Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

Chancellor Hemenway photoRemembering Chancellor Hemenway

Former University of Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway, who led KU to new heights during his 14-year career at the university, passed away July 31, 2015. He was 73 years old.

Chancellor Hemenway — who much preferred being called "Bob" — was KU’s 16th chancellor and served from 1995-2009. In addition to his legacy at KU, the former English professor leaves behind a wife, Leah, and eight grown children.

As chancellor, Hemenway streamlined KU administration, made the university more student-centered, created a faculty support center to promote teaching excellence and oversaw KU's growing national reputation. Under his leadership, research funding grew to record levels while KU positioned itself as a major player in the Kansas City life sciences and information technology industries. Hemenway made achieving National Cancer Institute designation for the KU Cancer Center the university's top priority.


Memorial Service scheduled for August 9

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, at the Dole Institute of Politics. The service will be streamed online. Overflow seating will be available in the Lied Center – adjacent to the Dole Institute – where attendees can view the live stream. A reception will follow in the Kemper Foyer of the Lied Center. In lieu of flowers, the Hemenway family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Robert E. Hemenway Scholarship fund.

Photos and Video

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Media coverage

Former chancellor, who pushed for more diversity at university, dies (Lexington Herald-Leader, 8/2/2015)

Robert Hemenway, former University of Kansas chancellor, dies at 73 (KC Star, 8/1/2015)

Robert Hemenway, former KU chancellor, dies at 73 (Lawrence Journal-World, 8/1/2015)

Chancellor Hemenway discusses many changes at KU during his 14-year tenure (Lawrence Journal-World, 4/27/2009)

Hemenway's legacy (Lawrence Journal-World, 6/28/2009)

KU chancellor to retire (Lawrence Journal-World, 12/8/2008)

History of Black Writing Tribute

The Project on the History of Black Writing has created an online tribute to Chancellor Hemenway.

Hats Off to Chancellor Bob


In May 2009, the University of Kansas community came together for a celebration of Chancellor Hemenway, who was known for his extensive collection of hats, to celebrate his 14 years of leadership at KU.

View the retrospective piece on Chancellor Hemenway's career highlights, titled Hats Off to Chancellor Bob Hemenway.

Career Biography

Robert Emery Hemenway was born on Aug. 10, 1941, in Nebraska.

He earned a B.A. in English from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1963, an M.A from Kent State University in 1965, and his PhD, also from Kent State University, in 1966.

His first teaching job was in the English Department at the University of Kentucky from 1966-1968.

At the University of Wyoming, 1968-1973, he taught in the American Studies program, broadening his research into African American literature, in general, and Zora Neale Hurston, specifically.

He returned to the University of Kentucky in 1973, serving as chair of the English Department from 1981 until his departure in 1986.

At the University of Oklahoma, 1986-1989, he served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

He returned to the University of Kentucky, 1989-1995, yet again, to serve as its chancellor.

In 1995, he was selected as the 16th chancellor of the University of Kansas, retiring from that position in 2009.

From Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little:

"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Chancellor Hemenway. He was a visionary leader who guided the University of Kansas to unprecedented heights and successes during his time here. Under his leadership, the university made tremendous strides in how we educate students, conduct research, and serve the people of Kansas. I know I can speak for the entire KU community in saying we owe him a debt of gratitude, for the work he did paved the way for so much of the great work we're doing today."

View Chancellor Gray-Little's message to campus.

Share your memories

The KU community is invited to share their thoughts and favorite memories of Chancellor Hemenway on Twitter using the hashtag "ChancellorBob."

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times