Distinguished Service Citation
Whether by writing or healing, two Kansas University alumni decided early to dedicate their lives to helping understand and serve others.
At Friday's All-University Supper, Roger Youmans, who earned a bachelor's degree from KU in 1955 and a medical degree in 1958, and Eric Sundquist, a 1974 graduate with a bachelor's degree in English, who is a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, were given the Distinguished Service Citation.
"I'm thrilled," Sundquist said. "I was shocked when I found out about it, but I couldn't be more pleased. It's great to be recognized by one's alma mater, and I have great memories of KU."
Since graduation, Sundquist has become a nationally renowned scholar for his work in American literature and culture. He has focused on race and ethnicity in American culture. Chancellor Robert Hemenway, who introduced the honorees at the dinner, said it was a special privilege to meet and honor Sundquist because they share similar scholarly fields. Sundquist said his career interest began in his classes at KU.
"I had a number of faculty professors who steered me in that direction and made me appreciate the fact that American literature was more than just a single tradition," he said.
Sundquist has written nine books and his latest work is on the relationship between African-Americans and Jewish-Americans in literature.
Youmans said that as a child he had recurring dreams that he would become a medical missionary, and made it a reality. Youmans, a Kansas City, Kan., native, spent 10 years of his medical career in Africa working at different hospitals. During a six-month leave of absence from his residency at KU Medical Center, Youmans took his wife and two young daughters with him.
Joy Bechtler, Youman's daughter who lives in Princeton, N.J., said she admired her father's integrity and commitment to his beliefs in helping others.
The award was created in 1941 and is the highest humanitarian honor KU and the Alumni Association bestows, said Jennifer Sanner, senior vice president of communications for the KU Alumni Association.
"The world is a richer place because of these two Jayhawks," Hemenway said. "We take pride in their accomplishments, and we thank them for the inspiration they provide to all Jayhawks brave enough to accept the human consequences of a life of devotion to others."