Boulevard Brewing Company proud sponsor of Rock Chalk Ball

Posted on Apr 10, 2018 in News

Boulevard Brewing Company logo

Kansas City-based Boulevard Brewing Company, the largest specialty craft-beer brewer in the Midwest, is a top-tier sponsor of the 2018 Rock Chalk Ball, the University of Kansas Alumni Association’s largest annual fundraising event,  April 28 at the Kansas City Convention Center. Hosted by the Greater Kansas City Alumni Network, the event raises funds for Association and Student Alumni Network programs and activities, including the new Jayhawk Career Network, which launches in fall 2018.

As a presenting sponsor, Boulevard will provide exclusive beer service at the event and will host the Ball’s new VIP area, featuring Boulevard Brand Ambassadors who will conduct beer tastings and showcase the brand’s latest offerings. In addition, Boulevard has donated a special package for guests to bid on during the event’s silent auction.

“Boulevard Brewing Company is synonymous with Kansas City, the nation’s largest community of Jayhawks,” said Heath Peterson, KU Alumni Association president. “We are excited to work with Boulevard on the 2018 Rock Chalk Ball, where we will feature their line of beers exclusively for our attendees. We are grateful for Boulevard’s commitment to enhance the Ball and support our efforts to expand alumni programs, including the Jayhawk Career Network, for members in Kansas City, throughout Kansas and across the country.”

“The Boulevard team is thrilled to partner with the KU Alumni Association and serve as the exclusive beer provider for the 2018 Rock Chalk Ball,” said Natalie Gershon, vice president of marketing for Boulevard. “Kansas City Jayhawks provide phenomenal support of the Boulevard brand, and the Ball presents a tremendous opportunity to show our support of the KU alumni community.”

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Rock Chalk Carving

Posted on Mar 28, 2017 in News


Chainsaw-carved Jayhawks delight alumni

For two weeks each September at the Kansas State Fair, dozens of Jayhawks stand silent on the midway, ready to meet their fans. The state’s annual celebration in Hutchinson is where artist Dan Besco first introduced Kansans to his wonderful and whimsical birds. His chainsaw-carved Jayhawks, each with its own unique personality, delight alumni and adorn lawns throughout the Kansas City area and across the state.

Besco’s Jayhawks will be featured at the Rock Chalk Ball April 29 at the Overland Park Convention Center, where he will carve a 4- to 5-foot Jayhawk on the patio during the reception. The bird will be included in the live auction, and the piece can be customized with the buyer‘s name or initials. Smaller Jayhawks used for centerpieces also will be available for purchase.

A true passion

Of course, not every Kansan is a Jayhawk fan, as Besco learned one year during the state fair. One morning following a concert at the grandstand, a Kansas highway patrolman showed up to take a report on “the assault.” It took Dan a minute to realize that K-State fans had knocked over his 5-foot Jayhawk the previous night. “There were plenty of witnesses,” the officer chuckled, gesturing to several dozen wooden Jayhawk statues, “but none of them are talking.”

Besco says he does get considerable harassment from other schools who don’t like KU, but carving the Jayhawk is his true passion. A self-taught artist, he first learned to carve a bear. “It was terrible,” he says. “It was more like a bear-dog-pig, and I didn’t enjoy it at all.” He liked carving, but the bear didn’t interest him, and he didn’t think it would sell. “After all, who wants to buy a bear in Kansas? We don’t have bears in Kansas,” he says. Besco has always been a KU fan, so he decided to focus on the Jayhawk. He carved his first one in 1995, and he hasn’t stopped yet.

Quality and endurance

The sculptor says he is one of few carvers who use standing dried timber from Colorado. Other sculptors use green wood to carve, but that’s a poor investment because the wood will dry and crack unpredictably, and new cracks can ruin a piece, Besco says. Because quality and endurance are important to him (and a Jayhawk should be tough), he purchases wood that has died naturally yet is still standing in forests. To keep up with demand, he rents a truck and drives to Colorado several times a year to haul logs to ensure that the wood he uses is stable. Existing cracks in the wood, which add charm to the piece, won’t further crack or warp, he says.

img_besco_historical-birdsBesco hews his birds from memory and can finish a carving in about two hours, then he trades his chainsaw for a blowtorch, burning the sculpture to smooth rough edges, waterproof the wood and add a deeper base for the stain, giving it an “antiqued” look. His Jayhawk renditions include a basketball-playing bird that attaches to an SUV and a long plank featuring all of the historical ’Hawks. His appearance at the Rock Chalk Ball will be one of the few times he has turned his talent into “performance art,” carving a sculpture from a tree stump for a live audience.

