Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway told the Lawrence Noon Rotary Club on Monday that KU has changed for the better during his 14-year tenure as chancellor.
He cited record enrollments, $297 million in research expenditures last year and academic honors like the national debate championship and School of Journalism students earning top billing in this year’s Hearst competitions.
He acknowledged, however, a challenging future ahead as the university faces dwindling state revenues.
“The economy is a primary challenge, and it’s going to challenge us in all kinds of different ways,” Hemenway said.
Even though the state accounts for only 22 percent of the university’s funds, the economic crisis will make it difficult to face the many challenges on KU’s horizon, Hemenway said.
Hemenway has announced his intention to step down from the position of chancellor after June 30.
He cautioned that he didn’t want his remarks to sound like a swan song; he will remain on Mount Oread to teach and to write a book about intercollegiate athletics.
He told the audience of more than 100 Rotarians that the university atmosphere has changed in many other ways, too.
Students are demanding more now than they did 14 years ago, he said, as dorm rooms have given way to residential suites and KU’s Student Recreation Fitness Center features attractions like a climbing wall.
When he first enrolled at the University of Nebraska, Hemenway said he didn’t recall ever asking whether there were a climbing wall.
He remembered a news story upon his arrival in 1995 detailing how he used a computer and e-mail to help him at his job.
“It would only be a story now if I didn’t use a computer,” Hemenway said.
In fact, 14 years later, e-mail itself is becoming slightly obsolete among some students, he said, saying many prefer to use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to communicate.
He said he had faith in the committee appointed to find his successor, saying that “good universities make good hires.”
After that person comes aboard, Hemenway said, he would look on and would be the “strongest supporter I can be.”