Chalmers Hall Naming Ceremony
Sunday, August 23, 2015
The Forum in Marvin Hall – 3 p.m.
Thank you all for being here.
This is a truly special day for the University of Kansas, and I’m delighted to see so many new and familiar faces here this afternoon.
It was 1969 when a Florida State University psychologist and administrator by the name of E. Laurence Chalmers arrived in Lawrence to become the 11th chancellor of the University of Kansas.
Forty-six years later, we gather today to honor Chancellor Chalmers’ legacy, and to ensure his name is forever displayed on Mount Oread … and specifically, that it’s displayed on a building that houses the type of scholarship, artistry, and creative endeavors, of which he was so fond.
Today, we will rename the Art & Design Building “E. Laurence Chalmers Hall” to commemorate a chancellor who embodied resiliency in times of hardship.
As we’ll discuss today, Chancellor Chalmers was known for giving students a voice and keeping peace during a turbulent time at KU, and his chancellorship had a profound effect on the university community.
Today’s event is special on a number of levels. First and foremost, because we get to honor Chancellor Chalmers.
But also because of the special guests here today. We’re honored to have with us former Chancellor Del Shankel, who led the university from 1980-81, and from 1994-95.
We also have with us Professor Emeritus Bill Tuttle, who will take the podium momentarily to share his memories of our 11th chancellor.
Additionally, we are delighted to welcome Chancellor Chalmers’ son — Dr. Thomas Chalmers — and Thomas’ wife, Eleanor.
Unfortunately, Thomas’ brother, Chip, couldn’t attend today due to illness. Chip did send me a message this week. He said he’s looked forward to this day for 40 years, and he’s so appreciative you are here to honor his dad.
The timing of this event is quite fitting. … Tomorrow is the first day of classes, and it’s exciting to know many of our students will start a new year in the classrooms, studios and shops, of the newly named Chalmers Hall.
But the timing is also fitting because this year marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the University of Kansas. Our sesquicentennial. It’s a remarkable milestone — one we’ll celebrate throughout the year with events that allow us to reflect on our history. I cannot think of a better way to start this year-long celebration than with a celebration of Chancellor Chalmers.
I have one last thought before we end today’s ceremony. ...
Leaders frequently are confronted with challenges to which there are no simple or clear solutions. And the testament of a true leader is acting in the best interests of an institution, no matter how those actions might be viewed in the short term, or that they might upset some people. Chancellor Chalmers made difficult and sometimes polarizing choices during the days when the very fabric of our university was at risk.
But the passage of time and the arc of history has helped crystallize the effects and outcomes of his chancellorship, and it has made clear that his legacy of inclusion, his ability to speak truth to power, and his willingness to make hard choices in the face of significant opposition, are truly deserving of the recognition we give him this afternoon.
Our society continues to face grand challenges … challenges that universities have the unique ability, and I’d argue the obligation, to address. Chancellor Chalmers’ actions both preserved KU's intellectual community, and solidified our role in being part of difficult national conversations. That, as much as anything, is his legacy.
Ladies and gentleman – thank you for being here to honor the legacy of Chancellor Chalmers.
This concludes our program. I hope you will join me and Thomas and Eleanor for a reception in the Chalmers Hall student study area.