Cruising the Mediterranean with a flock of ’Hawks

Posted on Nov 30, 2018 in Alumni News and News

Ten days, eight Mediterranean ports of call, 60+ Jayhawks and the most beautiful weather. Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it? It was.

Read on to learn a little more about each day of this itinerary from Jayhawk hosts Danielle Hoover and Debbi Johanning.

Flying Jayhawks Coastal Vignettes | Danielle Hoover in Pisa

Day 1: Florence and Pisa

After our long travel day from Kansas to Rome, we boarded Oceania Cruises’ m.s. Nautica at the port of call, Civitavecchia. Our first port was Livorno, and I boarded a bus that took us to Florence and Pisa. The drive to Florence was a highlight in itself, with views of sweeping hills and vineyards of the Italian countryside. Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and I took a walking tour through the Historic Centre of Florence, which was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1982. We saw some of their most iconic sites, including The Duomo cathedral, the Gelleria degli Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio that spans the Arno River. The history and the architecture in this city was beyond gorgeous!

After a delicious lunch of pizza and wine, we took our bus to Pisa and I could not resist taking the iconic tourist picture: holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Day 2: Portofino/Genoa

Our next port was scheduled to be Portofino, a tender port, but with the possibility of some high tide issues, the captain decided to play it safe and we docked in Genoa instead. Our group excursion this day took me to the beautiful Italian coastline town of Camogli. This was probably my favorite moment of the entire trip. After touring Florence and Pisa for 11 hours the day before, arriving in this quaint fishing village was exactly what I needed. I felt like I was in a postcard! The views of the colorful cliffside houses along the Mediterranean sea was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

As I walked along the seaside promenade, school-aged boys were playing soccer, locals were sunbathing along the water and everyone was just enjoying the beautiful day. I joined some of our Flying Jayhawk guests at one of the local outdoor cafes and we enjoyed a glass of Italian wine. It was the Bella Vita!

Flying Jayhawks Coastal Vignettes | Bob & Alice Headley, Debbi Johanning, Danielle Hoover in Eze, France

Day 3: Èze, Nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo

This was one of my favorite days because the scenery of the French coast was so beautiful and we were able to see so much of it. We started our day in Èze, France, which was first populated around 2000 BC. Perched on top of the cliff, it became known as the “eagles nest” because of the vast views across the coastline and the sea. The history behind this place was magnificent; the winding cobblestone streets and the views were breathtaking.

We then took a scenic drive to Nice and stopped for a picture with the view of the Bay of Angels. The local street market was in full swing, which made for wonderful people watching and shopping. Lunch with some our Jayhawk guests along the beach of the Bay of Angels was a highlight of the day!

We toured the cathedral of Monaco, the burial place of the royalty of Monaco, including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. The famous couple was also married in the cathedral. A trip to Monaco wouldn’t be complete with seeing the world famous Formula One Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo Casino. And, we may have returned later that night to try our luck…

Flying Jayhawks Coastal Vignettes | Nice, France

Day 4: Toulon/Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence is a beautiful city. It was a leisurely day and we enjoyed the city as the locals would. After a walking tour we saw the Cathedral Saint – Sauveur d’ Aix-en-Provence and the city center. Many locals were out shopping at the local market, which had so many fresh fruits and vegetables and beautiful flowers.

Another highlight of this day was our Jayhawk reception on board the ship. The Jayhawk guests were able to socialize and get to know one another better. This reception included the other university alumni associations on the ship, and our loyal fans started the “Rock Chalk” chant to show off school spirit. We were very proud!

Flying Jayhawks Coastal Vignettes | A group of Jayhawks at the alumni reception on board the M.S. Nautica

Flying Jayhawks Coastal Vignettes | La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

Day 5: Barcelona

Barcelona is a large, beautiful and historical city. Some highlights were La Sagrada Familia (the Church of the Sacred Family), the cathedral begun by Gaudi that has been under construction for more than 100 years. It will not be completed until around 2030. I also loved Las Ramblas, a street in the center of the city that is full of locals and tourists. Endless amounts of tapas bars, restaurants, shopping and the large city market can be found here.

