Archive for Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Heard on the Hill: $790k gift for Hall Center boosts fundraising campaign; former KU botanist Ronald McGregor dies at age 93; fraternities, sororities remember 2009 alcohol-related deaths on campus

April 24, 2012


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• Donations continue to come in to KU just in time for this weekend’s official kickoff ceremony for the upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign, Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas.

On Saturday, we’ll get the goal for the campaign (look for an amount over $1 billion) and a recap of the money raised so far in the “silent phase” (likely to be at least half that amount, and usually a little more).

The most recent announcement of a gift benefits the Hall Center for the Humanities, which received a $790,000 donation from the Hall Family Foundation.

The gift provides $430,000 for renovations to the facility and $360,000 toward a National Endowment for the Humanities matching challenge grant. Astute readers will recall reading about that grant, which would give the center $425,000 if it raises $1.275 million by July 31, 2015. The center has successfully raised the funds for two previous such grants in the past.

In a statement from KU, Victor Bailey, Hall Center director, said the renovations to the building will include a new seminar room and two office spaces, along with other improvements.

• I also heard on Monday that a longtime KU professor had died on Saturday at the age of 93.

Ronald L. McGregor worked in various capacities at the KU Natural History Museum’s herbarium, which is now named after him, for 71 years, even after his "official" retirement. That time includes 35 years as its director. He earned three botany degrees from KU — a bachelor’s, master’s and a doctoral degree.

He and his wife, Dorothy, are profiled in a KU Endowment publication here.

During the time he was director, the publication said, the herbarium grew from 70,000 specimens to more than 300,000.

He also served in a whole host of other roles, including leadership positions in the botany department, the Division of Biological Sciences and the Kansas Biological Survey.

His wife, a longtime Lawrence elementary school teacher, survives of the home.

Graveside services are set for 10 a.m. Thursday at Pioneer Cemetery.

• It was a different atmosphere on campus three years ago this week, when the community was just beginning to deal with the second of two alcohol-related deaths.

Jason Wren, 19, was found dead in his fraternity house on March 8, 2009 after a night of drinking. And just a little over a month later, Dalton Eli Hawkins, an 18-year-old honors student, fell off the roof of Watkins Scholarship Hall, and alcohol was suspected to have played a role in that incident, too.

The University Daily Kansan covered the third annual Jason Wren Initiative, an event hosted by Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Wren’s fraternity, each year.

The group brings in a speaker who typically takes on an alcohol-related topic. This year, it was recovering alcoholic and author Toren Volkmann.

This year, the Kansan pointed out that a “miscommunication” meant that the usual 20 percent of the members of all greek organizations wouldn’t be hearing the message this year. Still, 700 people did listen to the speech this year.

• Seventy-one years is a long time to do anything. I have a hard enough time staying focused for 71 minutes to write Heard on the Hill. It gets better, though, if you send in your tips to


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