Today I want to briefly mention four particular areas that will require universities to be vigilant and steadfast.
The free flow of students and scholars
Last month, KU and our peer universities reacted to an executive order on immigration that directly impacted international students and scholars. While the order has been suspended by the courts, it has caused tremendous uncertainty about the future of immigration and could deter international scholars from studying or teaching in the United States. Universities are marketplaces of ideas that rely on the unfettered exchange of ideas among individuals from different backgrounds. Any policy that unnecessarily restricts the free flow of students and scholars will negatively impact our university community.
The importance of research funding in general
In October, I wrote a piece for The Conversation on how science education and research funding are crucial to our nation’s prosperity and national security, and to the health and well-being of our society. Today there remains great uncertainty regarding the future of science education and research funding. Without adequate and predictable federal funding for research, our nation risks stagnation in key areas, threatening our well-being and eroding our role as global leaders in innovation and our potential contributions to the economy.
Targeted threats to specific areas of research
In addition to research funding in general, we must be watchful for politically motivated attacks on specific areas of research such as gun violence and climate change. While it is understood that democratically elected officials will make policy decisions, it is not acceptable to block universities from making research-based discoveries that are relevant to the policymaking process. Universities and society suffer when efforts are made to discount legitimate scientific exploration and discovery.
Diversity and inclusion
Earlier this semester, in my message reflecting on the Martin Luther King Day holiday, I lamented that this year, more than any year I can remember during the past three decades, King’s call for equal justice and true democracy are needed. This is why our efforts to ensure the University of Kansas embraces diversity and inclusion are so important – and why we need to be comprehensive, systematic and unceasing in our efforts. As Jayhawks, we are united in saying that racism and discrimination will not be tolerated here.
I think it’s fair to say we are operating in an unusual political environment. And in times like these, it’s worth remembering the University of Kansas’ remarkable history over the past 150 years. We have seen challenges before, and we have overcome them, thanks to the efforts of educators and researchers like you, and also because of an unwavering commitment to our core principles. That will never change.
The following message was emailed to all faculty, staff and students at the University of Kansas on Sunday, January 29. The message is also available on the KU website.
Last Friday’s executive order suspending immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has raised concerns for many members of the University of Kansas community. I share these concerns, and I want to assure you we are coordinating with our international programs staff, immigration experts and peer universities to fully understand the implications of the new federal policies. We have also directly contacted our international students at KU to offer guidance and resources.
Based on what we know today, we advise all nationals from the affected countries to avoid international travel until there is some clarification of the situation. This includes passport holders, citizens, nationals, and dual nationals from the impacted countries.
As a flagship research university, KU is committed to the open exchange of students, scholars and ideas from across the world. Moreover, we are deeply concerned about the well-being of KU students, faculty and staff who may be affected by the new federal restrictions on immigration. For these reasons, we will work with our colleagues throughout higher education to raise these concerns to policymakers. I encourage you to read recent statements from the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities on this topic.
This is a fluid situation, and we expect new developments over the coming days. We will keep you updated as we learn more, with a particular focus on our international scholars and their families who are most directly impacted by these new federal policies. In the meantime, we invite you to utilize the university’s support services, including International Programs, if you have questions about immigration or travel-related issues.
This state and nation were settled by immigrants, and immigrants continue to make immeasurable contributions to our society. Moreover, I want to reiterate that accessibility, diversity of thought, and the free and open exchange of ideas remain core values of the University of Kansas. That will never change, and we will continue our work to advance these values. And we will continue to let scholars around the world know this: No matter your country of origin, the color of your skin, your religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation or political leaning – you belong at the University of Kansas, and we value the contributions you make to our community.
We’re recounting the most memorable moments and biggest KU stories of the past year. With help from our crack team of KU experts, a.k.a. your hard-working KU Alumni Association staff, we’ve assembled and ranked the top ten of 2016. Read on as we present the best of KU…
10. Basketball Rules
The new home of Naismith’s original rules of basketball hosted a housewarming party when the DeBruce Center held its official grand opening celebration on Saturday, July 23. Hundreds of loyal fans and alumni made the pilgrimage to Lawrence to pay tribute to the game’s inventor and tour the new building connected to Allen Fieldhouse.
9. Winning week
A big basketball win over Duke, a double-overtime Border War win for soccer, KU’s first Big 12 volleyball title and an upset football victory over Texas. It was more than just a great week to be a Jayhawk. From Sunday to Sunday, it was a week for the athletics ages.
8. Open for Business
In May, we took a sneak peek inside the School of Business’ new building, Capitol Federal Hall, where expansive, flexible design encourages collaborative learning and innovation is welcome. More details and images of the school’s new space can be found in the May issue of Kansas Alumni magazine.