—Susan Younger

Watch the video to see Besco in action:


To see more of Besco’s work, visit His KU work is officially licensed, and a portion of his sales support the University.

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Kansas City-based watchmaker Niall proud sponsor of Rock Chalk Ball

Posted on Mar 9, 2017 in News

Rock Chalk Ball

Kansas City-based luxury watchmaker Niall is a top-tier sponsor of the 2017 Rock Chalk Ball, the University of Kansas Alumni Association’s largest annual fundraising event, April 29 at the Overland Park Convention Center. Hosted by the Greater Kansas City Alumni Network, the event raises funds for Association programs to advocate for KU, communicate to alumni and friends in all media, recruit students and volunteers, serve alumni and KU, and unite all Jayhawks.

As a presenting sponsor of the event, Niall will donate two of its limited-edition Fieldhouse Blue watches to the Association, one of which will be auctioned at the Rock Chalk Ball. The exclusive watch is officially licensed by KU and features basketball founder James Naismith’s original 13 rules of basketball micro-inscribed on the dial of the timepiece. Only 126 pieces of this watch have been produced—emblematic of the number of years since the inception of the game in 1891. A portion of the watch’s ongoing sales will be donated to Kansas Athletics and the Williams Education Fund.

Niall’s partnership with the Alumni Association also includes other opportunities for alumni engagement.

“We are immensely grateful to Niall for its generous sponsorship of the Alumni Association’s Rock Chalk Ball and other events,” said Heath Peterson, Association president. “Kansas City is the nation’s largest community of Jayhawks, and our programs, especially in recruiting legacy students, are vital to strengthening KU.”

“Niall is thrilled to sponsor this year’s Rock Chalk Ball,” said Association Life Member and Presidents Club Member Michael Wilson, b’05, founder and CEO of Niall. “This is a great way for us to support the Alumni Association and its mission to connect Jayhawks to the University of Kansas.”

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Discounted tickets for Rock Chalk Ball available

Posted on Mar 7, 2017 in News

Rock Chalk Ball- Masters of Time
Today only, we’re discounting Rock Chalk Ball ticket prices for KU Alumni Association members! Take advantage of this flash sale and purchase your tickets today.

A limited number of discounted tickets are available for members, including a special rate for young alumni under age 35. We also have a limited number of discounted tables available for both young alumni and Presidents Club members.

Young Alumni Members: $150 $100

Members: $200 $150

Young Alumni Table Host: $1,500 $1,000

Presidents Club Table Host: $2,500 $2000*

Buy tickets for Rock Chalk Ball


This year’s Rock Chalk Ball theme is Masters of Tradition. The event is black-tie optional, and creative golf apparel is encouraged and applauded! If you need help figuring out what to wear, check out our style suggestions on Pinterest.

Proceeds from the 2017 Rock Chalk Ball will be used to enhance and expand outstanding alumni programs that unite Jayhawks, provide networking opportunities, and engage alumni in student recruitment and other advocacy on behalf of KU.

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Rock Chalk Ball in pictures, according to you

Posted on Apr 27, 2016 in News

The 21st annual Rock Chalk Ball was held on Saturday, April 23, at the Overland Park Convention Center. The theme for this year’s event was “There’s No Place Like Home,” complete with a handcrafted tornado in the ballroom, and Topher Enneking served as the emcee.

A special thank you to our event chairs, John, j’81, l’84, and Suzy Holt, l’84, and Joseph, c’01, and Shanna Grant, b’01, as well as the Rock Chalk Ball committee chairs, Mark A. Frutiger, b’01, and Jake Ballard, b’01.

Photos from Rock Chalk Ball are available online, courtesy of Steve Puppe Photography, and you’re welcome to download them at no cost for personal use.

We also wanted to share some of our favorite photos taken by guests and posted to Twitter and Instagram, so check out the posts below!