Day 6: Valencia

Our tour of Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, was a combination of new and old. We started the day in the Old City with a walking tour of the vast Central Market; Lonja, the old silk exchange building; and the Cathedral, which is home to the “Holy Grail”. We also visited the most modern part of the city, the City of Arts and Science, to admire the largest cultural-educational complex in Europe.

Flying Jayhawks Coastal Vignettes | City of Arts & Science, Valencia, Spain

Day 7: Mahón

We docked on the tiny Spanish island of Menorca for the day. I ventured to the ancient capital city of Ciutadella, which is perched on the western end of the island. We walked around the picturesque town with a guide to see some of the churches and palaces. Afterward, we had plenty of time to shop and explore the town on our own before heading back to Mahón, the current capital.

Flying Jayhawks Coastal Vignettes | Flying Jayhawks group on board the M.S. Nautica

Our Jayhawk travelers gathered for a group photo and enjoyed dinner together that evening.

Day 8: Cruising the Mediterranean Sea

Today we flew the KU flag proudly on the upper deck of the Nautica! We had time to relax (and re-pack!) on the ship and enjoy the food, pool deck and other activities like bingo, shuffleboard and mini-golf. It was a perfect day to catch up with our fellow passengers! Or nap, if that’s your preference.

Flying Jayhawks Coastal Vignettes | KU Alumni flag on board the M.S. Nautica

Day 9: Naples/Pompeii

The final day of the cruise included options to explore Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, or Capri. The excavated ruins of Pompeii are amazing to see in person. The city was buried in ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. It truly is a glimpse into a city frozen in time: plaster casts of victims were visible, along with other artifacts of life in ancient times.

If you’re looking for a way to experience as much of the Mediterranean coastline as possible, I highly recommend the Coastal Vignettes cruise. There are so many choices to make for daily excursions—you’ll want to do it all! It truly is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever seen.

We were truly fortunate to travel with so many fantastic Jayhawks! And, fortunately, we experienced incredible weather the entire trip. In fact, we couldn’t have ordered better weather if we tried: mid 70s, no humidity, no wind, nothing but completely comfortable sunshine and beautiful blue skies.

The Flying Jayhawks trip “Coastal Vignettes” took place Oct. 16-27, 2018. The trip was hosted by Tegan Thornberry, director of membership, marketing and business development; Danielle Hoover, director of donor relations and Wichita programs; and Debbi Johanning, director of digital media. View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.

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Annual Veterans Day Run attracts runners, walkers

Posted on Nov 16, 2015 in Alumni News and News

2015 Veterans Day Run
The annual Veteran’s Day Run, hosted by the Veterans Alumni Network and KU’s Student Veterans of America, was held on Sunday, November 15.

The race began at Memorial Stadium, build to honor the 130 students and faculty members who lost their lives in World War I, including Lt. William T. Fitzsimons, an alumnus and doctor who was the first America officer killed in action. Runners traveled past other memorials on the KU campus before returning to the stadium for fun and festivities.

Congratulations to the 142 runners who completed the race! Race results are available here.

This Veteran’s Day Run is designed to honor all those who have served or are currently serving in our military and to raise awareness of the role veterans play at our university. All proceeds raised will support KU’s Wounded Warrior Scholarship Fund (WWSF) and Student Veterans of America (SVA).

For more information about the Veterans Alumni Network or to provide information about your military service, visit the network’s website.

See more pictures from this year’s run on Flickr. Participants are welcome to download photos for personal use.

—Debbi Johanning

2015 Veterans Day Run

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Rain doesn’t dampen Homecoming’s Chalk ‘n’ Rock competition

Posted on Oct 30, 2015 in Alumni News and News

Homecoming Chalk 'n' Rock 2015
For one day during Homecoming week every year, Wescoe Beach is transformed into a colorful palette of murals chalked by students.

Rain didn’t put a damper on this year’s competition—wet conditions forced the event to be rescheduled from Tuesday to Thursday, but creative Jayhawks still showed up to chalk designs depicting this year’s Homecoming theme, “Ghosts of Jayhawks Past.”

Participating organizations were assigned a square on Wescoe Beach and given four hours to create their masterpiece. Artistic talent was on display with spooky scenes, plenty of pumpkins and ghostly Jayhawks making appearances.

