It was good to learn that some at the Kansas University Alumni Association are studying the possibility of reopening the Learned Club in the Adams Alumni Center. The Learned Club was a great asset for the association as well as for the university.
Under the direction of Kevin Carroll, the club served as an attractive front door for the university and provided a superior facility for lunch and dinner. It was an ideal location to meet and visit with university faculty and administrators and for non-university people interested in KU and its affairs to gather. When the club opened, there were membership requirements and use of the facility was limited to those who had some university affiliation. It wasn't a public restaurant.
Later, the club was opened to the general public and, due to a combination of factors, was forced to close. This was a loss for the university and for Lawrence.
Many KU alumni and friends continue to wonder whether it was necessary to close the club and whether more imaginative thinking and vision could have been used to keep the dining operation open.
Some KU faculty members wanted the facility to be strictly a "faculty club," and when the Adams Center building was being planned, there were KU faculty members who wanted the building to be one story taller to accommodate a faculty-only facility. The only trouble was that the faculty were unwilling or unable to provide the funding necessary to build and operate such a facility.
Now that some are talking about the possibility of reopening the Learned Club, there are bound to be some on the campus who want to use the space as a faculty club. This would be a mistake. The club should be operated as originally planned, while adhering to state and federal rules and regulations.
The club was not established to compete with Lawrence restaurants but to enhance the university. It was to be used by faculty members, school administrators and individuals not directly associated with the university but who were engaged in university programs or activities who wished to meet and visit with university representatives - or vice versa.
It was a well-operated club and was so successful that representatives from many other university alumni associations visited the facility to learn about its operation and see whether they could establish a similar facility at their schools. Dress codes were enforced, and those who used the facility were expected to behave in a proper manner.
As noted above, policies and rules were bent or abandoned, eventually leading to the club being closed.
It is hoped Alumni Association officials will give serious study to reopening the Learned Club. It would be a great addition to the university and to Lawrence and would add to the many services of an alumni association that already is one of the finest in the nation.