Former Chancellor Gray-Little returns to KU to celebrate naming of building

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Former Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little spoke at the University of Kansas on Oct. 26, 2023.

Former University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little for the longest time thought a ceremony to name one of KU’s newest and largest laboratory teaching buildings after her was a bit redundant.

After all, the building in KU’s Central District next to the Burge Union, had been in use since 2019. Originally named the Integrated Science Building, the 330,000-square foot building had actually carried the name Gray-Little Hall since February 2020.

The dedication ceremony and celebration for the naming of the building was scheduled for April 2020, but then the pandemic hit and events started falling by the wayside. Years went by with KU inviting Gray-Little — KU’s 17th chancellor, who served from 2009 to 2017 — to participate in a ceremony to no avail.

“It just didn’t seem very pressing,” she told a KU crowd on Thursday afternoon inside a classroom of Gray-Little Hall.

But, then something did become pressing: Science, and the public’s belief in it.

“I looked at it in a new light … This would be an opportunity for me to speak on behalf of the importance of science,” Gray-Little said of KU’s most recent request to participate in a naming ceremony.

On Thursday she did just that as KU officially dedicated Gray-Little Hall. The former chancellor briefly dove into the topic of why Republicans were so much more distrustful of COVID vaccines than Democrats, and she said the psychologist in her was curious to learn why a person’s thoughts on the burning of fossil fuels and its impacts on global warming are so often related to how politically conservative or liberal people are.

Answers to those questions and others weren’t found during Thursday’s brief ceremony, but Gray-Little said she ultimately is honored to have her name on a building that is doing important work to bring scientific discoveries to the world.

“It is important to celebrate science in a time when critical discoveries are being ignored or dismissed or intentionally obfuscated,” Gray-Little said. “Facts matter, knowledge matters, objective measures of reality matter.”

Thursday’s ceremony, which included Chancellor Douglas Girod, Kansas Regents President and CEO Blake Flanders and KU researchers, highlighted several facts about Gray-Little Hall. Those included that about 4,500 undergraduate students take classes in the building, which has 21 teaching labs and 41 research labs, in addition to specialty areas such as a clean room used in the development of nanotechnology.

The building, which is home to many chemistry classes, hosts 28 active research groups, which have garnered nearly $25 million in research funds since the building’s opening, KU officials said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Gray-Little Hall on the University of Kansas pictured on Oct. 26, 2023.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Bernadette Gray-Little on the KU campus on Oct. 26, 2023.


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