A panel of judges selected this year’s winners:

1st place, Student Life: Student Union Activities
2nd place, Student Life: KU School of Engineering
3rd place, Student Life: KU Dance Marathon

1st place, Greek Life: Alpha Chi Omega and Sigma Alpha Epsilon
2nd place, Greek Life: Kappa Alpha Theta and Sigma Nu
3rd place, Greek Life: Sigma Kappa and Delta Chi

Thanks to the organizations who participated in this year’s event! More photos are available on Flickr, and we captured some of the action in the short video embedded below. For a full list of Homecoming event and award winners, visit the Homecoming website.

—Debbi Johanning

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Students and community members Stuff the Bus for Homecoming

Posted on Oct 26, 2015 in Alumni News and News

Homecoming Steering Committee, Stuff the Bus, 2015
KU’s 103rd Homecoming celebration kicked off yesterday with several activities, including the tenth annual “Stuff the Bus” food drive.

For the past decade, the Homecoming Steering Committee has partnered with Just Food, the Douglas County food bank, for the event. This year, KU students and Lawrence community members collected 5,818 pounds of non-perishable food items, which were loaded on a KU on Wheels bus for delivery. Jayhawks of all ages got in on the fun, and some even dressed up in costume in anticipation of KU’s Halloween-themed Homecoming.

Student organizations are incentivized to participate in Homecoming activities throughout the week, with points awarded to the organizations based on their level of involvement. At the end of the week, the points are tallied and the organizations with the most points are recognized with a trophy during halftime of the football game.

Winners of the Stuff the Bus competition include:

Emily Alderdice, Stuff the Bus, KU Homecoming 2015Greek Life
First place: Kappa Kappa Gamma and Phi Gamma Delta
Second place: Delta Delta Delta and Pi Kappa Alpha
Third place: Sigma Kappa and Delta Chi

Student Life:
First place: Omega Phi Alpha and Beta Upsilon Chi
Second place: KU Dance Marathon
Third place: Delta Sigma Pi

Other Homecoming events taking place yesterday included Glow KU, where the community shows its school spirit by lighting up Lawrence in crimson and blue, and the Ghostly Hunt, a new Amazing Raze-style event where teams completed challenges across campus.

Auditions for Jayhawk Jingles were also held yesterday at the Adams Alumni Center. Selected skits will be performed on Wednesday, Oct. 28, during the annual Homecoming Food Fest.

Visit the Homecoming website to see a full schedule of events, and follow KU Homecoming on Twitter for live updates.

—Debbi Johanning

Additional coverage:
Stuff the Bus food drive in the University Daily Kansan
Just Food e-newsletter
KU Fights Hunger Facebook page

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Lions and tigers and ’Hawks, oh my!

Posted on Aug 25, 2015 in Alumni News and News

Jayhawk on Parade at Hilltop Child Development Center
Fun fact: the Wizard of Oz movie was released in theaters nationwide 76 years ago today on August 25, 1939. Although it was only a modest success at the box office when it was initially released, the movie had staying power and its popularity continued to grow—much to the chagrin of native and adopted Kansans alike, who grow weary of the constant refrain of jokes.

“Toto, you’re not in Kansas anymore!”

“Click your heels together.”

“Where are your ruby slippers?”

Although the movie’s classic lines have often frayed the nerves of countless Jayhawks everywhere—especially when used as fodder on signs created by fans of whatever team the Jayhawks happen to be playing—the joy this bird has brought to hundreds of children and their families is worth it.

This Wizard of Oz-themed Jayhawk, named “Lions and Tigers and Hawks, Oh My!” and perched at Hilltop Child Development Center on the KU campus, was part of Jayhawks on Parade, a 2003 collaboration between the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown Lawrence, Inc., the University of Kansas and the Alumni Association. Thirty fiberglass birds, each attached to an 800-pound concrete base, were transformed by 35 artists into creative renderings of the Jayhawk.