7. KU Endowment announces results of Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas
The largest higher education fundraising effort to date in the state, Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, raised $1.66 billion, far exceeding its $1.2 billion goal. The campaign, which ended June 30, boosted student support, faculty, facilities and programs at the University of Kansas and The University of Kansas Hospital.
6. Twelve straight Big 12 Conference titles
Highlights of the 2015-16 season included a gold medal at the World University Games in South Korea; the championship trophy at the 2015 Maui Invitational in November; a 12th-straight Big 12 Conference regular season; and the Big 12 Postseason Championship title. It truly was an amazing year.
5. KU student earns Rhodes Scholarship
University of Kansas senior Shegufta Huma is one of 32 American students to win a Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most prestigious recognitions of scholarly excellence. Shegufta Huma, from Bel Aire, is majoring in political science with a minor in Spanish, and she is particularly interested in working toward justice for Muslim immigrants. Huma is KU’s 27th Rhodes Scholar.
4. KU School of Business dean Neeli Bendapudi named Provost
“I am thrilled for the opportunity to serve my alma mater in a new capacity and look forward to working with people across campus to make it an even better place for our students, our faculty and our staff to learn and to work,” Bendapudi said. “This is a truly wonderful place that means so much to me and my family, and this opportunity is a dream come true for me.”
3. KU Sesquicentennial
In 2016, KU celebrated a 150-year tradition of educating leaders and serving the state of Kansas. The KU Alumni Association contributed to the momentous occasion with a number of commemorative activities, including a KU150-themed birthday celebration at the 2015 Jayhawk Roundup in Wichita, a special edition of our annual alumni calendar with historic images of KU and a reprise of our popular Jayhawks on Parade with three one-of-a-kind Jayhawks to celebrate KU.
2. Chancellor Gray-Little to step down in summer 2017
Bernadette Gray-Little, the 17th chancellor of the University of Kansas, has announced she will step down from the position in summer 2017. “It has been an honor to lead the University of Kansas,” said Chancellor Gray-Little. “KU has always been a special place with terrific people and an instinctive spirit to change our world for the better. Leading this remarkable institution is a privilege I always will cherish, and I’m grateful to the entire KU community for believing in our mission.”
…and the biggest KU story of 2016 (drumroll please)…
1. KU alumnus wins Nobel Peace Prize
President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at ending a civil war that has ravaged his country for more than 50 years. “This great honor only adds to the immense pride KU alumni around the world have felt for their fellow Jayhawk since President Santos devoted himself to the cause of peace in Colombia,” said KU Alumni Association President Heath Peterson. “This Nobel Peace Prize also brings honor to the long-established mission of University of Kansas faculty, administrators, students, staff and alumni to make our heartland campus a welcome home to students from around the world. Our international missions, as educators and alumni advocates, will continue with an energized pace thanks to President Santos, whom we are proud to call one of our own.”
How did we do? Was your favorite KU moment mentioned or did we forget another unforgettable moment? Let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and check out more stories while you’re here. It’s been a great year worth celebrating, and we know our chant will rise in 2017!
The following message from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was sent to KU students, faculty, staff members and alumni at the close of the fall 2016 semester.
As our semester comes to a close, I want to take a moment to reflect on the University of Kansas’ achievements during the past few months and thank you for your efforts on behalf of our university.
The semester began with wonderful news that this year’s freshman class had grown for the fifth straight year and is the most academically talented class in KU history. To increase in both size and quality is a tremendous accomplishment — and a clear indication that the decisions we’ve made regarding how we identify, attract, fund and enroll students are paying off. These freshmen joined a university already brimming with talented students like Shegufta Huma, who last month became the 27th KU student to win the Rhodes Scholarship, and thousands of others who are making our community a better place in their own way.
This semester, we continued to build healthy communities. In September, our KU Cancer Center applied for Comprehensive Cancer Center designation through the National Cancer Institute. And in October, we learned our Alzheimer’s Disease Center will continue to pursue ways to prevent this devastating disease after the National Institute on Aging renewed its national designation for five years.
This semester also saw a number of KU faculty recognized for excellence in research and discovery. In October, we hosted KU Elevate to showcase four KU faculty who are doing trailblazing research in their fields. Earlier this month, we announced Professors Alice Bean and David Darwin have been 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 for his work to invent cleaner, safer, economically viable technologies for fuels and chemicals.
