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Alumnus Clay Blair makes $100,000 gift for KU Venture Fund

Mon, 02/10/2014

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas alumnus Clay C. Blair III, of Olathe, has made a $100,000 gift for the KU Venture Fund. The university and KU Endowment established the fund to help startup companies move research discoveries from KU into the marketplace with the goal of sparking innovation in Kansas. This is the largest gift for the fund to date.

“Encouraging KU faculty to transition their ideas to their real-world economic conclusion is long overdue,” said Blair. “Faculty can and should be risk-taking entrepreneurs. Why not? Startups don’t have to take much money to see if it works.  They and their university should benefit from their hard work.”

Blair, a real estate developer in Johnson County and owner of Clay Blair Services Corp., previously served as the first chair of the Kansas Bioscience Authority and as chair of the Kansas Board of Regents. He earned two degrees from KU — a bachelor’s in business administration in 1965 and a doctorate in higher education policy and administration in 1969. He also earned an MBA from Indiana University in 1966.

Julie Goonewardene, president of KU Innovation and Collaboration, and KU associate vice chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, expressed appreciation for Blair’s generosity.

“I am personally and professionally grateful to Clay for this gift,” Goonewardene said. “Gifts like his represent a win on every front. They provide much-needed early stage capital for KU startups, enabling them to become ready for traditional investment, provide support to our increasingly successful economic development and commercialization efforts, provide sustainability for the fund and the potential for a financial upside for the university. The fact that someone of Clay’s business acumen would support our philanthropic venture is gratifying.”

The mission of the KU Venture Fund is to provide financing and other assistance to enable KU startup companies to become investment-ready and competitive. This will create new products for the marketplace, additional revenue for the university and economic development for the region.

In 2013, KU Innovation and Collaboration became the new name of what had been known as the KU Center for Technology Commercialization. The new name signifies a greater emphasis on innovation and collaboration. Known as KUIC, it focuses on creating corporate partnerships, starting companies, licensing intellectual property and establishing research relationships with foundations. The ultimate goal is to bring KU innovation to the marketplace in ways that benefit people and change the world. KUIC provides essential capital to get KU startups off the ground before they are ready for traditional investment vehicles.

The gift counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s $1.2 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks support to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.

The campaign is managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.



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Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: http://bit.ly/1awodaa Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.


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