These handsome men are coming for you tonight @kudeanneeli #rockchalkball #boysarebackintown

A post shared by Kristopher Velasco (@krisvelasco) on

A great night at the Rock Chalk Ball, with a great group of people! #rockchalkball #kualumni

A post shared by Danielle Hoover (@_daniellehoover_) on

All dressed up. #rockchalkball #latergram

A post shared by Laura Lesko Lewis (@lauraleskolewis) on

Silent auctions and open bars are my downfall…But it’s all for a great cause. Right?! Rock Chalk Ball 2016. #maternityleaveisnottooshabby #rockchalkball #Itotallycrushedthepopashottournament #rockchalkjayhawk #firstnightthekiddostayedwiththegrandparents #motherhood

A post shared by Jen Kenyon (@jenniferblueskenyon) on

What an amazing night celebrating #KC Jayhawks at the 21st Annual Rock Chalk Ball! Honored to Co-Chair with Shanna & Joey Grant and raise money for the @kualumni @kustudentalumni Happy to share the night with many friends & our own @katieholtmoes & son-in-la Chad! Thanks also to the Gray’s, Kowalik’s and Sullivan’s for rounding out a fun table! And per usual the Nigro Brothers nailed it! Thanks to all and it’s another reminder: #TheresNoPlaceLikeHome

A post shared by John Holt (@johnholtnews) on

#rockchalkball #afterparty ????????

A post shared by Allie (@alwilmes) on

Proceeds from the 2016 Rock Chalk Ball will be used to enhance and expand outstanding alumni programs that unite Jayhawks, provide networking opportunities, and engage alumni in student recruitment and other advocacy on behalf of KU.

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Bidders, get your smartphones ready

Posted on Apr 11, 2016 in News

Rock Chalk Ball

We’re excited to introduce something new at this year’s Rock Chalk Ball auction: handheld bidding! How many times have you wandered around the tables checking out all the unique items and placing your bids—only to lose out on something because you ran into friends and ended up chatting, or you got stuck in line at the bar and never made it back to the table to check your bid?

Enter handheld bidding.

Bid from your phone from anywhere, at anytime during the Ball. Create a watch list of your favorite items and receive an instant notification when you’ve won an item—or when you’ve been outbid. Plus, checkout is easy: no more waiting in long lines to pay for the item you purchased.

If you’re new to handheld bidding, don’t worry. We’ll have staff members in several areas of the auction space to assist you, and they’ll have iPads available to help you place a bid if you don’t have a smartphone.

You can even preregister your phone and payment information before the Ball, which will save you time when you arrive.

Still not sure how this works? Click here to watch a video tutorial of the process.

This year’s auction features popular favorites and lots of unique new items, including an official ball from the 2015 World Series, spa packages, a year of dining and drinking from Kelly’s Westport Inn, notable art and plenty of KU spirit items. A current list of auction items is available here, and if you still haven’t purchased your Rock Chalk Ball tickets, don’t wait!

—Debbi Johanning

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That time I sang for Paul Rudd

Posted on Feb 27, 2016 in News

IMG_news_paludanandruddPaul Rudd, ’92, is super nice and knows how to throw a great party. This much we could assume based on the fun-loving characters he plays in the movies, but let’s be honest. How many of us have actually met the guy? Sure, we feel like we know him–he’s a Jayhawk, right? But he’s also a big movie star, and his down-to-earth charm is saved only for hobnoberati of Hollywood. At least that’s what I thought until his picture popped up on a friend’s Facebook feed.

Kirsten Paludan, c’98, is a talented musician and KU classmate of mine who recently performed for Rudd at his mom’s birthday party. So, let’s have it, Kirsten. He can’t really be that cool of guy, can he? She dishes in our exclusive Q&A.

So, what was it like meeting Paul Rudd?

He was incredibly funny, self-effacing and gracious, kind and also very present; It seemed that everyone who came up to him to talk received his full attention, and he went out of his way to make all of us feel at ease. Super nice guy and just as he appears on screen. He also knows how to throw a great party.

He and I actually know some people in common because, like me, he studied acting in the Theatre Department at KU. We talked about how we just missed each other- he was there from ’88-’90 and I was a freshman in ’90.

