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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

KU Alumni Association boosts Sunflower State coverage

August 11, 2007

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Kevin Corbett thinks this will finally be the year.

Since becoming president and CEO of the Kansas University Alumni Association in 2004, Corbett has wanted to have each county in the state of Kansas served by a chapter of the association.

"We will have that done by the end of the year," he said.

It's part of an effort under way to step up Alumni Association activities in Kansas.

Corbett said in the four years before he arrived, 11 percent of the 700 events scheduled were outside Kansas.

"It was a major problem," Corbett said. "Most of our graduates live in Kansas."

That's been a major focus for the Alumni Association crew in the past few years. Now, there are 21 chapters covering 89 counties - and soon to be more.

One county still not covered by the Alumni Association is Douglas, home to the university.

"People do that as a habit in this city," Corbett said of Lawrence. "We had to start in places that were most starved for KU, and that was western Kansas."

Mobilizing alumni, Corbett said, helped convince Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to include money for university maintenance in this year's budget. The Alumni Association had members call the governor's office requesting action on the backlog of repairs.

"We hit it hard," Corbett said, "and it made a difference."

It's that sort of advocacy - along with student recruitment, social and career networking - that the association strives to accomplish.

"You don't need a strong Alumni Association to have basketball parties," Corbett said. "I really believe having a strong alumni association is the single most comprehensive way to make KU better."

The association celebrated several accomplishments in the past year:

¢ It recognized the 100,000th student in the Kansas Honors Program, which recognizes top students who are graduating from high schools in Kansas.

¢ It raised nearly $30,000 for relief efforts following the Greensburg tornado.

¢ Published "The Three Little Jayhawks," a book by legendary football coach Don Fambrough.

¢ Led Homecoming activities for the first year.

¢ Constructed a new sign to give further visibility to the Adams Alumni Center.

Corbett said the 190,000-member Alumni Association is trying engage students more while they're at KU so they can appreciate the university tradition and become faithful alumni down the road.

"KU's special that way," he said. "It has the campus beauty. We need to infuse that tradition at KU, so when they graduate, we'll see an increase in membership."

That may mean a need to expand the Alumni Center to add a student alumni area, where students can study and meet. The Student Alumni Association has about 1,200 members.

"They're the future," Corbett said, "and we don't have any space for them."

That need for further expansion also is important because the association, in the past year, again opened the Adams Alumni Center to outside events, such as wedding receptions.

Corbett said plans for the upcoming years will have one focus.

"We exist," he said, "to strengthen KU."

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