This semester, we continued the physical transformation of our university. In August, students attended classes for the first time in the new Capitol Federal Hall. In October, we celebrated the reopening of the Spencer Museum of Art. In November, we hosted a “topping out” ceremony for the Integrated Science Building in our new Central District. Together these projects are transforming the way we educate students, make discoveries, and fulfill our obligations to the society we serve.
One reason students choose KU is the achievements of our alumni — and we had many to celebrate this year! The semester began with several KU athletes participating in the Summer Olympics in Rio. And in October, we learned that KU graduate President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end a 50-year civil war in his country.
This semester saw another remarkable season for our volleyball team, which won the Big 12 Conference championship for the first time in history. In addition, senior Cassie Wait was named the Big 12 Conference Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. I want to congratulate and thank Cassie and her teammates for being terrific role models for student-athletes across the country.
This semester was not without its challenges. Last May, our state funding was reduced by $10.7 million, which forced difficult choices regarding the current fiscal year budget. And at the federal level, there remains uncertainty regarding the future of science education and research funding, as well as how the incoming administration will address specific issues of importance to universities and researchers nationwide. As always, we will need to address these challenges together.
None of our success would be possible without the passion, energy and guidance of friends and alumni like you. Your involvement enhances our university each day, and I am grateful that you are part of our university.
Thank you for your support, and may your holiday season be joyful and bright.
A colossal building—280,000 square feet—and the largest KU expansion in nearly 100 years demanded a massive celebration. A measly groundbreaking simply would not do.
So KU leaders nixed the shovel-and-dirt ritual and thought bigger. To mark a milestone in construction of the Integrated Science Building, which will anchor the new Central District taking shape on the Lawrence campus, KU staged a “topping out” ceremony Nov. 10. Beneath a brilliant sun and cloudless blue sky, a giant crane hoisted the final beam atop the frame of the three-story building. The task concluded with a raucous “Rock Chalk!” plus plenty of cheers and cannon bursts of confetti.
About 500 guests attended the celebration, including 300 craftsmen and women currently working on various aspects of the Central District. As the event began, guests took turns signing the final beam before gathering for speeches and a barbecue buffet at long tables on the open-air first floor of the ISB. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little began by tracing the origins of the project from KU’s 2014 master plan. The plan put KU’s aspirations on paper, envisioning the Central District as “a new hub for education and research that would enable us to address urgent needs here at the University and position us for excellence in the years to come,” she said. “After years of hard work, that vision is becoming a reality.”
Jim Modig, University architect, told the crowd that the Integrated Science Building meets a longstanding need by providing a proper home for teaching and collaborative research in chemistry, medicinal chemistry, physics, molecular biosciences and related fields. The structure will include:
35 modular research labs
18 class labs
a 352-seat lecture hall
3 smaller classrooms
an open atrium
additional core labs and clean rooms
The atrium and other features of the building will showcase “science on display” with open corridors and large interior and exterior windows, Modig explained. The structure’s energy performance will be comparable to LEED Gold standards to support KU’s commitment to a sustainable environment.
Modig, a’73, also narrated a video flyover tour of the Central District. The district will include:
a new student union
student apartment complex
residence hall and dining facility
600-space parking garage
central utility plant
A walkway known as the Jayhawk Trail will connect the Central District to West Campus, and the area will include a plaza and green space, as well as playing fields between the student apartment complex and residence hall. The parking garage will open in early 2017, and the residence hall and dining facility will be completed in summer 2017. The remaining structures will be finished in 2018. During peak construction, about 600 craftsmen and women will work on the various projects.
A transformative project
After years of study, KU created a public-private partnership to launch the $350 million project. The Kansas Board of Regents approved the concept in late 2015, and construction began 10 months ago, following the demolition of McCollum residence hall, the Stouffer Place apartments and the Burge Union. The University established the nonprofit KU Campus Development Corporation, which collaborates with Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate LLC to oversee development, construction, operations and maintenance of the district. Chief contractors for the project are Clark Construction and McCownGordon.
Gray-Little declared that the Central District will “fundamentally transform this university and the way we educate leaders and conduct research,” moving KU closer to its goal to become one of the nation’s premier public research universities. Ultimately, the Integrated Science Building is more than an immense building, she said: “Remember that this is not just about physical space. It is not about a building. It’s about the students, and the way that they will learn in this new space. It’s about our faculty and staff who will educate our students and who will make discoveries that improve our world.”
—Jennifer Jackson Sanner
Adorning the beam were the signatures of event guests, including construction workers, students, faculty and staff, and U.S. and KU flags. In keeping with tradition, two small trees atop the beam signify that no lives have been lost in the project, and they honor the natural resources used to build the structure.
