Treasures old and new make the perfect gift for alumnus

Posted on Mar 27, 2015 in Alumni News and News

Future Jayhawks courtesy of David Andersen |
David Andersen’s daughter, Kristen Stokes, scored big points with her dad on his recent birthday by creating a gift that incorporated subjects near and dear to his heart: his alma mater and two of his three granddaughters.

David Andersen during his college years | www.kualumni.orgDuring his KU years, Andersen, j’71, regularly drove from his Wichita home to Lawrence in his stylish Austin Healey. To declare his allegiance—and stow belongings that wouldn’t fit in the car’s tiny hatch—he adorned a trunk with Jayhawks and strapped it on top.

Kristen discovered the relic in her dad’s basement and hit on the perfect birthday gift: She restored the trunk, dressed her 16-month-old twins, Charlotte and Maggie, in crimson and blue, and took some priceless photos that her dad, a Life Member, happily shared with the Alumni Association.

Charlotte, left in the photo, and Maggie were born in the same minute, Granddad boasts, but the rank of eldest granddaughter belongs to 17-month-old Olivia Fleury, whose mother, Elizabeth, is Anderson’s other daughter. “We effectively have triplets,” Andersen says. “From zero to three, just like that!”

Though Kristen graduated from the University of Georgia and Elizabeth from Auburn, their dad has high hopes for Charlotte, Maggie and Olivia. We suspect their Rock Chalk wardrobes will continue to grow through the years.

—Jennifer Jackson Sanner

Although it’s spring and thoughts of winter and Santa are far from our minds, we couldn’t resist sharing another photo provided by Andersen: last December’s shot of his three granddaughters on Santa’s lap.

Future Jayhawks with Santa, courtesy of David Andersen |

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Full-time student, single mom invited to introduce President Obama

Posted on Jan 22, 2015 in Alumni News and News

Alyssa Cole introduces the President |

Two years ago, Alyssa Cole wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, describing her challenges as a full-time student and single mother of three children. In addition to sending her a reply at the time, the president and his staff apparently saved her letter, because on Monday, Jan. 19, Cole received a call from a White House staff member, who invited Cole and her children to attend President Obama’s speech  Jan. 22 during his visit to KU.

“I was pretty shocked, almost into silence,” Cole says. “I didn’t know what to say at first.”

She managed to say yes, but another surprise was in store: “On Tuesday, they called back and asked if I would introduce the president.”

Cole, a senior majoring in history with a minor in African-American Studies, wrote her own introduction of the president and submitted it to the White House for review. Her children, son Jordan, 7; daughter, Jasmine, 4; and son Max, 3, will accompany her to the president’s speech in KU’s Anschutz Sports Pavilion, just down Irving Hill Road from the KU’s Hilltop Child Development Center, where Jasmine and Max are students.

Cole will walk down the Hill in May. As one of KU’s McNair Scholars, she will spend the summer researching African-American women in the military. She plans to attend graduate school, most likely at KU. The Garden City native moved to Lawrence with her children after completing community college in her hometown. “I always wanted to come to KU,” she says.

—Jennifer Jackson Sanner

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Alumni return for KU’s King celebration

Posted on Jan 20, 2015 in Alumni News and News

Homer Floyd, d’61, KU’s first African-American football team captain, and Ernie Shelby, f’59, KU’s first African-American track team captain, returned to Mount Oread for Martin Luther King Jr. Day events Jan. 19 in Lawrence.

After a program in Strong Hall, the two participated in a candlelight walk with about 125 students and faculty members to the Kansas Union for a Social Justice Celebration. Later that evening, Floyd and Shelby were honored during the Jayhawks’ rousing 85-78 victory over Oklahoma.

Floyd was an all-conference running back, and Shelby was a national-champion long jumper. In 1957, the two, along with All-America men’s basketball team captain Wilt Chamberlain, ’59, and All-America sprinter Charlie Tidwell, ’61, met with Chancellor Franklin Murphy to ask for his help in changing the discriminatory practices of Lawrence businesses.

