Famed photographer Rich Clarkson readies for his 60th NCAA national championship

Posted on Mar 12, 2015 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

In a year when Jayhawk fans rejoice in Allen Field House’s 60-year anniversary, photographer Rich Clarkson embraces an anniversary of his own—shooting his 60th men’s NCAA national championship.

Mario's Miracle Shot by Rich Clarkson via @kualumni.orgClarkson, j’55, a Presidents Club-level supporter and Life Member of the Alumni Association, shot his first Final Four in 1952, when his alma mater won its first national championship. In just a few short weeks, he’ll head to Indianapolis to document the culmination of college basketball season one last time.

NCAA Champion magazine’s winter 2015 edition chronicles Clarkson’s long and prosperous career as a photographer. He made a name for himself by capturing unforgettable moments in just about any sport imaginable. But it seems that given a choice, Clarkson would take his camera skills to the court any day.

“Basketball is so unique in that, unlike football or some other sports, nobody is hidden behind shoulder pads or helmets,” he tells NCAA Champion magazine. “You get to see and experience the emotions of the game. You see it on people’s faces. You see it in their body language. You get all this in addition to the beauty of great athletic prowess and beautiful plays. You see the human element as well. To me, it makes basketball the most interesting of all the sports.”

To read more about Clarkson’s journey as a photojournalist and hear him describe his own favorite moments in NCAA basketball history, click here.

—Heather Biele

Watch a video of Clarkson recounting how he took one of the most recognizable photographs of his career:

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Alumni return for KU’s King celebration

Posted on Jan 20, 2015 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

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 | www.kualumni.org
photo credit: Steve Puppe

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Stamp-drive organizer: Kansas remained ‘near and dear’ to Wilt

Posted on Sep 24, 2014 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

When he made his triumphant return to Allen Field House for the Jan. 17, 1998, retirement of his No. 13 Kansas jersey, basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, ’59, assured the assembled fans of his renewed affection for his Jayhawk heritage and pledged to make himself an ongoing presence around Kansas basketball and all things KU.

“I’m negligent in not being here sooner,” Chamberlain said. “I’ve learned over the years that you must learn to take the bitter with the sweet, and how sweet this is, right here. I’m a Jayhawk and I know now why there’s so much tradition here and so many wonderful things have come from here.” Pointing toward his jersey hanging from the rafters, he continued, “And I’m now very much a part of it by being there and very proud of it. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.”

Chamberlain’s death 19 months later cut short the overdue reunion between superstar alumnus and alma mater, yet KU fans’ ongoing affection for Chamberlain played a big part in Chamberlain landing the high honor of commemoration on U.S. Postal Service stamps.

“A cross-section of folks really supported us,” said Donald Hunt, the Philadelphia Tribune sportswriter who launched the Chamberlain stamp campaign with a 2008 newspaper column. “In particular, it was the folks at the University of Kansas—alumni, the basketball program, the chancellor of the university, and some of Wilt’s colleagues who went to the University of Kansas with him—who really wanted to see this happen. I’m really glad it’s coming to fruition; it’ll be here in a couple of months.”

At that, Hunt could not suppress a wave of gleeful laughter. A goal that he had tirelessly worked toward for six years had finally come to pass, with the announcement that the U.S. postmaster general, acting on the recommendation of the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, had selected Chamberlain for a commemorative postal stamp.

The two Chamberlain stamps, to be unveiled Dec. 5 in his hometown of Philadelphia, will be the final commemorative issues of 2014. Postal service officials have hinted that the artwork will feature Chamberlain in a Philadelphia 76ers or Los Angeles Lakers jersey; while it’s unlikely that one of the stamps will show Chamberlain in a Kansas uniform, Hunt emphasized that Jayhawks should not feel overshadowed.

“I know Kansas was near and dear to Wilt’s heart, and is near and dear for his family and the friends who followed his career,” Hunt said. “Everybody close to Wilt really appreciates everything Kansas meant to him. The ceremony is Dec. 5 in Philadelphia, and I think it’s going to be at a 76ers game, so it’s probably not a Kansas jersey [on the artwork], but we’ve never forgotten Kansas and Wilt’s never fogotten Kansas.”

Hunt’s “grassroots committee” included Chamberlain’s sisters, Barbara Chamberlain Lewis and Selina Gross, as well as former Overbrook High School teammates and other Philly basketball notables.

Hunt said the efforts to land Chamberlain on a commemorative stamp were ultimately about educating young Philadelphians and sports fans nationwide about the 7-foot-1 center’s remarkable career in both college and the NBA, as well as with the Harlem Globetrotters, but a welcome byproduct has been a renewal of friendships and acquaintances that Chamberlain made in his long journey.

