Black-Cheslik family provides $1 million gift to support Department of History professorship

Fri, 05/03/2024


Michelle Keller, Anne Tangeman

LAWRENCE — Members of the Black-Cheslik family of Kansas City, Missouri, are avid University of Kansas basketball fans and equally passionate about the power of a liberal arts education. 

Julie Cheslik and her husband, Paul M. Black, provided a $1 million gift through KU Endowment to establish the John P. Black Professorship in History. It was named for their son John Black, of Fairway, who graduated in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in history. The professorship honors the faculty who inspired John Black and provides the opportunity for more students to be taught by top scholars in the field.

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, John Black moved home with his parents, which provided a unique window for them to witness his growing enthusiasm for his KU classes. He was particularly engaged with those taught by Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor David Farber and others in the KU Department of History, which is known for its award-winning faculty.

“I was just floored by the great education he was getting, particularly in his history classes,” Cheslik said. She even joined her son in watching films during his HIST 356 class, titled At the Movies: US History on the Silver Screen, and delved into assigned readings for another course, HIST 374: The History of Modern American Conservatism, both which ignited lively family discussions. 

“For us, as parent and adult child — having that experience with him was really valuable to me,” Cheslik said.

The family has previously made gifts to support Kansas Athletics and the University of Kansas Medical Center, as well as numerous programs with other organizations.

Laura Mielke, KU professor and current interim chair of the Department of History, said the gift is transformational.

“Julie Cheslik and Paul M. Black have recognized our department as a home to scholar-teachers who, like Professor David Farber, bring their research and wisdom into the classroom to create spaces of transformative exchange,” Mielke said. “This gift will allow us to add and retain world-class scholar-teachers to our faculty. We also see the John P. Black Professorship as a unique opportunity to celebrate the students like John who bring a passion for learning to KU.”

The couple’s eldest son, Paul J. Black, is a doctor who also began his path in liberal arts, earning his undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame before attending KU Medical Center, where he graduated in 2023. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska, where he is completing his residency in urology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“I was always pushing the kids to be liberal arts majors, and I think it served them both well,” Cheslik said. “We're happy to be able to provide this professorship so other kids from Kansas or who come to Kansas to get this great education can learn from the best.”

Cheslik is a professor of law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and serves on the law foundation board of trustees. She received her bachelor’s degree and juris doctor from the University of Iowa, both with highest distinction.

Paul M. Black is a health care consultant who was previously COO of Cerner and CEO of Allscripts. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Iowa State University and holds a master’s in business administration from the University of Iowa. He serves on the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library board of directors and The University of Kansas Health System Advancement Board.

“I think it’s really important for everyone to have somewhat of a liberal arts background to know a little bit about authors, historians and events that have taken place that have shaped where we are today,” said John Black, who works in sales at Community CareLink, a health software company that serves nonprofits, community health organizations and government agencies. He discovered his minor and some of his favorite professors through a simple internet search.

“I looked up ‘best teachers at the University of Kansas,’ because I was trying to find some electives to take,” John Black said. “Dr. Farber’s name was one that came up, and that's really what started all of this.”

Farber has written and edited numerous books on modern issues from World War II to the war on drugs and is regularly tapped by news organizations to provide expert commentary.

“I think the humanities provide a massively important background and understanding for our democratic citizenry,” Farber said. “It’s wonderful to see the Black family offer support for what we in the humanities do and what we in the history department, in particular, do. I’m grateful, and I think it demonstrates the importance of the kinds of things historians teach.”

Fri, 05/03/2024


Michelle Keller, Anne Tangeman

Media Contacts

Michelle Keller

KU Endowment