The message below was emailed to alumni of the University of Kansas Sept. 26:
Our primary mission at the University of Kansas is to educate leaders. Of course, before we can educate them, we first need to recruit them to Mount Oread. With help from friends and alumni like you, we are doing exactly that — and doing so in record-setting fashion.
I am delighted to announce this year’s freshman class has grown for the fifth straight year and is the most academically talented class in KU history, according to enrollment numbers released today.
The 2016 freshman class includes 4,233 new Jayhawks on campus, an increase of 1.1 percent. This is the fourth largest class in history and the largest since 2008. Moreover, these freshmen are the most academically talented in KU history, registering all-time high average ACT scores and GPAs.
In other words, this is a banner freshman class for KU. To increase in both size and quality is a tremendous accomplishment. And a fifth straight year of freshman class growth — especially in the context of enrollment trends at other universities in the region — is a clear sign we’re doing a lot of things right in the minds of prospective students.
The numbers released today show other positive trends for our university, including a third straight year of overall enrollment growth. While the freshman class is a large part of that, we also saw gains in the total number of graduate and transfer students, and we now have the largest headcount at KU Medical Center in history. I’m also proud that our minority student population grew 3.9 percent, and these students now comprise 19.8 percent of total enrollment, the highest percentage in history.
Given today’s announcement, I think it’s appropriate to reflect on this remarkable five-year run of freshman class growth. Specifically, I want to remind you that this did not happen by accident! Rather, we have made purposeful, strategic decisions in how we identify, attract, fund and enroll students at KU. And we have worked hard to provide the strong academics and life-changing opportunities that high-performing students expect when selecting a flagship research university.
For example, we implemented the KU Core Curriculum, which we designed specifically to include undergraduate research, internships and study abroad. We revamped financial aid with new four-year renewable scholarships and an expansion of the Jayhawk Generations Scholarship. And this year, we implemented new admissions procedures for incoming students, which has further differentiated KU in the minds of high-achieving students and had a remarkable impact on this year’s freshmen.
A few years ago, our recruitment and marketing efforts were regional. Today, we have permanent recruiters in cities across the country who, with the support of a national marketing campaign and a nationwide network of loyal alumni, are leveraging KU’s stature and unmistakable brand to recruit new Jayhawks from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Today’s enrollment data confirm our bold strategy is working, as evidenced by the growing number of non-Kansas students choosing KU and diversifying our community of scholars.
I want to thank the staff in Enrollment Management, Marketing Communications, Graduate Studies, International Programs, KU Endowment Association, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the University Honors Program and the professional schools for their tireless work to help students decide to become a Jayhawk.
And I especially want to thank the KU Alumni Association and supporters like you for helping lead students to Mount Oread. With your help, we continue to turn our bold aspirations into realities.
Chancellor, University of Kansas
Bernadette Gray-Little, the 17th chancellor of the University of Kansas, has announced she will step down from the position in summer 2017.
Chancellor Gray-Little announced her plans to the Kansas Board of Regents recently and in a subsequent email to KU students, faculty and staff.
“It has been an honor to lead the University of Kansas,” said Chancellor Gray-Little, who came to Lawrence in 2009 as a highly regarded administrator and researcher. “KU has always been a special place with terrific people and an instinctive spirit to change our world for the better. During the past seven years, we have made tremendous strides as a university and positioned KU for even greater achievements in the future. Leading this remarkable institution is a privilege I always will cherish, and I’m grateful to the entire KU community for believing in our mission.”
According to Heath Peterson, president of the KU Alumni Association, “Chancellor Gray-Little strengthened our university for generations to come. Her unique leadership style set a tone that the entire university has strived to emulate, and those of us fortunate enough to work closely with her know that her influence has been, and will continue to be, felt in in countless ways.”
The nine-day “Changing Tides of History: Cruising the Baltic Sea” journey took 23 eager Flying Jayhawks, including Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and her husband Shade, to fascinating cities and historic sites in six countries. The cruise also featured interesting talks from historical and political figures of the region including Lech Walsea, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Polish President; and Sergei Khrushchev, distinguished author and scholar and son of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Brad Eland, vice president of alumni and student programs, shared the memories of his trip.
The group arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark for an afternoon to meet our fellow travelers, stretch our legs from the long flight(s), and try to adjust to our new time zone. The weather was cool and cloudy, a big change from the Kansas heat and humidity that is normal in June! Several Jayhawks set off on foot to explore the city and see Copenhagen’s modern rail station in the heart of the city and Tivoli Gardens, which opened in 1843 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world.
After a stroll through Copenhagen, it was time to board our floating home for the next 10 days, Le Boreal.