“He is part of that whole Kansas basketball legacy,” Hunt said. “Dr. Naismith. [Coaching pioneer] John McLendon. Even [former KU and 76ers coach] Larry Brown knew Wilt, from his days in Los Angeles. So, yes, the main focus was about young fans learning about his legacy, his career, some of his accomplishments; but once I got into the campaign, I saw all the support we were getting from around the country and I realized that this also meant a lot to his colleagues and his family and friends. So that became an important part of it, too.”

Hunt encourages KU alumni and fans to join in a luncheon celebration he is planning for the afternoon of the stamps’ unveiling. Details will be announced here at kualumni.org when they are available.

—Chris Lazzarino

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It’s official: Chamberlain to be honored with commemorative stamps

Posted on Sep 23, 2014 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

After years of campaigning by his sister, Barbara Lewis, and Philadelphia Tribune sportswriter Donald Hunt and others in his beloved hometown, basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain on Dec. 5 will finally be honored with two commemorative U.S. Postal Service postage stamps.

Wilt Chamberlain | www.kualumni.orgAccording to Linn’s Stamp News, the Chamberlain stamps will be “extra tall and not a standard commemorative stamp size,” which is fitting for the 7-foot-1 superstar.

When Chamberlain, ’59, announced that he would attend KU, coach Phog Allen deadpanned, “Well, that’s good news. I hope he comes out for basketball.” Chamberlain completed his two-year varsity career with averages of 29.9 points and 18.9 rebounds per game, both easily the best in school history, and he scored his career high, 52 points, along with 31 rebounds, in his varsity debut. His 30.1 points per game in 1958 is also the highest in school history.

He was the first NBA player to win both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season, and in 1962 he scored 100 points in a single game.

Chamberlain returned to Allen Field House for the Jan. 17, 1998, retirement of his No. 13 jersey; during the moving ceremony, Chamberlain, who died the following year, told the packed house that his long absence from Mount Oread was due only to the continuing pain he felt from KU’s triple-overtime loss to North Carolina in the 1957 NCAA championship game.

“It was a devastating thing to me,” he said, “because I thought I let the University of Kansas down.”

In announcing the Chamberlain stamps, U.S. Postal Service stamp services director Susan McGowan said the artwork will remain a secret until its Dec. 5 unveiling in Philadelphia. She teased stamp collectors with a mystery about which jersey Chamberlain will wear on the stamps, but indicated it will be one of his NBA teams: the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers or Los Angeles Lakers.

She did not mention a Kansas jersey as a possibility, although Jayhawks will no doubt hold out hope for an upset.

—Chris Lazzarino

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Wilt’s postage-stamp recognition looks to be nearing reality

Posted on May 14, 2013 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Wilt Chamberlain | www.kualumni.orgIt appears that five years of lobbying the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee has finally reached fruition. Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, ’59, is tentatively scheduled to appear on a U.S. Postage Stamp in February 2014–according to the authoritative Linn’s Stamp News, as reported by Donald Hunt, the Philadelphia Tribune sports columnist who in 2008 launched the campaign to honor Philly’s hometown hero with a U.S. stamp designed with his image.

Hunt had high hopes two years ago that the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee would forward Chamberlain’s name to the U.S. Postal Service to commemorate the 50th-anniversary his 100-point game of March 1962. Despite that disappointment, Hunt kept up his grassroots campaign–as occasionally updated over the years in Kansas Alumni magazine, through which Hunt sought support of KU alumni–and on Monday Hunt announced in his column that Linn’s Stamp News had obtained minutes of the Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 committee meeting at which Chamberlain, author Ralph Ellison, singers James Brown and Sarah Vaughn, The Beatles, actress Elizabeth Taylor, Apple’s Steve Jobs and others were reportedly forwarded to the U.S. Postal Service for consideration.

“I thought it would be great if they selected Wilt for the 50th anniversary, but we never lost faith, never lost hope,” Hunt said Tuesday. “Wilt is really deserving of this honor, for a lot of reasons. He of course had a great basketball legacy, and the University of Kansas is a big part of that.”

As reported by Hunt, a spokesman emphasized that no decisions were final until approved by the postmaster general and announced by the U.S. Postal Service. Hunt’s column can be read here.

–Chris Lazzarino

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56 years ago today: KU vs. UNC

Posted on Mar 23, 2013 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Our friends at KUhistory.com posted this notable tidbit worth sharing today: On March 23, 1957, the Wilt Chamberlain-led Jayhawks took on the Tar Heels in one of the most epic NCAA National Championship games ever played. The game took three overtimes to be decided, and it remains the only NCAA title decided in triple-OT. Many regard it as one of the greatest championship games ever played. Despite the deep connections between the two storied basketball programs, the schools have only met 10 times, with KU leading the series 6-4. They tip off Sunday at 4:15 p.m. CT.

Learn more about the KU History project at KUhistory.com.

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