Remembering Chancellor Gene Budig

Former KU Chancellor Gene Budig, who died on Sept. 8 at 81, may not have realized his dream of playing major league baseball. But as a leader of the state’s largest public university, he played in the big leagues of higher education.

Budig became chancellor in 1981, and in his first year, he toured the entire state, visiting all 105 counties. He spent time introducing himself and listening to the concerns and opinions of elected officials, community leaders, alumni and residents.

Dale Seuferling, president of KU Endowment and Budig’s longtime friend, remembers Budig would sometimes come away from large gatherings on that tour wondering aloud, “Why don’t they like me?”

“It wasn’t long before the KU family loved him—once they got to know the warm, affable Midwesterner behind his otherwise measured and stoic public persona,” Seuferling said.

Budig’s 13 years of leadership brought campus growth, both in new buildings and student population. Lawrence campus additions included the Dole Human Development Center, Adams Alumni Center, Anschutz Science Library, the Lied Center for the Performing Arts, and the opening of the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park, Kansas. And during his tenure, KU enrollment reached an all-time high of 29,161 in 1992.

While at the university’s helm, Budig also provided leadership to Campaign Kansas, a five-year fund drive that brought in $265 million in gifts and commitments to KU Endowment for the benefit of the university.

Budig not only oversaw new growth but also came to the rescue of historic structures. A summer storm’s lightning strike in 1991 started a fire at Hoch Auditorium that left only the front façade intact. Budig lobbied the state Legislature and helped secure an $18 million appropriation to rebuild the structure, which was christened Budig Hall at its dedication in 1997.

In addition to his leadership as chancellor and with Campaign Kansas, Budig and his wife, Gretchen, personally gave to KU, creating six endowed funds for faculty and staff. In 2008, their lifetime giving to KU exceeded $1 million.

In that spirit of giving, memorial gifts can be made to the Gene and Gretchen Budig Teaching Professorships in care of KU Endowment by mail or online at