KU Art and Design Building named for former Chancellor Chalmers

The Kansas University Art and Design Building — dedicated in 1978, and generically called since — now has a name.

And, all former KU chancellors now have buildings named in their honor.

The Art and Design Building, 1467 Jayhawk Blvd., will be named for former KU Chancellor E. Laurence “Larry” Chalmers, who led KU from 1969 to 1972.

The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday approved KU’s request to name the building.

In recommending the name, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said Chalmers was chancellor during “one of the most tumultuous periods in the university’s history.”

E. Laurence Chalmers, 1969-72: A psychologist, Chalmers was challenged to keep the peace in 1970 after an arsonist struck the student union and racial tension caused two deaths on campus. He averted a student strike by agreeing to grading options that allowed KU to complete the academic year. But the Board of Regents felt he was too permissive and tried to oust him. He resigned later to lead the Chicago Art Institute. He died Nov. 24, 2009.

According to the May 8, 1970 issue of the Lawrence Journal-World, KU Chancellor Laurence Chalmers and John Spearman Jr., chairman of the Black Students Union, tug for control of the microphone. Chalmers kept the mic, but told the group they could speak later.

In 1970, an arsonist set ablaze the Kansas Union and other violence followed, including more fires, arrests and KU students marching in protest of the Kent State University shootings smashing out windows in the Military Science Building, according to a 2010 Journal-World feature on the unrestful year.

“Chalmers announced that students had the choice of going home early, finishing the semester or participating in school workshops and group activities,” according to the article.

“To the students, Chalmers — known for his bow tie and pleas to just call him Larry — emerged as the hero of day. The compromise he struck held off any further campus violence that semester. But many around the state, including legislators, the Kansas Board of Regents and parents, criticized Chalmers for being too lenient with the activists.”

Protests over racial issues and the Vietnam War filled the city, and that summer, an 18-year-old was fatally shot during a riot on Oread Avenue.

Chalmers’ time at KU was short. He spent many more years in the arts.

He resigned from KU to lead the Art Institute of Chicago, a position he held for 14 years. According to his obituary, he then served as president of the San Antonio Museum Association.

Chalmers died in 2009.

The 115,000-square-foot Art and Design Building was constructed at a cost of $5.75 million, according to KU’s buildings directory.

It’s home to all things visual art: classrooms, shops and studios for design, painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, industrial and interior design, weaving, metalsmithing and jewelry and printmaking, according to KU. Prior to the construction of the designated Art and Design Building, classes met in roughly a dozen other buildings scattered across campus, even Memorial Stadium.

According to KU’s facility naming policy, buildings generally are named for “distinguished individuals who have made extraordinary contributions of a scholarly, professional or public service nature related to the university’s mission.” In some cases, they may be named for major donors to their construction.

KU chancellors and their buildings

With the announcement that KU’s Art and Design Building will be named for E. Laurence Chalmers, now every former KU chancellor has a building named for him. Here they are, according to KU’s online chancellor profiles and building directory.

Robert Hemenway


Hemenway Life Sciences Innovation Center, KU Medical Center

Del Shankel

1994-1995 (Also 1980-81)

Shankel Structural Biology Center, 2034 Becker Drive (West Campus)

Gene A. Budig


Budig Hall/Hoch Auditoria, 1455 Jayhawk Blvd.

Archie Dykes


A.R. Dykes Library, KU Medical Center

Raymond Nichols


Nichols Hall, 2335 Irving Hill Road (West Campus)

E. Laurence Chalmers


Chalmers Hall (Art and Design Building), 1467 Jayhawk Blvd.

W. Clarke Wescoe


Wescoe Hall, 1445 Jayhawk Blvd.

Franklin Murphy


Murphy Hall, 1530 Naismith Drive

Deane Malott


Malott Hall, 1251 Wescoe Hall Drive

Ernest Lindley


Lindley Hall, 1475 Jayhawk Blvd.

Frank Strong


Strong Hall, 1450 Jayhawk Blvd.

Francis Snow


Snow Hall, 1460 Jayhawk Blvd.

Joshua Lippincott


Lippincott Hall, 1410 Jayhawk Blvd.

James Marvin


Marvin Hall, 1465 Jayhawk Blvd.

John Fraser


Fraser Hall, 1415 Jayhawk Blvd.

R.W. Oliver


Oliver Residence Hall, 1815 Naismith Drive