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$16M gift honors late alumnus Don Slawson

Thu, 07/24/2014

LAWRENCE — The family of University of Kansas alumnus Donald Slawson has made a $16 million lead gift for construction of a hall to be located in KU’s planned Earth, Energy and Environment Center. Slawson Hall will honor Don Slawson’s longstanding dedication to KU, to higher education and to the oil and gas industry.

A lifelong resident of Wichita, Don Slawson died July 7. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from KU in 1955. At age 24, he founded Slawson Exploration, an oil and gas exploration firm that became one of the most active oil drilling operations in the United States. He later expanded the firm to include residential and commercial real estate development. He served two terms on the National Petroleum Council, to which he respectively was appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. He also served on the boards of directors of Intrust Bank, Cessna Aircraft Co., Kansas Gas and Electric Co., and Security Benefit Life Insurance Co.

“The Slawson family is extremely grateful that the University of Kansas has named the new Slawson Hall to honor Don’s long legacy of furthering the Kansas energy industry,” said one of his sons, Todd Slawson. “The Slawson family has cherished KU for five generations. It is a fitting tribute that Slawson Hall will house and integrate both geology and petroleum engineering curricula, noting Don’s passion for the oil industry and higher education.”

Slawson Hall will be part of the Earth, Energy and Environment Center, located at the corner of Naismith Drive and Jayhawk Boulevard. The center’s spaces will include auditoriums, classrooms, laboratories and multipurpose spaces that foster cross-disciplinary collaboration among researchers in numerous earth science and energy fields, including geology, engineering, geophysics, energy, nanotechnology, energy storage and the environment. A portion of Slawson Hall will be dedicated to technology transfer, providing real-world applications to discoveries and developments made at KU.

“The generosity of Don and his family has made it possible for us to move forward on this landmark project that advances our efforts to identify new and sustainable sources of energy for our world,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “With Don's passing, KU and Kansas have lost a true advocate for higher education, but his legacy will live on and benefit countless others through Slawson Hall. On behalf of the university, I offer my sincere condolences to Judy, their children and all who are grieving Don's death.”

In his support of higher education, Slawson served two terms on the Kansas Board of Regents and was chair from 1987 to 1993. Slawson was president of the KU Alumni Association and of KU’s Athletic Board. He and his wife, Judy, met at KU and raised three sons, including two KU alumni — Steve Slawson, Craig Slawson, ’80, geology; and Todd Slawson, ’84, petroleum engineering.

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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