Archive for Sunday, July 4, 1999


July 4, 1999


With three full academic years now under his belt as chancellor of Kansas University, Robert Hemenway reflects on goals achieved and looks forward to the next century.

Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway sat in one of several chairs at the conference table in his Strong Hall office and began to talk about his life as both teacher and student.

Hemenway, who is known throughout the state as "the chancellor who teaches," likes the idea of being a sort-of senior at KU. He did, after all, just finish his third full year at KU. And he hopes to complete his fourth year as strongly as he started his freshman campaign.

"I've certainly learned a lot and have come to respect even more the quality of the University of Kansas," Hemenway said. "We have such great people here."

But the metaphor can only be taken so far.

"I hope that doesn't mean that I'm going to graduate and be kicked out of here," Hemenway said.

As for his teaching, Hemenway, who led a freshman symposium at 7:30 a.m. last spring, plans to teach this academic year on American Literature from the Civil War to present.

Outside the classroom, much has been accomplished. But plenty of work remains.

'Eliminating bureaucracy'

Upon his arrival at KU from the University of Kentucky in 1995, Hemenway had several administrative goals.

First and foremost, he took the initiative to reorganize both the Lawrence campus and the KU Medical Center campus, the first such restructuring in two decades.

He did so in Lawrence by, among other things, eliminating the executive vice chancellor system and replacing it with a system revolving around a provost. David Shulenburger, formerly executive vice chancellor, was named to the post.

"We took out that whole layer of bureaucracy," Hemenway said.

The reorganization led to longtime staff departures and some new arrivals. In addition, Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett was chosen as associate provost for academic services, and eventually Theresa Klinkenberg was promoted to director of administration.

"It's very important to have women involved at the policy level," Hemenway said.

The next target was the reorganization of

See Under Hemenway, page 15A

KU's research infrastructure, in part to increase the amount of external research funding. That began with the establishment of the new Center For Research Inc. (CRINC), which had served previously as a research center solely for the KU school of engineering but was broadened to serve the entire campus.

Lawrence native Bob Barnhill was hired from the University of Arizona as the new vice chancellor for research and public service, as well as president and chief operating officer of the nonprofit research foundation.

This year, CRINC is consolidating its three campus locations into Youngberg Hall, which the KU Endowment Association vacated this spring to move into its new West Campus location.

The Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan., had a "different set of problems," Hemenway said, and a "confused sense of organization."

"Even before I got here the medical center was faced with the crisis of its heart transplant program," Hemenway said.

Improvements in responsiveness and in clarity of responsibilities began with the hiring of Donald Hagen, executive vice chancellor of the medical center, Irene Cumming, chief executive officer of the hospital, and Deborah Powell, executive dean of the school of medicine.

"We basically have a whole new management team at the medical center, and I think they're doing a really good job," Hemenway said.

With the help of the new team, the medical center agreed to collective terms with its bevy of physicians.

The final step in alleviating the organizational confusion was put in place this year when the Legislature approved KUMC's plan to establish a 14-member public authority to operate the university hospital outside the confines of state control.

The purpose of privatization: "So the hospital could function as a private business but support the mission of the medical center," Hemenway said.

Changes in employment structures at both KU and KUMC, including the elimination of 200 positions, have netted about $1 million.

Hemenway added the university is still in a modified hiring freeze, which began three years ago as a method of fine-tuning the administration and investing saved funds into campus technology improvements.

Preserving beauty

Also in Hemenway's first three years, KU finalized a physical master plan for beyond the turn of the century linked to, as Hemenway told the faculty at last fall's convocation, "preserving the beauty of Mount Oread" and ensuring that facilities continue to show respect for learning.

That respect can be demonstrated with the $150 million in capital projects planned for campus, and the $44 million in state "Crumbling Classroom" funds for renovations to aging laboratories and lecture halls, and the complete overhaul of Joseph R. Pearson dormitory for use by the school of education.

In addition, $6 million in private and public funds were secured for construction of the Robert Dole Institute for Public Service and Public Policy.

Other general improvements to the Lawrence campus include the establishment of campus recycling programs, a $32 million athletics facilities renovation plan, and completion of the parking plan to add 2,000 spots on campus -- 1,000 of which will be part of the $10 million parking garage to be built next year north of the Kansas Union.

The plan was implemented through memos and other hands-on methods, so that opinions from across campus could be culled and incorporated into the strategy.

"We found out that people didn't like gated lots, even though there was an argument that that should be done," Hemenway said. "You lose credibility if you ask people for their input then you don't respond."

Strengthening academics

Academically, Hemenway said he wanted to raise KU's number of National Merit Scholars to 100 by the year 2000. The campus has gone from 45 to 90 in just three years.

As for faculty, 35 people this year took part in the second Wheat State Whirlwind tour, a six-day bus tour and crash course in the history and people of Kansas.

KU is also in its second year of the Kemper Fellowship program, wherein selected faculty members are surprised at the beginning of the year with checks for $5,000.

"We are doing better as a university to focus on students," Hemenway said. "We're basically putting our money where our mouth is."

And, through its exclusive beverage deal with Coke, KU will be providing $150,000 in scholarships for children and dependents of KU employees.

"I think that's a good sign that we're making KU a better place to work," he said.

Hemenway is also looking forward to the implementation of the campus plan Initiative 2001, and improved collaboration between all of KU's campuses, including the Regents Center in Overland Park. He noted a host of other characteristics that define a great university, but said it can't stop there.

"What are we going to do on top of those to get ready for the 21st century?" Hemenway said.

Oh, and don't expect him to leave anytime soon.

Hemenway, who spent 20 years at the University of Kentucky, the last six as chancellor, said his plan was to work as chancellor for a decade or so, then "get promoted back to the faculty."

Every month, he opens a letter asking him to interview for a president's position at another university.

"I just say to all of them that I'm happy at Kansas," he said.

-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is

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