Kay and Don Brada have been members of the Kansas University Alumni Association since they graduated in 1961.
“I felt such a close attachment to the university,” Don said. “I wanted to continue my relationship with KU.”
Membership was a gift from Kay’s father, who also graduated from KU.
“I guess it was in my blood,” Kay said. “It’s a family tradition.”
The Bradas have continued their membership and involvement with the association through the years while living in Wichita, Hutchinson and in other states, as well as when Don’s career took them out of the country.
“We were away from home, but we also weren’t because we were still connected with the university through the association,” Kay said.
Founded in 1882, the Alumni Association’s mission is to strengthen KU by informing, engaging and mobilizing the KU community, said Jennifer Sanner, KUAA senior vice president for communications.
With more than 500 events a year throughout the country, the association helps graduates stay connected to KU. It hosts a variety of events, including reunions, watch parties, award ceremonies, trips, tailgates and golf tournaments.
“That support of alumni through their advocacy and membership has really helped distinguish KU,” Sanner said. “Chancellor Hemenway often said that one of the things that has vaulted KU past the status of just a Midwestern public research institution has been the loyalty, dedication and contributions of alumni.”
KUAA works closely with the city to reach out to alumni across the country. The Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau helps promote association events, and, this year, a community task force worked on a strategy to make Lawrence a more attractive retirement destination.
“We have long seen alumni move back to Lawrence and become involved with the university,” Sanner said. “Now we are really trying to measure the impact and see if there is an opportunity for Lawrence and KU to be stronger because of folks moving back.”
After retiring last year, the Bradas moved back to Lawrence. The vibrant atmosphere of the city, and the opportunity to participate in an array of cultural, athletic and academic activities drew them back to their alma mater, Kay said.
“We’ve always enjoyed being intellectually stimulated,” Don said. “We love music and theater, and, in Lawrence, it’s so easy to get those things.”
The KU Endowment Association was founded in 1891 and works hand-in-hand with the Alumni Association, Sanner said. KUAA membership dues help support a variety of student and alumni programs as well as the legislative advocacy program Jayhawks for Higher Education. Basic dues are $55 for a single membership. New graduates can get a single membership for $25 the first five years after earning their KU degrees. More information about membership dues and how to join can be found at the KU Alumni Association’s website, kualumni.org.
Members receive many benefits, including the KU Alumni magazine, invitations to events in their areas and discounts at the KU Bookstore.
For the Bradas, the biggest benefit is giving back to the university that gave them so much.
“The university gave us a great opportunity to become educated, to become more socially aware of the people outside of the surroundings where we grew up,” Kay said. “Higher education is something we believe everybody should be able to enjoy and do.”