How’d you get the gig?

The event was a surprise birthday party for Paul Rudd’s mom. His sister was the one who called Jeff Wright, the drummer and booking agent for the band. She’d seen us play several times and thought we were the best fit for the party.

Tell me about your group… any KU connections?

Kokomo was founded by Jeff Wright (a dues paying member of the Alumni Association, undergrad and masters at KU. Jeff’s daughter just graduated from KU and is a 5th generation. He told me he reads the alumni magazine religiously!) and Jeff Moffet (who also attended KU) in Lawrence after meeting at KU. The very first gig they played was for an SUA concert in 1981 as the backing band for the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. I joined the band in the late 90‘s. We’ve had several members throughout the years who either lived in Lawrence or attended KU. (Editor’s note: Kokomo played at the Rock Chalk Ball four years ago.)

Any other brushes with celebrities (including, I suppose, Missouri graduates)?

Performing with Kokomo, I’ve met Paul Rudd and John Travolta, and have shared the stage with Sheryl Crow (Editor’s note: Ms. Crow attended Mizzou). Two years ago, she attended a wedding we played and decided to join the band for a few numbers. I sang back up for her on ‘All I Wanna Do’ and she sang back up for me on ‘Every Day is a Winding Road’. That was a very fun, surreal moment. The same summer, I was asked to sing in Alejandro Escovedo’s back up band for a concert he played at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. I’ve also met actor Jeffrey Wright and Jonathan Rhys-Myers (I was a casting assistant for the Ang Lee movie ‘Ride With the Devil’ and was in the film- got the job because of my KU connection) and several members of the cast of the original Melrose Place (due to a talent competition I won at KU where the grand prize was a walk on role on the show, gifted by a KU alumnus who worked for Spelling Entertainment), and last summer through mutual friends I was blessed to meet one of my musical idols, the incredible Neko Case.

Wow! So, what’s next for you professionally?

A LOT. 🙂
I’ve been working with Matt Pryor (of the Get Up Kids) on his new solo album, providing back up vocals.

Next up, I’m working on ‘Cowboy Cabaret II: Songs of Sin & Redemption’, a variety show created by yours truly and the Starhaven Rounders (the country band I front). This is the second installment of the show, which is co-produced with the Lawrence Arts Center, and it promises to be even better than the first one, with incredible music, killer performances, and fabulous guests.

I’m also planning to record a 6 song EP this spring and will be booking shows with my band in Lawrence, KC and a few regional dates. In addition, my sister, Kari (also a KU alumna) and I are developing a show and series of workshops for the Lied Center about the artist brain that will premiere in the spring of their 2016-2017 season.

I also began teaching private voice and guitar lessons last year and will continue to build my studio, as well. It is so gratifying to inspire future musicians and artists in my community!

That is a lot! How did your time in Lawrence and at KU prepare you for your career?

Lawrence is an inspiring place. It has a rich artistic history and is a creative breeding ground for free thinkers who like to push the envelope. It is also a place where people care about and understand the importance of the arts. I was born and raised in Lawrence by ridiculously supportive parents (my mom a dancer/director and working artist, my dad a historian/writer) who both taught at KU.

Lawrence is my home and the town that made me who I am. The university is an extension of that.

In my time there, I was exposed to an incredibly broad range of knowledge and was taught and encouraged by educators who were truly invested in their students. As a working artist I’ve found, as in life, you have to be prepared for anything, and that diversity and depending on your community are the key to long term success. All of the education and experiences, and the encouragement from my parents (and the KU/Lawrence community as a whole), gave me an incredible foundation from which to grow. I am so lucky to be a Lawrencian and a Jayhawk!

We couldn’t agree more, Kirsten! Thanks for sharing your amazing experience–and talent–with KU alumni! (Oh, and the next time you see him, say “Hi” to Paul Rudd from all of us!) Rock Chalk!

Left to right is Kevin Rogers, guitarist, Paul Rudd, Kirsten Paludan, vocals, and Emmett Lee, vocals and percussion.

