All for Fun, Fun for All

Posted on May 20, 2019 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

Blade & Timber
Matt Baysinger and Ryan Henrich met at Blue Valley West High School in Overland Park. Both ran track for the Jaguars and both, in Baysinger’s words, “were a couple of real ding-dongs.”

“Our idea of fun was not what the typical high school kid is into,” says Baysinger, now 33 and CEO of Swell Spark, the Kansas City-based company that launched two of the most unique and popular entertainment options to hit Mass Street in years: Breakout Lawrence and Blade & Timber.

Read more about Swell Spark and the Jayhawk business partners.


Shared experiences are the heart of Matt Baysinger, c’09, g’11 and Ryan Henrich’s, ’09 epic adventures. After testing out escape rooms in Nashville, the pair of Jayhawks are bringing new ways to have fun in Lawrence. Read additional coverage in issue No. 3, 2019, of Kansas Alumni magazine.

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Elizabeth Broun’s career in art to be honored at Commencement

Posted on May 16, 2019 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

Elizabeth Broun to be honored at Commencement

In recognition of her outstanding career at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Elizabeth Broun will receive an honorary degree from the University of Kansas at the 147th Commencement.

Broun, c’68, g’69, PhD’76, served as curator and subsequently interim director of KU’s Spencer Museum of Art. During that time, she oversaw a dramatic expansion of its collections.

In 1983, she began her tenure at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, beginning as chief curator and assistant director and assuming the position of director in 1989. As director, she led the Smithsonian American Art Museum to become the premier center for research in the field of American visual history under her direction and vision. She retired in 2016.

For more on Broun’s career, read our feature from issue No. 4, 1999 of Kansas Alumni magazine.

To learn more about Commencement, including the history of class banners, honorary degrees, and the special experience for Big and Baby Jays, read our full feature, The Walk.

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Jayhawk artist brings Watson Library to life

Posted on Apr 12, 2019 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

Mike Savage Watson Library

One of KU’s most beloved artists is partnering with the University again.

Mike Savage’s latest work is historic Watson Library, which alumni can buy a print or ornaments of as a fundraiser for KU Libraries. The art is available for purchase through Savage’s website and is available through April 20.

Savage, f’80, is a longtime supporter of all things KU, often donating paintings for auction at the Alumni Association’s Rock Chalk Ball.


For more on Mike Savage, read a profile by Chris Lazzarino from Issue 3, 2012, of Kansas Alumni.

Savage colors his world with flair and passion

Now long established as one of Kansas City’s iconic painters, Mike Savage says it was a KU photography class that provided his pivotal insight. As Professor Pok-Chi Lau examined a selection of Savage’s images, he first praised—“I really like what you’re doing”—then added the comment that has since made all the difference: “But get rid of your ego.”

“That was a turning point in my life,” Savage says in his airy, book-lined studio above the garage behind his Westwood home. “He thought I wasn’t delving in far enough. I was trying to make it look good instead of doing what was coming out of me. You’re good at what you do; believe in that. Go find out. Make mistakes.”

Savage, f ’80, has been ridding himself of artistic ego ever since. He describes himself as a contemporary Impressionist, but that’s as far as he’ll go in attaching himself to the slightest scent of a high-minded, difficult artist. (“ARTSY-FARTSY” is a 20-point word in the novelty Scrabble blocks arranged near his desk.)

Savage’s work is accessible both literally and figuratively. His colorful acrylic-on-canvas paintings are prized by collectors and displayed across Kansas City, including his own gallery, Sav-Art, and yet he donates original works for numerous causes (his KU images have become a Rock Chalk Ball tradition) and he accepts commission work, even if the commission ends up being zero and the subjects are beloved pets or the four children of a woman whom a buddy hoped to marry.

“I’m a happy-go-lucky guy about the art,” he says. “I don’t have any angst about it. I like the beauty of painting.”

Savage embraces technology—he has 58,000 songs in iTunes and music is his constant companion while working—and, after photographing his paintings, he generates prints from a high-end digital printer; when galleries call in their orders, he not only makes the prints, but he’ll often deliver them, too.

“It’s kind of magic stuff,” Dave Seal, owner of Framewoods Gallery in downtown Lawrence, says of Savage’s KU prints, “and it’s affordable. Yes, he’s contemporary and Impressionistic, but he makes it a little more modern, and local.”

