Thanksgiving is the time of year to reflect on the blessings in our lives and the things for which we are grateful. My hope for you is that these blessings include family, friends, health and the chance to wake up each day and live a meaningful life.
As Jayhawks, we can also be thankful for the unique opportunities we have at the University of Kansas. Universities are special places that transform lives and society, and we should never take for granted the experiences that exist only at a research university like ours.
This year in particular, I’m grateful to be part of a community of scholars with diverse opinions but a shared goal of improving the world. This has been especially apparent in recent weeks with the culmination of a divisive presidential election and the challenging conversations that have surrounded it. As chancellor, I am thankful to be in the company of Jayhawks with a wide range of ideas, beliefs and backgrounds. And I am grateful to be part of KU’s marketplace of ideas and to lead a university that encourages debate and respects differing opinions.
I’m thankful for our students and their central role in our mission. We have now had five straight years of freshman class growth, and this year’s incoming class is the most academically talented in KU history. These freshmen joined a university already teeming with talented students like Shegufta Huma, who this weekend was named a winner of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. This is a tremendous achievement for Shegufta, who represents the very best of KU.
I’m thankful for all of you who help these students both in and outside the classroom. For more than 50 years, our Betty Grimwood Thanksgiving Home Stay program has arranged for international students to enjoy Thanksgiving with a local host family. This type of community support makes a huge difference to our students. It is one reason why, when they walk down the Hill at Commencement, they will be thankful for their time at KU.
I’m thankful for our researchers, faculty and staff, who change the world through discovery, scholarship and service. It brings me joy to know cancer survivors are enjoying another Thanksgiving because of life-saving treatments developed at KU. It makes me proud to know people across the nation will use the four-day weekend to read books and articles authored by KU faculty from a range of disciplines. And it makes me smile to know School of Music performances will bring families together during the upcoming holiday season.
I’m thankful for our network of friends, alumni and donors, to whom we owe our sincere thanks for their support. A quick look across Mount Oread and the corner of Rainbow Boulevard and 39th Avenue in Kansas City shows a university transformed by new and modernized facilities, many funded by KU supporters. Ask these friends why they support us, and the answer is almost always the same — because they believe in our mission and are thankful for what KU has done for them and their communities.
As we pause to celebrate this holiday, please know your support and your role in our community of scholars is foremost in my mind. You make the University of Kansas special. And for that, I am grateful.