At their urging, Murphy, c’36, convinced local businesses to provide equal service and access to African-Americans.

Floyd (left in photo below), who now lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, led the football team as co-captain in 1958 and went on to a distinguished career as a civil rights leader. Shelby (right), of Los Angeles, led the track team as captain in 1959, when the men’s team won the NCAA Outdoor National Championship. He won the national championship in the long jump in 1958 and ’59 and earned All-America honors. Shelby is a jazz composer and singer.

—Jennifer Jackson Sanner

Homer Floyd and Ernie Shelby | photo by Steve Puppe |
photo credit: Steve Puppe

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Alumnus displays Jayhawk spirit on exotic adventures

Posted on Dec 11, 2014 in Alumni News and News

Jake Vander Velde and Brad Thies atop Huayna Picchu in Peru | (photo courtesy Jake Vander Velde)

When it comes to travel, Jake Vander Velde, d’07, favors adventure. Forget Vegas—he’s been to his fair share of bachelor parties in Sin City. He’d rather head out to parts unknown: Peru or, most recently, Tanzania. And, as a fifth-generation Jayhawk and a descendant of David Robinson, one of KU’s first professors, he always packs KU keepsakes to distribute as a self-appointed ambassador for his alma mater.

This fall, Vander Velde and fellow KU graduate Braun Ricci, c’04, spent two weeks in Tanzania, including a day in a Maasai village, where they distributed pairs of running shoes, a Russell Robinson basketball jersey and a KU flag. “Everyone talks about the magnificent geography of Africa, but the people of Africa just steal your heart,” he says. “They are the nicest, most welcoming people.”

Jake Vander Velde and Braun Ricci with a Maasai village chief | (photo courtesy Jake Vander Velde) A Maasai village chief in Africa wears a KU flag as a cape | (photo courtesy Jake Vander Velde)
He and Ricci spent time in a classroom with young children who are learning English, so they shared the cherished Rock Chalk Chant. Vander Velde’s KU flag became a cape for a chief in the village, where residents favor clothing in hues of crimson and blue.

Vander Velde lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he manages trade marketing for R.J. Reynolds, and Ricci lives in Newport Beach, California, where he is a claims manager for Liberty Mutual Insurance. Exotic travel is difficult, especially as a young professional with limited vacation time, but after his successful 2012 adventure to Machu Picchu in Peru, Vander Velde says he is determined to continue his adventures, and he’ll make sure to pack his suitcase with KU mementos to share.

—Jennifer Jackson Sanner

Photos courtesy of Jake Vander Velde.
Top photo: In 2012, Vander Velde and Brad Thies, b’05, g’06, traveled to Peru. They unfurled the flag atop Huayna Picchu, a peak that overlooks the Machu Picchu Inca site. Thies, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., is owner and principal of Barr Assurance & Advisory.
Bottom photos: Vander Velde, left, gave his KU flag to the Maasai chief’s son, who proudly displayed his new cape.

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Gift of $58 million pushes KU campaign beyond $1.2 billion goal

Posted on Dec 9, 2014 in Alumni News and News

Chancellor speaks about Endowment gift |
University leaders gathered Dec. 9 to celebrate a historic estate gift of $58 million from Madison “Al” Self, e’43, and his wife, Lila, ’43. The late couple’s total giving to KU since 1989 is a phenomenal $106 million, a record among private donors in the history of KU. Two dozen Self family members attended the ceremony in the Adams Alumni Center.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little hailed the day as transformational in the history of the University. The Selfs’ generosity, she said, grew from “the conviction that there is no greater investment than in the development of student leadership excellence.”

The Selfs’ final gift includes $39 million for the Self Graduate Fellowship Fund for doctoral students in STEM disciplines, business and economics; and $15 million for the Self Engineering Leadership Fellows Program, which benefits engineering and computing undergraduate students. The remaining $4 million establishes a new Self Graduating Senior Fellowship Fund to recognize graduating seniors who have shown exceptional tenacity in their achievements.

