For freshmen at Kansas University, the road to graduation can seem like an insurmountable collection of obstacles. Yet every year at this time, thousands of KU seniors walk down the hill and into the real world.
"It truly is an annual mystery that always turns out well," Chancellor Robert Hemenway said Friday night during the 130th All-University Supper, which drew 400 alumni, faculty and staff. "The alumni that we honor tonight are living proof that the process works."
At the dinner, a commencement weekend tradition at KU, the Kansas Alumni Association bestowed four alumni with Distinguished Service Citations.
Among the honorees were Richard Davis of Leawood, founder of KC Masterpiece, who graduated from KU with a liberal arts degree in 1950 and a medical degree in 1954.
"Don't let Richard's gentle demeanor fool you," said alumni association Chairwoman Janet Martin McKinney. "He brews a mean barbecue sauce."
Also honored were Kenton Keith of Washington, D.C., a diplomat recently assigned to Pakistan and a 1961 KU graduate; Alan Mulally of Mercer Island, Wash., president of Boeing Commercial Airlines Group and a 1968 KU graduate; and Hortense "Tensie" Oldfather of Lawrence, who has been active in many Lawrence organizations and attended KU in 1964.
The university itself faced some turbulent moments this year but managed to come out OK, Hemenway said.
The school year had barely begun in September when a national crisis turned into an economic crisis for the nation, state and the university, he said.
"It was a hard year for those of us who work with the Legislature to find a future for higher education," Hemenway said.
The end result for KU, he said, will be a 2.5 percent to 3 percent cut in state funding. Although that's disappointing, he said, "I have to feel awfully good about the way people responded to the needs of the university."