Archive for Sunday, February 16, 1997

PICKETT LINE

February 16, 1997

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The best moment on a William Allen White Day that was distinguished by the appearance of the splendid journalist David Broder came when Dean Mike Kautsch announced that trustees of the White Foundation were honoring Dana Leibengood for his years of service to the school of journalism named for the great editor from Emporia.

Everybody in the dining room arose to applaud Dana. Everybody should have been applauding. Few people in the history of the school where I taught have made contributions on the level of those made by Dana.

Dana Leibengood is a Lawrence boy, and this boy will retire from the university this year. I guess I say "boy" because he was one of my students more than 40 years ago, and I think of my students as boys and girls, not grandpas and grandmas -- and Dana is a grandpa.

He came from a Lawrence family that has roots going back into territorial days. One of the term papers he wrote for me had something to do with Lawrence newspapers and Bleeding Kansas and probably old Quantrill. Dana has old flower sacks in frames, and I'll bet a good many museums would like to have them.

Dana and I first met, when? -- probably in 1952 or '53. I didn't get out the old roll books, but I think he took Reporting II, Editing, and Editorial Writing from me. A decade later he was one of our graduate students, doing his thesis under my direction, and he took several more classes then. And he was on the University Daily Kansan when I was adviser.

He was a Kansan editor, and he undoubtedly wrote a lot of sports stories. Sports was, and is, one of his passions. He knew the names of all of the baseball greats, and one year we got an old baseball and inscribed it with the name of Elmer Flick (I think it was Elmer Flick) and gave it as the Flick-Leibengood award at a school dinner.

He is one of those folks who plays computer baseball Monday nights. We rode to basketball games with the Leibengoods for a few years, and Dana didn't take KU defeats lightly. He has grown more philosophical. Once I said to him, "Dana, it's only a ball game." "Whadda ya mean, only?" he growled.

We've spent many hours together, some trips, and the foundation singled out Dana's work advising students. He must be one of the best advisers in the history of KU. I sat with him at the advising table, and when I encountered a student who had never read the catalog or one who asked questions like "What's biology?" I'd throw down my pen and say "Read the schedule of courses and then come back." Dana would always help the students, patiently going through things with them.

He also got them jobs. He'd talk with editors, advertising people, radio-TV executives. That whole generation that has come along in the Leibengood years owes a lot to him, and the faculty owes a lot, too.

He graduated in 1955, and he worked, I believe, on the Journal-World, and he was in real estate. We contacted him when our house on Emerald Drive got cramped, and he handled arrangements for our house on Lawrence Avenue. I think back to that quiet little street we drove along as I hear the pounding of cars on what has become a Daytona speedway.

Dana Leibengood came into the School of Journalism when Warren Agee was dean, and he began those many years of service. He was in the dean's office, and he was advising, and running all over the state doing things. He used to talk to my Reporting I class about how you should "watch" a basketball game. That was his idea, because you should know what you're looking at before you try to write about it.

Dana has a lovely wife, and he has four children to be proud of. I imagine he'll be doing a lot of work around the house and around the yard after he retires. He has earned his retirement, and the School of Journalism will be hurting after he leaves this summer. He has been a jewel, and he's one of the people of Lawrence I like best.

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