Why do we consistently give to KU? The answer to the question spans many years, first going back to my dad’s (Robert Lawrence Piper, KU class of 1927) high school years. And I know this because he wrote in his memoirs:
“Going to K.U. , for me, hardly a dream come true, because I hadn’t dared entertain such a dream. High school away from home (he lived on a farm and had attended a public school at a town about 25 miles away where he boarded) had been expensive. ….But a seed had been planted by K.U. students in an organized county club that had visited my school. …No one in the family had ever attended college, but Mother and Dad encouraged me to make the start. Like many other students, I was committed to ‘working my way’ to pay a considerable part of college expenses.”
And he was successful. He became a graduate of the University of Kansas.
He shared many thoughts about KU. Particular sights and sounds that impressed him included, ”…winter sunsets seen from Mt. Oread, K.U.’s red roofs atop Mt. Oread, viewed from the south, across the Wakarusa Valley, and the flags of Fraser snapping in the wind.” And he had this to say about one of his teachers, “One was the inventor of the game (of basketball), Dr. James Naismith. He had long been associated with K.U. athletics, was the school’s first coach, and had served in various other capacities. When I was there he was teacher of a hygiene course required of all boys. I remember him as a graying, mild-mannered man whose lectures on various ills were so graphic it was said that students sometimes fainted in class.” Daddy, a journalism major, was the editor of The Kansan one semester. He valued his education and how his world had expanded because of it.
My mother (Lorene Grant, later Piper, K.U. Class of 1928) soon followed in his footsteps. She was the editor of her high school paper ( at the same school where my dad had been a pupil) and in that capacity attended a high school newspaper conference on the Hill. She penned these thoughts of her first impressions in one of
her many, many dairies:
“…we went to the stadium where a rally for the Drake game was being held. As long as I live I shall never forget that night, not the least detail. The moon and stars were shining and a breeze was blowing the leaves ever so lightly. On the Hill the lights of the student quarter were twinkling. Everything was so beautiful. I was afraid to speak, for fear of breaking the spell. Finally the meeting was opened by a short address by the coach. Then a parade was formed in front of the stadium. The K.U. band led the procession. The ‘K’ men followed, bearing torches. They paused in front of the stadium and stepping quietly to their places they formed the letters ‘K.U.’ I can see them yet, the boys in their white sweaters, holding the torches, which furnished the only light.
When the torchlight procession was over the yell leaders led the students in a number of yells. They also sang a few songs. The best was saved until the last. The yell leaders requested the crowd to rise and sing ‘Crimson and Blue.’
‘Far above the golden valley
Glorious to view,
Stands our noble Alma Mater
Towering toward the blue.’
The song floated out on the breeze, then the chorus echoed over the
‘Lift the chorus ever onward
Crimson and the blue
Hail to thee, our Alma Mater
Hail to ol’ K. U.’
The ‘Crimson and the Blue’ was followed by the familiar Rock Chalk yell.
‘Rock Chalk, Jay—Hawk, K. U.’
I stood spellbound. There was something powerful that thrilled me through and through—to hear a couple of thousand students giving the ‘Rock Chalk’, to hear it echo back from the other side of the stadium until
it seemed as if there were about six thousand giving it! It was also so beautiful.
Bobby and I didn’t talk much until we had left the campus. Then he said what I had been trying to express, ‘The Rock Chalk’ certainly gets hold of a person and grips him, doesn’t it?”
My mother became a student in Lawrence the following year. My parents’ enthusiasm never waned. Both felt most thankful to be obtaining quality degrees—my dad’s in journalism and my mother’s in piano. The opportunity to grow their potentials was there. And they enjoyed the social life on Mount Oread, as well. Many stories were related to me, not only in written form, but verbally as well.
Following their graduations their marriage took place and my brother (Robert Grant Piper) and I (Elaine Piper, later Reussner) arrived. One of our early family trips was to Lawrence to experience what the campus had to offer and to become acquainted with that famous bird, the Jayhawk. It must have worked because my brother obtained an engineering degree around 1957 and later a master’s and I walked down the Hill in 1960 as a future teacher. The social life worked out well for us, too.
And the story continued. The Pipers’ two sons also became KU alums—Robert Richard (Rick) in math and Steven in engineering. Their mom, Edna Bandel Piper, had a KU degree, as well. Likewise I met my future husband Ronald Reussner (class of 1959), literally on Mount Oread. Students got to know what one’s fellow students were like in the small Western Civilization discussion groups in the basement of Strong! We both obtained education degrees. Even more chapters were added to our family story. Our son, Lee, completed his undergraduate degree at KU in 1985 and went on to receive his medical degree from the Kansas School of Medicine. In addition, our daughter, Elizabeth (Beth) , earned a degree in journalism in 1988. And, yes, both of their spouses, Tandy Beckett and Thomas R. Fields, are alumni of this great school as well.
The quest for knowledge, that KU so aptly provided, continued. Each family member had different experiences, different goals, different ways of questioning. But there were opportunities for each of us. Each of us was enriched!
One would think that that has to be the end of this book, but no. We have had three granddaughters become Jayhawk alumnae:
Alexandra (Allie) Fields Smith, graphic design major in 2014, married Dale Smith, also an alumnus.
Liesel Reussner Callahan is a 2015 graduate in Speech, Language, and Hearing Science.
Sophia Fields, our newest graduate, received an education degree in 2018.
Were any members of our family told that they must attend KU? Absolutely not! But as my dad said, “The Rock Chalk certainly gets hold of a person and grips him, doesn’t it?” I hope this explains why we give.
Elaine Piper Reussner and Ron Reussner, ’59 and ’60