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Archive for Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Former KU Chancellor Laurence Chalmers dies

November 25, 2009, 2:58 p.m. Updated November 25, 2009, 4:53 p.m.

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E. Laurence Chalmers, 1969-72: A psychologist, Chalmers was challenged to keep the peace in 1970 after an arsonist struck the student union and racial tension caused two deaths on campus. He averted a student strike by agreeing to grading options that allowed KU to complete the academic year. But the Board of Regents felt he was too permissive and tried to oust him. He resigned later to lead the Chicago Art Institute. He died Nov. 24, 2009.

E. Laurence Chalmers, 1969-72: A psychologist, Chalmers was challenged to keep the peace in 1970 after an arsonist struck the student union and racial tension caused two deaths on campus. He averted a student strike by agreeing to grading options that allowed KU to complete the academic year. But the Board of Regents felt he was too permissive and tried to oust him. He resigned later to lead the Chicago Art Institute. He died Nov. 24, 2009.

A former Kansas University chancellor who led the university during a brief but tumultuous time in the Vietnam War era has died.

E. Laurence Chalmers was 81 when he died Tuesday in Durango, Colo.

He was KU’s chancellor from 1969 to 1972. A psychologist, Chalmers was challenged to keep the peace in 1970 after an arsonist struck the student union.

He averted a student strike amid an uprising of dissent by agreeing to let students leave for the semester with the grade they had already earned.

The move endeared him to students, but rankled some faculty and administrators. Del Shankel, KU’s 15th chancellor and an associate dean during Chalmers’ tenure, recalled him giving a speech at Memorial Stadium before putting the matter to a vote among the students.

It passed easily, Shankel recalled.

“Some of the citizens of Kansas thought he was way too liberal and way too easy on the students,” said Del Shankel, who was serving as an associate dean during Chalmers’ time at KU. “He drew a lot of mixed reaction.”

He eventually resigned the chancellorship under pressure from the Kansas Board of Regents, and would go on to lead the Chicago Art Institute.

Robert Cobb, a former dean of arts and sciences and executive vice chancellor at KU, said that Chalmers’ actions, despite inciting mixed emotions among many, helped the school through a time of tumult.

“I think he diffused a lot of that,” Cobb said. “(Former KU Chancellor) Raymond Nichols used to say that the times attract the chancellor that they need.”

Despite the efforts of some since his departure, Chalmers has no building named after him on the KU campus.

“That’s unfortunate,” Shankel said. “I think he did a lot to keep the university alive and reasonably well at that time.”

Comments

penguin 4 years, 10 months ago

Can we finally name a building after him now? Every Administration since has fought these moves. I think that Gray-Little had some nice words, but can we back those word with actual honors now?

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Ralph Gage 4 years, 10 months ago

Those were the days. It was exciting to be a reporter covering KU then.

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Ken Lassman 4 years, 10 months ago

Chalmers was villified for calling off the end of the semester during the greatest turmoil the university has ever seen, when in actuality, he probably prevented a bloodbath that would have dwarfed Kent State. He's a hero who prevented a probable disaster and should be recognized as such. Maybe the university will gain enough wisdom to finally recognize his vision and humility and see him for one of the greatest chancellors under pressure that KU has ever had.

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grammaddy 4 years, 10 months ago

Ditto BorderRat. I think it would be appropriate to name some building after him. He worked very hard to keep peace at the university back then. My condolences to his family.

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Bill Lee 4 years, 10 months ago

I agree that he deserves to have a building named for him.

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oldexbeat 4 years, 10 months ago

For those of us at KU during Larry's time, we knew and still do, that he did avoid much larger problems happening. He was human, for sure -- but ended up in Chicago at the Art Institute, with a Gaugain on his office wall as I recall, and the highest academic salary in the country at the time. His life went on nicely -- The last time we talked, a few years ago when his second wife died, he said even a "Chalmers outhouse" would be fine. I think it is time. George, Dodge City

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myvotecounts 4 years, 9 months ago

As a kid growing up in Lawrence during those years, I remember Chalmers as a household name. Absolutely controversial. But from a kid's perspective, it was impossible to process all of the news and talk, and put it all in perspective. I fear we've now lost out on the part of the story he could tell. But, I do hope to read more here about him and those times at KU. A detailed feature story--or series--would be much appreciated.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for clueing us in on at least one reason he left Lawrence, Marion.

