Del Shankel returns to Strong Hall to be acting chancellor during KU's year of transition.
For the second time, the acting Kansas University chancellor -- sort of an academic pinch hitter -- is microbiology professor Del Shankel.
"It's deja vu all over again," said Shankel, quoting infamous major league baseball philosopher Yogi Berra.
Shankel was tapped in June to serve as chancellor in the 1994-95 academic year. He also was acting chancellor in 1980-81.
He'll remain on the job until the replacement for former Chancellor Gene Budig starts work, perhaps in July 1995.
Shankel, 67, said he's not interested in being Budig's permanent successor. He plans to retire in two years.
"They don't want a chancellor who is going to be a chancellor for two years. That makes it clear that I won't be a candidate," he said.
Shankel, a KU faculty member since 1959, might consider a second career in acting, given the number of times he's held interim appointments at KU.
He's been acting chancellor, acting executive vice chancellor, acting vice chancellor for academic affairs, acting dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and acting chairman of the microbiology department.
Shankel said his second stint in the chancellor's job in Strong Hall won't be anything like his first.
"The university is in a much healthier position than when I served in it earlier. I come into the situation better prepared than before," he said.
He said the university was in good shape when Budig departed KU this summer after 13 years to become president of professional baseball's American League.
"The KU Medical Center is relatively healthy, compared to how it was when he arrived. The Lawrence campus had a good year with the Legislature," Shankel said.
"I'm very comfortable working with the administrative structure that Gene has in place. I've very comfortable with the people who are occupying all the major positions in the university."
Shankel doesn't think he was given the job to be an agent of change. He's more of a caretaker chancellor.
"There are a few little things I might like to change, but no major policy changes and no major personnel changes," he said.
Shankel said that one major initiative at KU this year would be an effort to improve students' undergraduate experience.
"People here get a very good undergraduate education," he said. "We could do a somewhat better job in general education courses that we want all students to take."
That could be accomplished by enhancing classroom teaching facilities, he said. In addition, he said, faculty need to accept that teaching remains equally important as research and service to the university.
Shankel said KU would improve course offerings at the Regents Center in Overland Park, which offers night classes to non-traditional students.
"It's clear to me and everyone that much of our future depends on how well we can relate to Johnson County, Wyandotte County and the greater Kansas City area," he said.
Two accreditation visits will occupy Shankel this fall semester. A 12-member academic accreditation team will visit campus in October.
"They will review our self-study," he said. "They'll talk with faculty and students. I don't anticipate any difficulty. I think we're doing a lot of things right."
In November, an NCAA certification team will be at KU to analyze the athletic program. It will assess the financial integrity of the athletic operation, action on gender equity, commitment to rules compliance and the strength of student-athlete academic programs.
"Our athletic program ... is being run with integrity. I don't really spend much time worrying about athletics as I know many presidents and chancellors do," Shankel said.
Another item on Shankel's agenda is the university's ability to enroll academically talented students, especially minority students.
"The world has become much more competitive for that type of student," he said. "That's an area where we're going to have to intensify our efforts."