Gary Green, a Kansas University football player, said he always noticed the “Women of Distinction” calendar when walking around campus.
It sparked an idea.
“I really liked what the Women of Distinction poster is doing. It’s recognizing women who are actually trying to do something positive in the community,” Green said. “I know there’s a lot of men in the community who were doing outstanding things, too.”
That thought inspired a visit to Kathy Rose-Mockry, program director of the Emily Taylor Women’s Resource Center at KU, which sponsored the Women of Distinction program.
Rose-Mockry loved the idea of a new men’s poster, and the idea for the upcoming “Men of Merit” program was born. Plans call for the poster to debut in April, and a committee will begin taking nominations in the coming days, Rose-Mockry said.
The new poster aims to recognize men on campus who are challenging traditional norms of masculinity.
“We put a tag on what masculinity is,” Green said. “And it’s completely wrong in some cases.”
Green, who began his KU football career as a running back before shifting to defense and special teams, said he would like to recognize men who are not afraid to stand out and be a leader among their peers. It’s a standard he said he tries to apply to his own life — he will graduate in May and plans to enter the seminary to be trained as a preacher.
He currently serves as an associate minister at the Ninth Street Missionary Baptist Church in Lawrence.
Rose-Mockry said the Women of Distinction program and the Men of Merit poster, while somewhat similar, will have different aims. The Women of Distinction calendar recognized women who were succeeding in roles where women have not been traditionally represented and aimed to raise awareness of women’s accomplishments.
The new men’s program aims to provide positive role models for young men and identify people who are bucking trends that show increasing numbers of men dropping out of school, Rose-Mockry said.
Ryan Campbell, an Olathe senior, is leading the project at the Emily Taylor Resource Center. He said a committee has been formed that will examine potential nominees. The committee includes representatives from students, faculty, staff and athletics, among other groups. Some members include football player Mike Rivera, student senator Michael Wade Smith and applied behavioral science professor Jan Sheldon.
No decisions have been made on what the poster would look like, and no set number of honorees has been determined, he said.
Campbell said he imagined the honorees could be a very diverse crowd, potentially ranging from someone who was the lone Republican voice in a KU organization to a transgendered student trying to get the word out on issues affecting his life.
The Women of Distinction calendar started in 2003 as a response to the Women of KU calendar, which displayed bikini-clad Jayhawks.