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Spencer’s lively exhibition of alumni art explores ‘The Power of Place’

Posted on Mar 22, 2019 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

Kansas Alumni, issue No. 2, 2019 | The Power of PlaceSpencer Museum of Art’s featured spring exhibition, which runs through June 30, radiates throughout the sparkling central court and first-floor galleries, offering visitors an eclectic array of styles, techniques and ideas, all exploring the topic of place.

As is to be expected with the Spencer’s original exhibitions, “The Power of Place” is both challenging and rewarding, yet also offers plenty of opportunity to pause and ponder the people and places that shape us as Jayhawks and Kansans.

Read more on the alumni artists behind “The Power of Place” exhibition.

Watch the video below to hear the artists discuss the inspirations for their work featured in the Spencer Museum of Art. Read additional coverage in issue No. 2, 2019, of Kansas Alumni magazine.


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Homegrown Healing

Posted on Jan 25, 2019 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

“Access to health care is critical for us all, no matter where we live,” said Chancellor Doug Girod. “This will become even more important as our state’s population continues to age in the coming years, further increasing demand. With many of the counties in our state remaining medically underserved, KU has a distinctive responsibility to help fill that need.”

Read about how medical and nursing programs in Salina are creating more health care providers for rural Kansas communities.

Watch the video below to see how faculty and staff at the Salina Health Education Center are educating the next generation of physicians and nurses. Read additional coverage in issue No. 1, 2019, of Kansas Alumni magazine.


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The Calls of the Wild

Posted on Jan 24, 2019 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

The Calls of the Wild | Kansas Alumni magazine | Mark Robbins
The Macaulay Library boasts the world’s largest archive of animal sounds, and Mark Robbins, collection manager of ornithology at KU’s Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, is now its most prolific contributor.

In 40 years of chasing birds worldwide, Robbins has amassed more than 11,000 field recordings of avian vocalizations—birdsongs—every one now in the Macaulay, where they make up 3 percent of the Cornell University library’s recordings.

Researchers use the sounds to study many scientific topics, including how climate change is affecting bird ranges. That’s the subject of recent investigations that tapped some of Robbins’ first recordings, of chickadees, made in 1978.

“There’s a lot of satisfaction that you’re adding to the science,” says Robbins, who has discovered six new species and had one—the Ecuadorian Tapaculo (Scytalopus robbinsi)—named for him.

But there are personal rewards, too.

“I got into this as a kid, long before I appreciated the science,” says the longtime bird lover. “Migration still brings me to my knees: That on a spring day in May you get a south wind and overnight all these birds who’ve been migrating for two months from the Amazon basin show up in your backyard—I love that. It gives you a whole different perspective on the life of the planet.”

Indeed, it’s good to know there are still some tweets that can set the heart aflutter.

—Steven Hill


Listen to the bird calls below:

Northern Bobwhite

A popular bird with birdwatchers and sportsmen, “gentleman Bob” as he’s known in some parts, is easily identified by his distinctive two-noted whistle. An inhabitant of field and wood edge, the ground-dwelling quail has suffered major population declines in recent decades. The lovely song heard in the background of this recording is the Field Sparrow.

Kentucky Warbler

Despite its state-specific name, Kentucky Warblers are found as a breeder across the eastern United States and as far west as eastern Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. This one was recorded at the Fitch Natural History Reservation on the KU Field Station, the University’s biological field station north of Lawrence.

Black-billed Mountain Toucan

A denizen of the montane cloud forests in the Andes of South America from Venezuela south to Peru, Black-billed Mountain Toucans are known to range over long distances when foraging.

“The Calls of the Wild” was originally published in Kansas Alumni magazine, issue No. 1, 2019.

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Jayhawk’s license plate disaster warrants Alumni Association assistance

Posted on Jan 2, 2019 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

KU alumnus' KSU license plate | Brooke Collison | license plate humor

The KU Alumni Association receives hundreds of letters from Jayhawks across the globe, but it was an ominous note from Brooke Collison, a Corvallis, Oregon, alumnus, titled “Insidious KSU Plot” that recently caught the attention of several staffers. Curious what Collison had uncovered about our pesky neighbors to the west, we read on.

Dear KU Alums,

I am an Oregon resident where automobile license plates have three numbers, a space and three big letters. I purchased a new car last month and my new license plates have arrived. Much to my chagrin, the three letters are “KSU.” I am aghast! How can I possible drive my car with those letters emblazoned on both the front and back of my ride?

I seriously suspect there may be an alum of that other Kansas university working in the Oregon license bureau who has a warped sense of humor and has decided to play a cruel joke on me. Imagine the agony I will go through when asked for auto identification on all kinds of forms—even when checking in to an [un-named] cheap motel! And what will I do when a driver passes me and waves with enthusiasm?

