October 29, 2014
From the Provost’s Desk: Homecoming
What a wonderful Homecoming our university enjoyed last week. The weekend alone was full to overlapping in opportunities, as it should be. I engaged in all of the activities that could be crowded onto my calendar and there truly was something for everyone. I personally got to have breakfast at the president's home with the geology advisory group; enjoyed a wonderful seminar by John Pluske, our Fulbright scholar on swine production in Australia; met with our Fulbright Commission visitors, Tangerine Holt and Mary Kelly; saw many alumni at the 1863 reception; attended the Celebration of Leadership at the Staley School of Leadership Studies; visited with K-Staters in Cat Town before the game; and enjoyed a great victory over Texas.
Saturday evening my feet were elevated. How do provosts relax after a big Homecoming? I have no idea what others do, but I watched part of "Long Way Round," the documentary of Ewan McGregor's motorcycle trip around the world.
All the events put me in a reflective mood about how do alumni stay in contact with their university after they graduate. How do we stay in contact with alumni after they leave Kansas State University? How can we help alumni continue to feel connected to their alma mater? I will forever remember my 25th — I'm long past that now — class reunion at a Homecoming at my small liberal arts alma mater, when a student told my classmates and me that the opening ceremonies would be in the such and such building. The three of us looked at each other and instantly knew the definition of old — none of us knew where the such and such building was. It had not existed when we were in school!
Imagine the Homecoming attendees at last week's events. I was fortunate to have dinner with Dr. Wayne Freeman Thursday night. He is a 1938 graduate of agronomy. Wayne was here from Tennessee for a Staley School of Leadership Studies advisory meeting. He also will be our Graduate School commencement speaker — note, he already has his speech done. He visited with Dean John Floros and discussed the recent USAID Feed the Future Innovation labs established here, and attended the Fulbright Scholar lecture. K-State just celebrated its sesquicentennial. In 1938 when Wayne graduated, the university was not even 100 years old.
I also spent a good deal of time talking with Dr. Russell Hardin from Lebanon, Indiana. Dr. Hardin was featured on the field at the football game as our honored alumnus. I introduced myself by saying there were not very many people at the game who had spent a good deal of time in Lebanon, Indiana. It turns out I know his brother Lowell Hardin, a revered agricultural economist emeritus from Purdue University. Wayne and Russell cannot begin to recognize Kansas State University today, and yet they are connected in a way that is truly amazing. Hardin and his son were staying on a few days to visit Fort Riley, where Russell served, and see more of the area.
Our alumni are engaged in so many ways that keep them connected to the university and the wonderful students of today. I got to hear how the Holen Leader in Residence, Mary Jo Myers, enjoyed her three days interacting with students in the Staley School of Leadership Studies. I am not sure who benefited more — the students who told of their experience or Mary Jo who was wispy eyed as she described hers. There were advisory committee meetings going on all over campus — business, arts and sciences, geology, and many, many more. Alumni were engaging in the university today because of the positive experience they had when they were here, five, 10, 25, 50 or in Wayne Freeman's case, 76 years ago.
I received two email notes from former students last week. One from a student at Colorado State University who served on my Dean's Advisory Council and the other from our work study student of last year describing her first months at Cerner. We stay in touch with our students as much as we can. We never know the effect their time here may have had on them. That is the beauty of education.
Homecoming is a celebration of that time at Kansas State, that effect, that educational experience. It was a great week to celebrate our rich past, acquaint those visiting with our present, and anticipate with many, the future. Today's students will return years from now and ask directions to the building they don't know. Homecoming is a great tradition, and my feet say they are glad it is just once a year!
Thank you for all you did to make Homecoming wonderful.
Provost and senior vice president