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Boston_Corbett 4 years, 9 months ago

Yea, Marion is always so accurate in his history, not.

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james bush 4 years, 9 months ago

Chalmers' reign: That's the time when liberals gained control of the universities after democratic President Lyndon B Johnson gave us the Great Society and sewed the seeds of socialism in this country.

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Joe Hyde 4 years, 9 months ago

Actually, jimincountry, by following the advice of our generals, primarily Gen. Westmorland, President Johnson's continuous increases in military commitment to Vietnam cost our nation the chance to see what the Great Society might have been. I personally think the Great Society goals would have transformed our nation to the better.

Vietnam was a national tragedy for us. And by the time KU Chancellor Chalmers accepted his post so many of our young soldiers had been killed in Vietnam that you could have frozen their corpses in the sitting position and filled every seat in Memorial Staduim with their bodies.

The Vietnam War protests and civil rights protests of that time were literally a life-or-death issue for young people, not just those here in Lawrence but for millions everywhere around the country. Chancellor Chalmers knew this and acted accordingly. His grasp of the situation, his attitude and actions are part of the "liberal" efforts many made to keep the peace. Believe it: He helped keep Lawrence from totally exploding into flames.

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guavablues 4 years, 9 months ago

I agree with the respectful posts. He was the right man at the right time.

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Boston_Corbett 4 years, 9 months ago

Marion, picking nits with some poor LJW cut-line writer who wasn't even born then.

Yes Marion. You correct one small detail in a cut-line. Wow.

But what about the Holocaust? Has your other "good friend" David Irving, infamous denier of the Holocaust, changed his tune?

Didn't think so.

Please tell us Marion, more of this history. You were the only one who experienced these times whom we can trust.

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Boston_Corbett 4 years, 9 months ago

Marion (Marion Lynn) says…Sent to Boston_Corbett via the LJW messaging system:

“I have reported your postings and your personal attacks to the LJW Online Editor and will continue to do so.


Marion, we only serve back to you in a tablespoon that which you serve us in buckets. You continually post your race baiting tripe on these boards, with an intent to provoke a response. Your statements about David Irving, and your fawning over him speaks volumes about your respect for history.

One who fawns over the scholarship of a key holocaust denier should be prepared for the credibility of his understanding of history to be viewed with an ad hominem patina.

Nothing I have said here is disrespectful of the late Chancellor, someone for whom I have significant respect and admiration.

Maybe you should clean up your own side of the street.

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pace 4 years, 9 months ago

Surprise, Marion is making this thread about Marion , how he is treated, how marion feels. Discuss it off thread. It is all about Marion, marion, marion, what a moronic whining self aggrandizing pose.
Chalmers led Ku at a perilous time and I think he took the charge of protecting the students as a personal responsibility. Many are hired, few lead. I don't think a building will be named after him as it rubs the craven where they hurt. They can't face their own cowardice. they can't forgive someone who wasn't a cardboard cutout.

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Flap Doodle 4 years, 9 months ago

mario

being

mario

,

which

has

not

gone

unnoticed

.

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postoakroad 4 years, 9 months ago

Why do they let this Marion idiot post?

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brujablanco 4 years, 9 months ago

Oh my lord, marion, shut up already.

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tbchalmers 4 years, 9 months ago

On behalf of all of my father's children, I would like to thank those who have given kind words. Our father was a wonderful person and we will miss him. -Tim Chalmers

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katherine 4 years, 9 months ago

Larry Chalmers was a devoted and dedicated member of the internationally recognized Durango (Colorado) Choral Society. He died at a Choral Society rehearsal after a sudden collapse, doing one of the things he loved most, singing with his Durango friends. He was surrounded by their loving presence in his final moments. As our conductor said, he led an extraordinary life of great distinction. He was well loved, well respected, and a man of great character. The Choral Society Christmas concert, December 6, will be dedicated in honor of his memory.

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