Succeeding chancellors remember Raymond Nichols as a trusted adviser who helped restore KU's image in the turbulent 1970s.
Friends and colleagues of former Kansas University Chancellor Raymond Nichols took time Wednesday to remember and praise the man who came to be known as "Mr. KU."
"His life was the University of Kansas," said Gene Budig, president of baseball's American League and KU chancellor from 1981 to 1994.
Nichols, whose involvement with KU spanned more than 70 years, died Tuesday. He was 95.
Born on a western Kansas farm, he was the eldest son of a pioneer family. He attended KU from 1922-1928, earning bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism.
He was executive secretary of the university from 1929-1938 before leaving to pursue journalism.
He worked as managing editor of the Larned Tiller and Toiler and as a reporter and editorial writer for the Kansas City Kansan before returning to KU in 1962 as vice chancellor of finance.
Del Shankel, a chancellor emeritus at KU, remembered how Nichols restored calm to the university when he was named acting chancellor for the 1972-73 school year in the wake of anti-war demonstrations on campus.
One protest led to the burning of the Kansas Union in April 1970. A month later, KU gave students the option of skipping finals without sacrificing the grades they had earned up to that time.
Shankel recalled how the incidents damaged the university's image, especially among middle-class parents paying to send their children to KU.
"Feelings were running pretty high," Shankel recalled. "When (then-chancellor) Larry Chalmers resigned in early '72, I thought the selection of Raymond as chancellor ... did a lot to calm the university down and restore its image around the state."
After retiring in 1973, Nichols was named the first chancellor emeritus at KU.
"I consulted with him often," said former Chancellor Archie Dykes, who succeeded Nichols and served until 1980. "He knew the history of the university as well as anyone I have met. He was a person of extraordinary insight and a person who knew not only the history of the university, but the history of state support and how the university had become the kind of place that it is."
Current KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said, "His death is a great loss for the university and for me, personally. When I was named chancellor, Raymond took time to explain the university's history and traditions in a way that I will never forget."
"I met him on my first visit to campus," Budig said. "He was what I thought he'd be ... a gentleman who thoroughly understood the University of Kansas."
Budig remembers another something else about Nichols: his devotion to KU basketball.
It is said Nichols missed only one of the first 150 games played at KU's Allen Fieldhouse. When he retired in 1973 he was named an honorary letterman.
"I cannot remember him missing a game in 13 years," Budig said. "That was an important part of him."
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