On a windy spring day in 2023, 95-year-old Jayhawk Lee Ketzel stepped out of the driver’s seat onto the sidewalk at KU Endowment. As she glided through the sliding glass doors with a big smile, it was quickly apparent her resolute demeanor is what has carried her through decades of providing for both her family and community.
During a summer trip to Western Europe to study the economic recovery in action post World War II, Lee met her beloved husband, Cliff. Their mutual interest in politics and foreign policy created an inseparable bond. They soon married, and in her pale green Chevy convertible, took off to Washington, D.C., where Cliff began a job with the state department. With some real-life experiences under their belts, they made their way to Berkeley, Calif., where Cliff completed his dissertation — he wrote it, she typed it. Opportunity soon knocked at the University of Kansas, and the couple fell in love all over again — with the university, the political science department and Lawrence community where they would raise their three boys.
While juggling family, various volunteer efforts and social engagements, Lee obtained her master’s degree in English from KU in 1970. She began teaching English composition and English as a second language to international students at the university. Lee’s ability to connect with people, paired with her colorful life experiences, have best been demonstrated through her philanthropic and giving spirit. Whether she was fighting for better care in nursing homes as a founding member of Kansas Advocates for Better Care or advancing the arts with the Kansas Arts Commission and Spencer Museum of Art, her passions have always been evident.
When Cliff died suddenly at the age of 66, Lee turned tragedy into a gift to the University of Kansas. In memory of their worldly travels and his contributions to foreign policy and international relations, the Ketzels established a scholarship fund intended for underrepresented students in the political science department. Her charitable contributions have touched countless lives as a Jayhawk Faithful donor for 45 years with gifts to art and theatre, KU Libraries, the Lied Center, Women Philanthropists for KU and more. A treasured Jayhawk, Lee carries the torch for her husband and our community each day with her grace and generosity.
Oh, and her secret to a long life? A glass of orange juice every morning and a bourbon Manhattan every night. Balanced and adventurous, just like Lee.