Robert Hemenway praised alumni for their dedication in his first State of the University address.
After attending the rededication of a memorial to fallen soldiers in the afternoon, Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway delivered a reflective State of the University address to alumni Friday night.
He spoke of the constant interaction at any university between the past and the present, alluding not only to the students and faculty who died in World War II, but to the hundreds of alumni who had returned to Lawrence for Alumni Weekend -- former students now dedicated to the present and future of the university they attended.
"Universities never stand still," Hemenway told several hundred alumni at the annual All-University Supper in the Kansas Union. "They're dynamic, always changing. They're hard to pin down."
He compared that relationship to a figure from Roman mythology, Janus, the god of doorways and beginnings typically depicted with two bearded heads set back to back, as Hemenway described it, "one looking inward and one outward."
It was his first State of the University address since becoming KU's top executive in June 1995.
"I know that this has been the best year of my life," Hemenway said. "This is a wonderful university. I wake up every morning excited about going to work."
He cited favorable rankings in the past year from U.S. News and World Report: 17th best school of education, second best department of special education, 15th best primary care education at a medical school, ninth best journalism school, fourth best paleontology program, and so on.
"The university has a past to build on and a future to realize because it's a community of extraordinary people," Hemenway said. "It's a great honor for me to be here."
Also at the supper, the KU Alumni Association gave its highest award -- the Distinguished Service Citation -- to three KU alumni: U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Deanell Tacha of Lawrence, businessman Frank Becker of Lawrence and Dr. George Burket Jr. of Kingman, a retired KU medical school professor.
The association also gave awards for distinguished teaching to six faculty members.
"Great teaching makes a great university," Hemenway said.