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Professor emeritus of urban planning makes $1.4 million gift commitment

November 7, 2011

Alan Black, a University of Kansas professor emeritus of urban planning, has established a $1.4 million commitment through KU Endowment. His gift will create KU’s first professorship in urban planning.

A professor in KU’s Department of Urban Planning since 1981, Black’s specialty is in transportation planning, particularly urban mass transit.

Alan Black and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little

He enjoyed his career at KU, particularly his work with the students. “I started teaching here 30 years ago,” said Black, “and I’ve never applied for another job since.”

Black earned three college degrees — a bachelor’s from Harvard University, where his father was a professor; a master’s from the University of California, Berkeley; and a doctorate from Cornell University.

He reflected on why he’s able to give to KU: “I never married or had children, I received three inheritances, I live in the same house that I paid off years ago, and I drive a Toyota Celica that I bought new in 1986, and it still runs pretty well. I’ve had the same car for 25 years, so that saves me a lot of money.”

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little described Black’s commitment as a milestone for the program, for the School and for KU. “His thoughtful support ensures that academic excellence will continue for future generations of students studying urban planning at KU,” said Gray-Little.

In addition to his gift commitment for the professorship, Black has contributed $158,000 to a scholarship he created for urban planning graduate students, which is named after him. Since 1998, the scholarship has provided nearly $50,000 in support to 12 students.

“Alan has created many ‘firsts’ in the Urban Planning Department — from his scholarship and now to the professorship in his name,” said John Gaunt, dean of KU’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning. “We are so grateful for his generosity and for the impact that his philanthropy has had and will have on the department and on KU urban planning students.”

While nationally known and published for his urban planning work at KU, Black also has been active on the local level. In Lawrence, he has long served on the Land Use Committee of the League of Women Voters, both as a member and chair; the Public Transit Advisory Committee for the city of Lawrence, and on Douglas County’s Air Quality Committee. In the 1990s, he actively campaigned for the creation of a bus system in Lawrence, which started in December 2000. He also volunteers as a reader for Kansas Audio-Reader Network, a reading and information service for the blind and visually impaired.

Gray-Little said she appreciated Black’s long service to the university. “From his leadership in the classroom to his philanthropy to his volunteerism for Audio-Reader, we are proud that Alan Black is a part of KU’s family, and I am grateful for all that he has done to lift KU Far Above.”

Black’s gift will count toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the comprehensive campaign scheduled for an April 2012 public kickoff.

KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.
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November 7, 2011
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