Hilltop’s bird, created by Doug Barth and Amanda Warren and sponsored by KU Endowment, combines the characters from the movie and sports the Tin Man’s funnel hat, the Cowardly Lion’s mane, the straw fringe of the Scarecrow and Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. The famous yellow brick road is depicted on the Jayhawk’s beak, and a heart-shaped locket is chained to its chest.

Twelve years later the birds have flown their original nests, but many can still be found around Lawrence. I think we all agree: there’s no place like home.

—Debbi Johanning

Plaque on the Hilltop Jayhawk on Parade

See a photo gallery of the entire flock on the Lawrence Journal-World’s website

Where are they now? An article from 2008 lists the bird’s known locations at the time.

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“Whistlers” entertain Fieldhouse crowd

Posted on Feb 27, 2015 in Alumni News and News

Joe Zielinski and Curtis Marsh, Allen Fieldhouse Whistlers |
Curtis Marsh, j’92, and Joe Zielinski, j’92, are well-known to many KU basketball fans for their, shall we say, shenanigans in Allen Fieldhouse. Anyone remember Captain Jayhawk and the Superfans, or the Flying Banduzzici Brothers? Many of their antics were left behind when the men graduated, but one tradition still makes an occasional appearance in the Fieldhouse: whistling.

As fixtures in the student section during their college days, Joe and Curtis spent their pre-game hours like most students— tearing newspapers into confetti and organizing cheers— but they also became adept at whistling very loudly, sometimes even on-key.

They used their newfound skill to make as much noise as possible during the games, but they also began to experiment with actual songs. According to Curtis, “We didn’t like the profanity some students used to show their disdain toward the game’s referees, so we started whistling ‘Three Blind Mice’ whenever we disagreed with a call.”

Joe and Curtis then decided to step up their game and try whistling the trumpet solo while the pep band played “Brass Roots.” After several attempts, they perfected their whistling duet and a new tradition was born.

After graduating, the pair thought their whistling days were in the past. “We thought it was less acceptable to be so silly in other parts of the Fieldhouse,” Curtis says. But to their surprise, they discovered that the “Brass Roots” whistle duet was still well-received outside the student section.

“The song is played less often these days, but the current band director heard about our little show and asked if we’d like to perform with the band,” explained Curtis. “So, whenever we attend a game together, if the band plays ‘Brass Roots’ we whistle along.”

—Debbi Johanning

Watch a video of the Allen Fieldhouse Whistlers, shot in 2014 by Andy Lees with KU Marketing and Communications:

Additional video footage of the Whistlers:
Video posted Dec. 24, 2007
Video posted Dec. 10, 2014

Photo credit: Chuck France

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A Story About KU vs. K-State, or How Dave Got A Scar On His Forehead

Posted on Feb 24, 2015 in Alumni News and News

David Johanning, f’94, was a member of KU’s basketball team from 1990-92, although these days he is arguably more recognizable as the managing partner and longtime bartender at The Sandbar, a downtown Lawrence dive bar popular with college students and KU alumni. Unfortunately, Dave’s famous face was bloodied one year when the Jayhawks played in Manhattan. After last night’s loss and controversial court-storming by fans in Manhattan, he agreed to share his tale, originally posted on the Sandbar’s website, with KU alumni. Dave is also married to Debbi Johanning, digital media content manager for the KU Alumni Association. If you have a favorite Manhattan memory, you can share it with us at –David Johnston

The Sunflower Showdown is always a heated rivalry, and Dave’s playing days more than twenty years ago were no exception. One year, however, Dave came home with more than a win.

David Johanning after KU vs. Kansas State game |“I can’t remember if it was ’91 or ’92, but I think it was my junior year. We won the game, and afterwards the students started throwing crap at the court. I got hit on the forehead with something—to this day, I don’t know what it was. Maybe a quarter, a piece of ice…who knows.

Anyway, my forehead had a bleeding gash on it, and Coach Williams actually told the trainer not to fix it up right away. He wanted the media and everyone else to see the blood on my face so they wouldn’t minimize the whole incident.

Of course the trainer fixed it before too long, but at least there were a few pictures of it, to prove I really did get hit. There’s still a small scar on my forehead from it.

I think someone else, maybe Rex Walters, got hit with something the next year.”

