Summer is the busiest time of year for Danny Lewis, director of alumni programming for the KU Alumni Association.
He oversees the association’s national and international chapters, almost 40, and during July and August he’ll attend at least one event at each of them.
“We’re hosting 120 events in 90 days,” he said. “Summertime for us is pretty crazy.”
Over a three-day span in July, he traveled to Sioux Falls, S.D.; Fargo, N.D.; Cincinnati; Tulsa, Okla.; Fayetteville, N.C.; Indianapolis; Oklahoma City and St. Louis.
Sometimes, though, his job doesn’t feel much like work. Especially when he’s required to attend cocktail parties on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a catamaran cruise off the coast of Tampa, Fla.; a winery tour in Northern California, a KU day on the beach in Los Angeles and scores of beer and wine tastings.
“I like to think I have the best job on campus,” he saud.
Lewis graduated from KU in 2004 with a degree in sports management. He played right tackle for the Jayhawks after transferring to KU in 2001. His final game was the 2003 Tangerine Bowl.
Lewis’ first job out of college was with the university’s Williams Fund, an annual-fee membership club with 4,200 members that raises more than $8 million each year for scholarships for student athletes.
When he heard of a position opening up with the Alumni Association, he applied, but he didn’t think he’d get it.
“I thought it would be an opportunity to hone my interview skills,” he said. “After talking with them for a while, I realized it was something I wanted to be part of.”
“He was a star athlete,” said Mike Davis, senior vice president for the alumni association. “A lot of alumni out there remember him playing. More importantly, Danny brings a true sense of how to make friends. His ability to build relationships and make friends has been phenomenal.”
Lewis started out as a coordinator of alumni programming. “I thought of myself as a utility infielder,” he said. “I helped out with a little bit of everything.”
He has since moved up to his leadership position.
“Danny has been with us for a while now, so he’s grown up with us professionally,” Davis said. “That longevity with volunteers is crucial.”
He can also relate with the out-of-state alumni who are under his purview because he was an out-of-state student himself.
“I always like to meet with people who don’t have easy access to the university,” he said. “There’s much more of a hunger to hear anything and everything about the university. KU is known for having some of the most dedicated alumni out there.
“I love getting out in front of our alumni, finding out what people are doing now,” he said.
Whenever Lewis travels, he wears a KU shirt. “We joke about how we’re just spreading the gospel,” he said. It also creates conversations just about everywhere he goes.
“Whenever I wear my shirt, people stop me or yell ‘Rock Chalk’ at least once in every airport I’m in.”
Even on the other side of the world.
Lewis went on a 20-day alumni trip with the Flying Jayhawks travel program and, he said, “There wasn’t a day that went by without someone coming up to us to talk about some sort of tie to KU.”
But not all the conversations are pro-Jayhawk. Lewis often bumps into folks with ties to rival universities. But he doesn’t mind.
“I actually enjoy the conversations with people from K-State and Mizzou,” he said. “Some of my most fun airplane rides have been sitting next to folks like that.”
Lewis is working to expand KU’s network of alumni chapters. They’d like to establish new groups in Detroit, Salt Lake City and Cleveland.
“The new charge is to expand internationally,” he said. “We have chapters in London and Hong Kong. We want chapters in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok. There’s a group that’s started in Panama City, and we have a big cluster of alumni in Toronto. And trying to get a chapter in Dubai.”
Lewis says these chapters are important because they provide KU graduates with connections that might not have otherwise been available.
“When alumni move to a new city with a chapter,” he said, “they can reach out and instantly connect with people.”