Al Self came to KU from his family’s farm in Meriden and met Lila, who came from the Fall Leaf community near Eudora. They married in the summer of 1943, following his graduation with a chemical engineering degree. In 1947, the Selfs acquired Bee Chemical Co. in Lansing, Illinois. Al guided the firm from a three-person operation to an international producer of polymers and polymer coatings for use on plastics. When they sold the company 37 years later, it had five U.S. manufacturing sites and operations in Japan and England.

The Selfs died in 2013, Al in January and Lila in November, both at the age of 91. Their record-setting bequest has helped KU Endowment surpass its $1.2 billion goal for Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas. Kurt Watson, d’75, who with his wife, Sue, d’75, chairs the campaign for KU Endowment, announced that the campaign has raised $1.218 billion.

“But we’re not done yet. We said the campaign was going to run until 2016 and that’s just what we’re going to do,” Watson said. “We’ve accomplished a great deal, but many, many of our imperatives remain. For the campaign’s duration, we will encourage donors to support KU’s most precious resource, and that is our people.

“We will seek additional funds for scholarships and fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students, and we will seek additional funds for faculty and professional support. We will continue the campaign to take KU Far Above.”

—Jennifer Jackson Sanner

Watch the slideshow below for more photos from today’s event.


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Jayhawks set Homecoming spirit to music in annual ‘Jingles’ contest

Posted on Sep 25, 2014 in Alumni News and News

KU’Homecoming 2014 logo | 102nd Homecoming celebration is taking place this week. Learn about past Homecomings through our Throwback Thursday posts, and check out our social media hub to see what students, alumni and fans are posting about Homecoming on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #kuhomecoming. For a full list of activities and other information about Homecoming, visit

As seven sorority-fraternity teams prepared to compete in the traditional Jayhawk Jingles competition Sept. 24, the line of students arriving at the Adams Alumni Center to cheer their favorites—and sample free food—stretched to the corner of 13th and Oread. By the time the first group took the stage, the crowd filled the parking lot for a highlight of the annual Homecoming celebration.

For those who haven’t witnessed the competition, think of Jayhawk Jingles as Rock Chalk Revue song-and-dance skits but with a common Homecoming theme—this year, Roll with the ’Hawks. Two other distinctions are worth noting: Teams have only a couple of weeks’ preparation and rehearsal before strutting their stuff, amd they have only seven minutes onstage to dazzle the audience. Even so, the creative competitors manage to craft lyrics, costumes, choreography and a more than a few cringe-worthy jokes—all set to music provided by venerable Lawrence disc jockey Scott Simpson.

The best seats went to this year’s alumni judges from Lawrence: Julie Thies Dunlap, c’98; Beth Anderson Easter, c’93; and Greg, m’91, and Becky Innes Orth, ’92, who scored the performances and determined the winners.

This year’s Jayhawk Jingles champions are the women of Delta Delta Delta and the men of Alpha Tau Omega. Their skit highlighted a guitar solo, harmony, a hapless Texas Longhorn fan, and energetic dance moves—including a back flip.

Second place went to West Campus Road neighbors Sigma Kappa sorority and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, who incorporated fun facts from the history of KU and favorite board games along with song and dance.

Alpha Chi Omega sorority and Phi Gamma Delta fraternity teamed up to take third place for their KU version of Monopoly.

Other teams included Kappa Alpha Theta and Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Gamma Delta and Sigma Chi, Alpha Delta Pi and Theta Chi, and Delta Gamma and Kappa Sigma. After the competition, the Homecoming spirit rolled on, as the performers and the audience took the stage for a rousing final dance. Rock Chalk!

—Jennifer Jackson Sanner

Watch our slideshow below to see pictures from Jayhawk Jingles, or click here to view the photos on Flickr.


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Alumni host triumphant women’s golf team

Posted on Oct 30, 2013 in Alumni News and News

The KU women’s golf team concluded its fall season Oct. 28 with a victory at the Palmetto Intercollegiate on Kiawah Island, S.C., where Jayhawk hospitality helped Coach Erin O’Neil and her team prepare for the tournament.

