Dole Institute announces Bill Kurtis as 2024 Dole Lecture honoree

LAWRENCE — The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas has announced that Bill Kurtis — KU alumnus, journalist, network news anchor, producer and rancher — will be featured at this spring’s annual Dole Lecture at 7 p.m. April 16. Kurtis will join Dole Institute Director Audrey Coleman for a discussion of his Kansas roots and the news that shaped the nation over the course of his seven decades in journalism.

“Before it was history, it was news,” Kurtis said. 

The program will take place in-person at the Dole Institute, 2350 Petefish Drive, and be livestreamed on the institute’s website and YouTube channel. Detailed information on the program can be found at

Kurtis began his journalism career at WIBW-TV in Topeka. After his 24-hour coverage of a devastating tornado in 1966, Kurtis was hired by Chicago’s WBBM-TV, where he was a field reporter and later anchor of The Channel Two News. 

In 1978, Kurtis’ investigative unit was one of the first to report on the dangerous effects of the Agent Orange chemical on American forces in Vietnam. While covering the story, he returned to Vietnam in 1980 to find the children of American servicemen living in the streets of Saigon with their mothers, who were unable to find work.

Kurtis’ reporting became a cover story in the New York Times Magazine and resulted in legislation that allowed these children immediate access to the United States. Additionally, his reporting launched massive studies into the post-war lives of American servicemen to make exposure to Agent Orange treatable and establishing a new standard of care for veterans that continues today.

In 1982, Kurtis joined the CBS Morning News as a co-anchor alongside Diane Sawyer, later returning to WBBM-TV in 1985 as anchorman through 1996 and from 2010 to 2013 alongside Walter Jacobson.

After a 30-year run with CBS, he established Kurtis Productions, which produces nonfiction programs and documentaries. Additionally, he serves as the official judge and scorekeeper on National Public Radio’s news quiz show “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” and has narrated multiple motion pictures, including the “Anchorman” films starring Will Ferrell. 

Kurtis was born in Florida and raised in Independence after his father retired from the U.S. Marine Corps. He graduated from KU with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and from Washburn University School of Law with a Juris Doctor.

In addition to his work in journalism, Kurtis is an active conservationist in Kansas. Kurtis has placed land in the Red Buffalo Ranch, originally 8,000 acres of prairie in Chautauqua County, in conservation easements and has sold much of the land to cattle ranchers and the Delaware Tribe of Indians. His daughter, Mary Kristin Kurtis, now owns the remainder of the ranch and the Red Buffalo Gift Shop in Sedan. 

Each spring, the Dole Lecture commemorates the date on which Sen. Bob Dole was critically wounded while serving in Italy during World War II. To honor Dole's courageous recovery and commitment to serve the nation, the Dole Institute welcomes a guest who embodies the commitments that Dole held throughout his career in public service. 

About the Dole Institute

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, a vibrant forum for civil discourse, civic engagement, and idea exchange across the political spectrum, features historical archives, exhibits, and public programs for all ages. Inspired by the public service of native Kansan, veteran, legislator and statesman Sen. Bob Dole and his wife Sen. Elizabeth Dole, visitor galleries feature changing exhibits, the Kansas Veterans Virtual Memory Wall, architectural-scale stained glass American flag and Sept. 11 memorial.

Thu, 03/07/2024


Maria Fisher

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Maria Fisher

Dole Institute of Politics