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Archive for Sunday, August 15, 1999

KU GRAD RETURNS HOME AS ADVISER

August 15, 1999

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The senior adviser to Chancellor Robert Hemenway is familiar with challenges -- from his work at the U.S. Department of Justice to taking on a new job no one had ever done at Kansas University.

Reggie Robinson loved working for the U.S. Department of Justice.

The jobs he juggled in the nation's capital -- working with Atty. Gen. Janet Reno -- provided him with challenges he says he delighted in meeting.

But when a job as counselor to the chancellor at Kansas University came open last fall, Robinson figured taking on a position no one else had held before presented a challenge of its own.

The KU law graduate is essentially a senior adviser to the university's top leader. Among his areas of focus are external relations and alumni issues.

"It's interesting to be in a new position," Robinson said. "It's one of the positive challenges where if you have the right boss, you have the opportunity to carve out a set of responsibilities that meets the needs you've identified for the institution.

"Bob (Hemenway) is a good person to be in that kind of role with."

Challenges are nothing new to Robinson, a White House Fellow from 1993 to 1994 who was scheduled to work in the Justice Department for only a year. The fellowships, offered since 1965, are touted as the "nation's most prestigious fellowship for leadership development and public service."

Fellows spend a year serving the president as special assistants to members of the Cabinet and senior White House staff.

President Clinton in June appointed Robinson , a former law clerk for U.S. Appeals Court Judge Deanell Tacha, to the President's Commission on White House Fellowships.

Robinson now will help choose fellows. The commission's top task is to interview national finalists and make recommendations to Clinton.

Robinson's own one-year fellowship turned in to half a decade of work in Washington.

He worked as a special assistant to Reno during his year as a fellow, then became a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Justice Programs.

Serving in that role from fall 1994 to February 1997, he led Reno's effort to coordinate the Justice Department's involvement in community-based public safety initiatives.

He also focused on juvenile justice and youth violence issues.

In February 1997, Robinson became a deputy associate attorney general, where he worked with the Justice Department's third-ranking official on environmental and civil rights issues and justice programs. That work led Robinson to take over as acting director of the Office for Victims of Crime from December 1997 to July 1998.

Robinson described his years in Washington as "pretty hectic."

"I have a wife and two daughters who were 4 years and 4 months old when we moved to Washington," Robinson said. "I left about 7 to 7:30 every morning and wouldn't be back until 8 at night. I never made it home for dinner once during the week. The big challenge was wondering, am I going to be home for bedtime for the girls?

"I never did get bored with the work. The people were really fun. I really enjoyed working with the attorney general. She had a lot of faith in my ability to get things done. The cost to me was in terms of family."

Challenges are still a part of Robinson's life, but his schedule is a little more in control at KU.

As part of his role on campus, Robinson also returned to the classroom.

An associate professor of law from fall 1988 to summer 1993, Robinson now teaches as a visiting associate professor with a focus on civil rights.

From Lawrence, Robinson has kept an eye on national crises such as school shootings.

He worries about the country making policy decisions "based on the odd occurrence."

"They are a signal we should pay attention," he said. "We need to be thoughtful about how we react to them."

He hopes to see the country examine some of the underlying conditions that produce such tragedies.

"The systems didn't emerge overnight," Robinson said. "I hope we can advance some solutions that really do have some hope."

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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