Following an Oct. 26 practice round on the Turtle Point Golf Course, the Jayhawks enjoyed a team dinner at the home of Russ, c’63, and Ann Brownfield Crane, d’63. The Cranes and KU friends Bob, b’57, and Twila Jackson welcomed the women for a relaxing evening before the first competitive round began Oct. 27. Following two days of competition, Russ Crane called the Alumni Association to report the score: “They won by three strokes–we’re sure it was the lasagna,” he joked.


Ann and Russ Crane flank KU’s golfers in a photo from their dinner Oct. 26. Back row: Head Coach Erin O’Neil, Meghan Potee, Pornvipa Sakdee, Minami Levonowich. Front row: Yupaporn Kawinpakorn, Thanuttra Boonraksasat, Assistant Coach Katy Nahm.

Of course, all credit goes to the team, led by freshman Pornvipa Sakdee, who finished fourth overall. Her teammates all finished in the top 25 as well, a season-best performance for the Jayhawks. The Palmetto title was the team’s second during the fall season.

“I was really proud of how this team came together last weekend,” says assistant coach Katy Nahm. “The team has put themselves in the position to win all fall, and it was great to see them pull through and handle the pressure of leading in the final round.

“We are always very thankful for being Jayhawks, but we were overwhelmed with the support we had this weekend from Russ and Ann. We really enjoyed getting to know them, along with Bob and Twila Jackson. It is great to play a tournament away from Lawrence and have people come out to support and cheer you on.  We look forward to seeing them again in the spring at the Briar’s Creek Invitational.  We are very blessed to be a part of the Jayhawk family.”

The team will begin spring competition Feb. 14-16 at the Florida State Matchup in Tallahassee.

–Jennifer Jackson Sanner

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Jayhawks in Tar Heel country

Posted on Aug 27, 2013 in Alumni News and News

The Schooner Pride, a magnificent  84-foot tall ship, set sail from Charleston Harbor Aug. 25 with 20 Jayhawks aboard for a glorious two-hour afternoon cruise. The crew graciously allowed novices to hoist the sails, and as the excursion concluded, Russ Crane, c’63, who grew up sailing on Kansas lakes and now volunteers in a sailing program to help U.S. military veterans, helped steer the ship back to the harbor. The cruise began and ended with the Rock Chalk Chant, followed by a brief update on KU news from Jennifer Sanner and Dan Storey of the Alumni Association. Dan captured video of the event, which is sure to become a tradition for the Charleston Chapter, led by David Perrett, c’93.

The Association’s tour of the Carolinas began with the Charlotte Alumni Reception Aug. 23 at the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Thirty Jayhawks, spanning the classes of 1949 through 2012, heard the latest from the Hill, including the women’s track and field national championship; the construction of Rock Chalk Park for track and field, soccer and softball; and the project to restore the canopy of trees that graced Jayhawk Boulevard in decades past. Alumni were especially pleased to hear about the University’s growing efforts in the recruitment of legacy students  nationwide and throughout Kansas, including the Jayhawk Generations Scholarship for academically qualifying out-of-state students from KU families. Jennifer Shoemaker, c’04, shared information about upcoming events in Charlotte, and Steve Ellsworth, b’49, son of the Alumni Association’s longtime executive director Fred Ellsworth, c’22, traveled with his wife, Bobbie, from their home in Rock Hill, S.C., for the event.

Forty Central North Carolina Jayhawks gathered at the serene wooded home of Randy Marcuson, c’74, and his wife, Linda, Aug. 24 for the chapter’s annual summer picnic, featuring barbecue and all the fixings; beverages, including home-brewed beer provided by David Danner, j’85; and Linda’s homemade brownies. Victoria Shropshire, c’96, invited her fellow Jayhawks to football watch parties in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, and other members planned to re-establish a watch site in Raleigh. Cooled by Carolina breezes and warmed by KU camaraderie, the crowd lingered well into the afternoon.

