When Cate Dyer, a freshman at Kansas University, graduated from Blue Valley West High School in Stilwell last spring and made the choice to attend KU, genetics may have had something to do with the decision.
Dyer is the first sixth-generation Jayhawk honored by the KU Alumni Association. So she can trace her family’s KU roots all the way back to 1880, when Dyer’s great-great-great grandfather Franklin Riffle graduated with a degree in engineering.
For some perspective, 1880 was 11 years before the sport of basketball was even invented but only six years before professor Edgar Henry Summerfield Bailey developed the chant that would become “Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU.”
Over the Christmas holiday, three of the six generations met to discuss their own memories of KU. Dyer was joined by her father, David Dyer, an ophthalmologist, and her grandfather, Jim Barrow, who graduated from KU with an architecture degree in 1956.
Most of the line of Cate’s family involve her maternal side, with her grandfather, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents and Riffle all earning undergraduate degrees from KU, with some earning graduate degrees as well.
Cate’s father earned a medical degree from KU Medical Center in 1989. Cate’s mother is something of the odd one out in the family, having attended the University of California Santa-Barbara, as Barrow was working in California at the time.
“She said, ‘I have to marry a KU boy,’” David said.
“And that’s when you decided to go to KU,” Barrow added.
Cate said she was something of a last hope. Her older sister went to the University of Texas (though she still roots for KU —unless they’re playing Texas — and may return for a graduate degree). Her younger sister just wants to get out of the state for college.
They all shared favorite memories. Barrow remembered seeing Wilt Chamberlain on campus. David remembered climbing on the roof of KU Hospital to watch storms roll in, and Cate remembered moving into Corbin Hall for the first day of classes. She remembered not knowing what to expect at first.
“My whole life, I’d been going to school with the same people,” she said. “We have a very close floor, and they’re my best friends now.”
And will there be some extra pressure on the next group of children to become seventh-generation Jayhawks?
“They’ll definitely know about it,” Cate said. “I’m not going to be one to say, ‘You have to go to KU.’ But it definitely means a lot to me and my family.”