I am sad to report that former Chancellor Del Shankel passed away this morning at the age of 90. As many of you know, Chancellor Shankel remained active in campus life until a few short months ago and was a regular attendee at various university events. He leaves behind his wife, Carol, their two children and two grandchildren, and countless Jayhawks whose lives he touched.
While we are saddened by Chancellor Shankel’s passing, we can be grateful for the opportunity to celebrate his life and contributions to KU.
Delbert M. “Del” Shankel was the only individual to serve as KU’s chancellor twice. He was acting chancellor for the 1980-81 academic year, and in 1994 he was interim chancellor for seven months before the Kansas Board of Regents designated him chancellor. In 1995, he left that role and was granted chancellor emeritus status.
In addition to serving as chancellor, his roles included acting chair of the microbiology department, half-time assistant and later half-time associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, acting head of the journalism school, special counselor to Chancellor Budig, acting athletic director and interim president and CEO of the KU Alumni Association. He also has the distinction of being the university’s first executive vice chancellor.
Throughout his academic and administrative career, Chancellor Shankel remained devoted to his scientific discipline of microbiology. He maintained an active laboratory program and advised countless master’s and doctoral students. He was the consummate university professor, fostering interdisciplinary communication whenever he could. He once told a newspaper reporter, “I didn’t have a leadership career plan. I thought if I could become a good teacher, professor and researcher, I’d be happy.”
In recognition of Chancellor Shankel’s five decades of service to KU, in 2010 the university named the Shankel Structural Biology Center as a lasting tribute to him.
On a personal note, Chancellor Shankel has been a valued advisor to me since I became chancellor last year. I will miss his counsel and the pleasure of seeing him on campus.
An on-campus memorial service is being planned for early September. We will share those details when they are available.
Please join me in reflecting on Chancellor Shankel’s life and his contributions to KU.
Douglas A. Girod
University of Kansas