This picture of Dave with his young cousin, who grew up in Manhattan and later attended Kansas State, was taken shortly after the game.

Read the original post on The Sandbar’s website.

Read more coverage about last night’s game and controversial court-storming:

CBS Sports: Post-game court-storming after Kansas State-Kansas game out of hand 
ESPN: Chaotic court-storming mars KSU win over KU 
USA Today Sports: Did Kansas State court-storming cross the line? 
SI: Kansas coach Self angered by court-storming

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Flying Jayhawks cruise western Europe, explore wine country

Posted on Aug 14, 2014 in Alumni News and News

Debbi Johanning, c’98, and her husband David, f’94, served as hosts of the Flying Jayhawks trip “European Tapestry” from June 23-July 1, 2014. Debbi is the digital media content manager for the KU Alumni Association. David is a former member of the KU men’s basketball team.

The Flying Jayhawks trip “European Tapestry,” offered by long-time travel partner Go Next, was billed as an intricate tapestry of colors, cultures and world-class architecture in western Europe, but many travelers agreed that it should also be touted as a wine lover’s dream trip.

Oceania Cruises’ M.S. Nautica set sail from Lisbon, Portugal, on June 23 and docked in Porto, Portugal, where port wine received its name in the later half of the 17th century; the cities of La Coruña and Bilbao in Spain; and spent a luxurious two-day, overnight stay in Bordeaux, France, the home of the world-famous Bordeaux wines.

Each day, except for the final day spent sailing the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel, included a choice of several guided excursions. We traveled the ancient narrow and winding streets of Porto in a trolley; visited Europe’s oldest working lighthouse, the Tower of Hercules, in La Coruña; and toured the beaming titanium-tiled Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, an iconic symbol of the city’s economic and cultural revival.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao |

After sailing for hours down the Garonne River, Nautica docked in the port city of Bordeaux, mere feet from the concrete promenade that lines the river. Our travelers were delighted to discover that the Bordeaux Wine Festival, a biennial international wine tourism attraction, was taking place on the promenade—literally steps away from the ship. It was a tough choice to decide between taking preplanned excursions, exploring Bordeaux on our own or experiencing the wine festival! Some of us attempted all three options.

The perfect weather in Bordeaux was interrupted by a brief rain shower that dampened the wine festival but produced the most complete, brilliant rainbow I’ve ever seen—we enjoyed the view while dining in Nautica’s Polo Grill steakhouse, on my birthday no less.

Bordeaux Wine Festival |

Our Flying Jayhawks group included 42 alumni, friends and future Jayhawks. We quickly discovered many small-world connections among the group, and something unique about this particular Flying Jayhawks trip is that half of the group was made up of a blended family coming together for a reunion.

We bumped into KU fans and alumni everywhere we went. Our flight to Europe included a connection in the Toronto airport, where we spotted a couple hurriedly pulling carry-on bags decked out with KU bag tags. We assumed they might be on our trip, but alas they rushed off to make a connection to Barcelona.

Upon arrival in Lisbon, we noticed a couple who had been at our gate in the Kansas City airport. “They must be part of our trip,” I said, “if we’ve traveled all this way on the same flights.” My husband ventured off to ask them; sure enough, they were sailing with us, though not on the official trip through the Alumni Association.

And then at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, a man saw our Jayhawk gear and approached us. He and his wife attended KU, spent many years in Nebraska and later retired to Arizona. They were serving as chaperones for Semester at Sea, a shipboard program for global study abroad, and excitedly shared that a current KU student was part of the program. Of course we tracked her down in the museum—it was so much fun meeting Jayhawks 4,500 miles from home!

Our European adventure proved something we already knew: no matter how far from the Hill we may travel, we’ll always feel at home in the company of fellow Jayhawks.

European Tapestry group, Flying Jayhawks |

Watch the slideshow below to see more pictures from the European Tapestry cruise in western Europe, or click here to view the photos on Flickr. Trip participants are welcome to download photos for personal use.

Travel the world with fellow Jayhawks! Visit for more information about upcoming trips and to sign up for emails about the Flying Jayhawks program. Or, contact Tegan Thornberry at or 785.864.4765 for more information.

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