To achieve his goals as president of the Kansas University Alumni Association, Glee Smith will be calling on some KU friends all 200,000 of them.
Smith, who became president July 1 after Jack Robinson's term ended, said involving the alumni, former students and friends of the university in fund-raising efforts would be the primary objective during his one-year term.
"Our principal goal is to increase the activity and the funding of the alumni association and, through the alumni association, the university," he said. "We have a very large operation. In terms of operational budget, we're the fourth largest in the United States in all-volunteer alumni associations."
WITH AN annual operating budget of $3.5 million, more than 45,000 dues-paying members as well as records on 200,000 alumni, former students and friends, KU ranks behind only Indiana, Penn State and Texas A&M in the size of its alumni association.
These numbers are crucial to serving the university, said Smith, who is the senior vice president of the Larned law firm of Smith, Burnett and Larson.
"Through the years, the alumni association has been very active trying to get increased funding for the university from the Legislature and the governor," he said. "The need is much more drastic now than it has been recently because we didn't get the third year of the Margin of Excellence last year, and we didn't get it this year. Not only that, we got a reduction in our overall request, let alone not getting the Margin.
"SO I THINK one of our primary objectives needs to be doing everything possible to get the governor and the Legislature to be responsive to the tremendous needs of the university."
The Margin of Excellence was a three-year plan to increase state funding to all regents universities with the goal of improving facilities, programs and salaries. He said KU has done "a great job" with its Campaign Kansas fund-raising efforts, but noted that the Campaign Kansas funds aren't expected to take care of basic university functions.
"For basic operations, we need to get a great increase in the kind of state funding we get," he said.
One way Smith intends to lobby the Legislature on behalf of KU is through the association's Development Committee, which has members throughout Kansas.
"Their principal function is to contact legislators and governmental officials and make them aware of our needs," he said. "It's an effort that's been ongoing for many years, and I think the effort needs to be intensified."
SMITH SAID he was encouraged not only by the numbers, but with the quality of support he sees coming from KU alumni.
"I think we have one of the strongest one of the most loyal followings," he said. "I talk to a lot of people about their schools, and everybody loves their school. But I think there's an intensity about the Jayhawk loyalty that surpasses most all the rest."
Another goal Smith has established is to increase fund-raising for the alumni association itself.
"We're in need of creating a larger endowment for the alumni association for the operation of our very fine facility on the campus and for all the other functions the alumni association operates, such as the contacts with the 200,000 alumni and friends," he said.
By attending more alumni chapter meetings throughout the United States, Smith will extend the personal touch on contacts.
"IT'S GOOD to show your presence at these various cities," he said.
These contacts, Smith said, "give us an opportunity to do a lot toward making people aware of the needs of the university."
He also said he was pleased to have an excellent staff working on fund-raising but noted, "we need tremendous additional effort from the alumni themselves."
Smith's interest in supporting higher education dates back to his 16 years in the Kansas Senate, where he was chairman of the subcommittee on finance for university and college budgets from 1957 to 1973. He also spent eight years on the Kansas Board of Regents from 1975 to 1983, serving as finance committee chairman.
"So for those 24 years, I've worked very closely with funding for the university," he said.
Smith also worked on the boards of both the alumni and endowment associations.
"I HAVE developed a good familiarity with the funding needs, budgeting and revenue opportunities," he said.
Smith's affiliation with the university goes back almost 50 years. He graduated from KU in 1943 and earned a law degree in 1947. Smith is a life member of the KU Law Society and received the Distinguished Service Citation, the highest honor given by the university and association for service to humanity, and the alumni association's Fred Ellsworth Medallion for service to KU, among his many honors.
Given his background, Smith agreed that the alumni association presidency had brought him full circle in working with and for the university.
"It's something I aspired to do for many, many years," he said. "I'm glad I'm finally in a position to have the opportunity to serve as president. It is a thrill . . . and a great sense of fulfillment."