Links to Kirsten Paludan’s music can be found below:

Facebook music page for upcoming shows and info.
Kirsten’s music is streaming and available for purchase on Bandcamp at
Kirsten’s most recent album on iTunes:
More music on iTunes:
–David Johnston

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Student leaders experience Rock Chalk Ball firsthand

Posted on Apr 28, 2014 in News

SALB members help out at Rock Chalk Ball 2014Student Alumni Leadership Board members had a blast working the 19th annual Rock Chalk Ball. This year’s theme was Jayhawks and Juleps, and seersucker suits, bright colors and derby hats were all on display. SALB members spent the night manning the auction tables and interacting with KU alumni.

“This year’s Rock Chalk Ball was so fun,” said Rachel Volk, SALB’s vice president for alumni relations. “I enjoyed being able to help organize this event for SALB members.”

Not only is Rock Chalk Ball a lot of fun, it’s a great opportunity for SALB members to see the strong community of KU alumni. With more than 900 Jayhawks in attendance, SALB members met all sorts of KU celebrities.

“I am a huge Celtics fan, so being able to meet Scot Pollard was the highlight of my night,” SALB member Madison Flint said.

Another KU celebrity students enjoyed talking with was Dean Neeli. She has so much enthusiasm and support for KU that being in her presence makes students feel empowered.

At the end of the night SALB members headed back to Lawrence and put another Rock Chalk Ball down in the books. It was a night to remember, and we can’t wait to see what next year’s event has in store.

–Autrin Naderi, vice president of communications, Student Alumni Leadership Board

SALB members at Rock Chalk Ball 2014

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5 fun items in the Rock Chalk Ball auction

Posted on Apr 22, 2014 in News

Rock Chalk Ball |

Rock Chalk Ball is this Saturday!

The popular Kansas City event, now in its 19th year, is officially sold out for the first time in history. One of the most-anticipated components of the black-tie event is the auction, where attendees have the opportunity to satisfy their shopping habit while supporting their favorite university.

Here’s a look at five unique items in this year’s auction:

1. Marching band bagMarching Band bag

These unique tote bags are made from actual KU Marching Band uniforms! KU Bands has donated two bags, each of a different style. These bags are perfect for the Jayhawk who already has everything, and they’re a great conversation starter!

2. A year of pizza

Like pizza and beer? Who doesn’t. The winner of this auction can make a trip to Westport every month for an entire year to enjoy a large pizza from Joe’s Pizza and two pitchers of beer at Kelly’s. That’s twelve pizzas and 24 pitchers of beer, folks.

3. KU rocking horse

Our creative director, Susan Younger, isn’t the only artist in her family. This adorable wooden rocking horse, handcrafted by her husband, Jerry, will convince any toddler to be a Future Jayhawk.

Handcrafted wooden rocking horse

Crimson and blue stilettos

4. Crimson and blue ceramic stilettos

Here’s another unusual addition for your KU collection—a pair of ceramic stilettos adorned with a Jayhawk theme. If only you could actually wear them…

5. Basketball boy/girl

No, you aren’t bidding on an actual child. Give your future Jayhawk the opportunity of a lifetime- the chance to be a ball boy or ball girl at a 2014-15 men’s basketball game!

These are just a few of the many fun items that will be auctioned off this Saturday at the Ball. The silent auction will take place during the cocktail hour. Stay tuned this week to read about more auction items, or check out the full list.

Bidders, take your mark, and don’t forget your wallet!

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Steve Doocy named Distinguished Kansan of the Year

Posted on Jan 28, 2014 in News

This year’s Rock Chalk Ball emcee can add another feather to his cap.

Steve Doocy, j’79, was named Distinguished Kansan of the Year by Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas.

The organization, which was formed to preserve and honor Kansas loyalty and traditions, honored Doocy at a banquet last week. The Distinguished Kansan Award isn’t presented every year, but plenty of other Jayhawks have been honored– including Sheila Bair, c’75, l’78, former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, in 2010 and current men’s basketball coach Bill Self in 2008. A list of past award winners is available here.

A fun fact: Doocy was the first on-air DJ for KJHK, the popular student-operated radio station at the university.

Doocy will serve as the emcee for the 19th annual Rock Chalk Ball, the KU Alumni Association’s premier fundraising event in Kansas City, on April 26.

Click the image below to watch a clip of his acceptance speech. Congratulations, Mr. Doocy!

Steve Doocy |


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