The weekend was a perfect finale to the 2013 ’Hawk Days of Summer!

–Jennifer Jackson Sanner

Pictures from each event are available on our Flickr site. Click here for pictures of the Charleston harbor tour, the Charlotte reception and the central North Carolina picnic.

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KU kicks off new program in western Kansas

Posted on Jun 24, 2013 in Alumni News and News

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and a team from the KU School of Social Welfare, the Alumni Association and KU Endowment traveled to Garden City and Hays June 22 to celebrate the launch of KU’s new western Kansas-based master’s in social work. Receptions in each city drew about 50 alumni, students and community leaders.

Through a partnership with Garden City Community College and Fort Hays State University, which host the classes on their campuses, KU began the program June 1 to begin meeting the urgent need for social workers in western Kansas.   Among 4,058 social workers statewide who are licensed as clinicians, supervisors and administrators, only 187 work in counties west of Wichita.

Twenty students began KU master’s classes this summer. “I’m so excited,” said Kellie Henderson, a 2013 Fort Hays graduate who wanted to begin her graduate program immediately and stay in her home community. “This will open up so many opportunities for me. I hope to be a school social worker. Kids need mentors who can help them stay in school and set goals.”

In schools, hospitals and agencies, social workers support families and communities in numerous ways. The KU master’s program, ranked among the nation’s top 20 by U.S. News and World Report, “is a powerful tool to enhance the careers of students in the program and enhance the quality of life for people in this region,” Gray-Little said.

Kendal Carswell, s’04, a KU faculty member, coordinates the new program. As a native of Alton, 50 miles northwest of Hays, he earned degrees from Garden City and Fort Hays before completing his education at KU. For several years he taught at Fort Hays and helped expand its bachelor’s program in social work to Garden City. “I’m very passionate about social work and very passionate about the success of western Kansas,” Carswell said at the two celebrations. “Because I am alumnus of all three schools, I see this as three houses united: Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, Hail to Old Fort Hays State and Go Busters!”

–Jennifer Jackson Sanner

Additional online coverage:

Masters of Social Work degree launched in western Kansas | via

New educational program launched in western Kansas | via Hays Post


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Crimson and Blues

Posted on May 1, 2013 in Alumni News and News

More than 800 Jayhawks–including Coach Bill Self and his wife, Cindy–turned out for the 18th annual Rock Chalk Ball April 27 at the Overland Park Convention Center. The ball is the largest annual event hosted by the KU Alumni Association’s Kansas City Chapter.

In keeping with the “Crimson and Blues” theme, guests picked up souvenir sunglasses as they entered the reception, serenaded by the sounds of live jazz, courtesy of student musicians in the Lucas Parker Trio. A special exhibition from KU Libraries, “Rhythm and Meaning: Jazz at KU,” highlighted the libraries’ Sound Archive, one of the largest jazz collections west of the Mississippi. Guests mingled during the reception as they kept their eyes on their bids in the silent auction.

Trumpet players ushered guests into the ballroom for a rousing performance of KU favorites by KU Spirit Squad, Pep Band and Mascots. Emcee John Holt, j’81, l’84, introduced event chairs Howard, b’79, and Debbi Cohen, assoc., and Nick, b’04, and Clare Blasi, assoc. along with Brooke Briley Robison, d’01, g’04, and Mark Frutiger, b’01, who led the Rock Chalk Ball committee for the Kansas City Chapter.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and her husband, Shade Little, continued their tradition of being the first couple on the dance floor. This year they sported their souvenir sunglasses, as did many other dancers of all ages amid the soulful sounds of the Karen Davis Project. Those who craved dessert enjoyed flaming Bananas Foster, prepared by chefs stationed throughout the ballroom

When the dancing ended and the lights came up at midnight, the party was still going strong. Jayhawks, mark your calendars for the next Rock Chalk Ball, April 26, 2014!

–Jennifer Jackson Sanner

Check out photos from Rock Chalk Ball in the slideshow below:

Click here if you can’t see the slideshow. Photos by Steve Puppe and Dan Storey.

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