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Archive for Thursday, February 8, 1996

FORMER KU SPORTS STAR COMES HOME ON PAROLE

February 8, 1996

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A well-known KU alum returns to Lawrence after completing a federal prison sentence.

Kansas University Athletic Hall of Fame member James Hershberger is living in Lawrence following parole from the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth.

The former Wichita millionaire oilman and philanthropist, who served five years and three months at the prison's minimum-security camp on business fraud convictions, said in an interview Wednesday that he was enjoying freedom.

"I've learned to savor every minute of it," Hershberger said.

Hershberger, 64, was a nationally ranked track athlete at Kansas University in the early 1950s. He was inducted into KU's Hall of Fame in 1987. He's also been a big benefactor of KU athletics; the artificial track in Memorial Stadium was named for him in 1969.

In October, Hershberger was released from prison to a halfway house in the Kansas City area. He recently moved to Lawrence where his wife, Sally, has worked for more than two years.

Hershberger must wear a monitoring device for two months. He'll also serve three years of probation.

For now, he works at the Alvamar professional building, 1611 St. Andrews Dr.

Hershberger said he had been overwhelmed by support of people who remained loyal to him since his indictment in October 1989.

"You know you have friends, but I never knew they were this great," he said.

He said an important objective was to avoid viewing with bitterness events that led to collapse of his oil company, Petroleum Energy Inc., and his incarceration in federal prison for 1,940 days.

"You can't look back," Hershberger said. "Anybody who looks back wastes energy. I'd like to think I'm Christian enough to forgive people."

He was convicted of defrauding investors and financial institutions in February 1990 after a trial in U.S. District Court in Topeka. He was sentenced in May 1990 to nine years and nine months in prison.

Hershberger, whose lawyer continues to work on appeals, said there were lessons to be learned from adversity. He now appreciates that life isn't always equitable.

"Do you know what fair is?" he said. "Fair is where you buy a pig. Life isn't fair."

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