New Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little used her own story of going through college to highlight the importance of private giving to KU Friday.
In a speech at a luncheon for the Women Philanthropists of KU, Gray-Little said their support was important for the university, particularly during a time of dwindling state support.
“Together we can make KU the place that we want it to be,” Gray-Little said.
When she was growing up in Washington, N.C., she confronted racism and sexism, she said, but she listened to her parents, who told her not to let others set limits on her expectations.
Gray-Little attended Marywood College in Scranton, Pa., to get her undergraduate degree.
“It was there that I gained a sense of the importance of philanthropy,” she said. “Loans and scholarships were the way that I was able to go to college.”
She fielded questions from the audience, and was asked about her priorities for KU, how to engage younger donors and about any advice “about life” that she could give to younger women.
“Wow,” Gray-Little said, in response to the last question, before suggesting that women should not feel constrained by necessities to live a conventional life and should do what they believe in.
She said she has learned a lot about Kansas and the various KU campuses in her first five weeks as chancellor, which have included trips to Hutchinson, southwest Kansas and Pittsburg — “Without the ‘H’,” Gray-Little said.
She said she planned to continue to focus on her three main priorities for the university in the coming year, including increasing fundraising efforts, raising undergraduate graduation rates and improving research opportunities.