The city of Visby is on the small island of Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea and has been controlled by several countries over time. It is currently part of Sweden, but feels nothing like the bustling mainland that we visited later in the trip. Visby is a charming little town featuring a 13th-century rock wall with original gates, towers, churches and warehouses from medieval times. The museum even featured a grave with remains that are more than 9,000 years old. It truly felt like stepping back in time.
That evening we enjoyed the Captain’s Welcome Reception on board the ship and were able to meet a good majority of our fellow passengers traveling with several schools from across the country. We even played nice with alumni from fellow basketball powerhouse Duke University.
After a night of sailing on the Baltic Sea, we arrived in the port city of Gdansk, Poland. The architecture was stunning and highlighted by the city’s restored mansions that served as the homes for the aristocracy in the 14th century. Our group was also treated to a demonstration about how amber is harvested and made into precious jewelry, and we were tested on how to spot the difference between fake and real samples. It proved to be a hard distinction but a valuable lesson for the shoppers in our group.
Former Polish President Lech Walesa was one of the founders of the solidarity movement, along with Polish workers who established the first independent trade union in Eastern Europe which was a key factor in winning the Polish struggle against Communism. His speech to our travelers left us all inspired by his leadership, vision, and passion for making his country and the entire Eastern European region better.
Our fourth day of the trip was spent entirely at sea. The sunny skies and smooth sailing made for an ideal time to enjoy the sun deck on the ship with a good book or get to know fellow passengers better over a meal or coffee. It also provided our feet a respite from all of the walking we had done.
The city of Tallin, Estonia, was one that most of us on the trip had not heard of before, but it ended up being one that most of us will never forget. It blew us all away with its charming architecture and unique history. Tallin’s medieval town hall is the only intact Gothic-style hall in Northern Europe. The fantastic weather that day with sunshine and clear skies certainly left an impression on us as we enjoyed some fantastic views from high points over the entire city.
Halfway through the trip, we awoke in St. Petersburg, Russia, which was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great. While Russians view Moscow as a very “natural” city with winding roads built in the heart of the country and into the natural landscape, St. Petersburg is their “engineered” city that was built completely from scratch on swampland to provide Russia with a key port to the Baltic Sea. The city is laid out in a perfect grid and was designed to be much more western and serve as a gateway to Europe.
Our day began at the incredible State Hermitage Museum, which was originally a czarist palace of Catherine the Great. This museum is so large and its collection so vast, it would take months or even years to see everything they have that highlights Russian history, art and culture. From there we saw the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood and St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which featured the famous dome and spire architecture that Russia is known for.
That evening, we were treated to a Russian folklore show at a local art center that included dancing, singing and comedy (with a smidge of vodka mixed in).
Our second day in St. Petersburg was highlighted by a visit to another of Catherine the Great’s palaces featuring the Amber Room with walls composed entirely of decorative amber. It is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. The city has nearly 50 palaces and the opulence of the czars was truly unbelievable. You started to take the amount of gold for granted, by the end!
Our evening featured a fascinating lecture from Sergei Khrushchev, who talked about his family’s major role in Russian history as well as his views on current events in the region from his perspective while living and working in America. He had a front row seat to history and a very unique viewpoint as someone who clearly loves Russia, but has spent much of his later life in America. We all walked away with a new outlook on how Russian people view the world and current events.
The Russian people, particularly those who work in the tourism industry, blew us away with their kindness and humor. They were legitimately excited to welcome us to their country and showcase their history and culture, which made the trip that much more fun.
Our ship’s approach into Helsinki was certainly a sight to behold as we all were easily able to discern why the city has won so many recent awards for design in an urban environment. The city had an incredible modern feel to it all while we were visiting some of the city’s historic sites. A major highlight for our group was a visit to the Church of the Rock, which was impressively built directly into natural bedrock.
The final day of our trip landed us in Stockholm, Sweden. We had a light rain to deal with on our last day in Europe, but no one seemed to mind as we had a city tour by bus on the schedule. Stockholm proved to again have its own unique flair for architecture and design. This part of the world certainly has made its mark on that front melding the modern with all of the history they have as well. That, along with the “white nights” we experienced during summer in the Baltic Region, will certainly be unforgettable. Thankfully our ship was well prepared with blackout shades—we were far enough north that we only had 3-4 hours of darkness per night.
As the 23 Flying Jayhawks departed for home or for more European adventures without the group, everyone was thankful for what we had experienced and eager for the next trip with fellow Jayhawks.
—Brad Eland, vice president of alumni and student programs, hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Changing Tides of History: Cruising the Baltic Sea” from June 15-24, 2016. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.