Please, does the Alumni Association have a department to help victims such as myself?

Brooke Collison

Though the Alumni Association doesn’t have a department dedicated to helping wrongfully persecuted Jayhawks such as Collison, we certainly couldn’t sit by and watch a fellow alumnus suffer. Tegan Thornberry, d’05, g’09, the Association’s director of marketing, membership and business development, rushed a KU license plate frame to Collison, hoping to dispel any confusion about his loyalty to KU and ease the pain of the tragic tag.

“It was nice to receive the KU Alumni Association license plate frame so that I’d have something to partially cover or correct my embarrassment of having that huge ‘KSU’ stuck on the back of my car,” says Collison, d’56, g’62, a retired professor at Oregon State University. “I figured it was the best I could do because I knew the local law enforcement folk would frown on my putting masking tape over some of the letters.”

—Heather Biele

If you’re a Jayhawk in Kansas, Texas, or Maryland, you can show your KU pride with a distinctive license plate on your vehicle. You do not have to be a member of the KU Alumni Association or a graduate of KU to have a Jayhawk license plate. Visit to learn more!

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Over Here: Mount Oread Responds to the Great War’s Call to Duty

Posted on Nov 14, 2018 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

Kansas Alumni magazine issue No. 6, 2018 | World War I

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice that ended World War I, we are proud to publish a history of the war at KU that has special significance for Kansas Alumni: Evie Masterson Rapport, d’70, g’78, based her 1978 journalism master’s thesis on the war coverage she found in our predecessor publication, The Graduate Magazine. Rapport, a journalism and communications veteran in Kansas City and at KU, next spring will again present an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course about the University’s vigorous response to the U.S. government’s dire need to prepare an army for battle.

Read more of Rapport’s stories of KU during the Great War.

Watch the video below to see how the students and faculty of KU went into action during World War I with a series of photos from the Spencer Research Library. Read additional coverage in issue No. 6, 2018, of Kansas Alumni magazine.

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ROTC instructor documents military experience with ‘Story of the Jayhawk’

Posted on Nov 11, 2018 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

Michael Hayes shoots a photo of his traveling ceramic JayhawkDuring his deployment to Africa in 2011, Maj. Michael Hayes was tasked with distributing care packages from the National Guard’s family program director to his fellow soldiers. He was surprised, after about seven months, to receive a gift of his own: a grim-faced ceramic Jayhawk, which resembled the KU mascot introduced in 1941.

“I didn’t want to just set it on my desk,” recalls Hayes, c’08, an ROTC instructor and assistant professor of military science at KU. “I wanted to take pictures and send them back to her to say, ‘Look! I got it. Thank you!’ That’s how the pictures started.”

Inspired by Travelocity’s roaming gnome, Hayes took Jay on all of his deployments and work-related travel, capturing his crimson and blue companion riding in Chinooks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and overseeing troops at bases throughout the country and overseas.
Michael Hayes

As his collection of photos grew, Hayes started a Facebook page, “The Story of the Jayhawk,” to document their experiences.

Although the small figurine has been broken and repaired twice and now travels in the safety of a Styrofoam cooler, Jay shows no signs of retiring to a space on a shelf. Hayes even sends the mini mascot on journeys with other Army cadets and friends.

“Jay’s traveled more than I have,” Hayes says, “and I’ve jumped all over the place.”

—Heather Biele

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Hard Stories: Sarah Smarsh on ‘Heartland’

Posted on Oct 8, 2018 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

Sarah Smarsh | Photo credit: Paul Andrews

Sarah Smarsh is out to demolish your stereotypes and assumptions. About Kansas. About the white working class. About so-called red state politics in general and the Trump Train in particular. About life in the vast American middle that she believes is too readily derided as flyover country.

In searing personal essays, pointed newspaper reportage and her first book, published Sept. 18, Smarsh challenges the flawed idea at the heart of our national identity: that America is a classless society, a meritocracy where anyone who works hard will be rewarded with a giant leap on the socio-economic ladder. By drawing on her own life growing up “below the poverty line” in southeastern Kansas, surrounded by family and friends who worked their bodies from first light to late night and still struggled to pay the bills, she has established herself as a champion of those on the losing side of the cultural divide that is economic inequality. Sarah Smarsh is, to put it plainly, calling bullshit on the American Dream.

Read more on Sarah Smarsh’s story.

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