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Lift the Chorus

Letters from our readers

Education and insight

The masterful piece of writing by Steven Hill [“What’s Going On,” issue No. 3] brings Professor Kevin Willmott’s assets to KU into full view of alumni. I was an MA film graduate back in the dark ages, and I wish I had had the opportunity to take a class from him then. But your magazine gave me a real eye-opening experience when reading his viewpoints on filmmaking and, most rewardingly, on American history.

Professor Willmott makes so obvious what white Americans (that’s me) have overlooked for so many decades: the Confederate States of America never went away after the Civil War. It still exists and still shapes the activities of those states. I will be looking at his films and furthering my education. Thanks to Kansas Alumni magazine and its staff who like to inform and educate.

–Peter Haggart, g’63
Moscow, Idaho

It is your recent article on Kevin Willmott, one that portrays so vividly “What’s Going On” through his vital film work, that makes me so appreciative of receiving Kansas Alumni magazine. This grand overview you created of Willmott’s film career and works gave me such valuable added insight into the Black experience in America and a much clearer understanding of the growing cancer and danger of white supremacy.

You capture how timely Willmott’s works are because he dramatizes through his films the omnipresent manifestations of racism and white supremacy in America, so extreme in the alleged domestic terrorism plot to kidnap and assassinate the governor of Michigan. You portray through your fine article how Willmott goes beyond informing through his art. His powerful films transform and better equip whites of good will to fight and win the struggle for racial equality and true democracy for all Americans. 

–Bob Swan Jr., c’64, g’69, g’72

I read with interest the article “What’s Going On” in the summer issue of the Kansas Alumni. The excellent article by Steven Hill tells of Kevin Willmott, the KU professor of film and media studies and independent film producer. His work has earned recognition at the Cannes and Sundance film festivals and an Academy Award.

I was part of a committee of retired Kansas editors along with community volunteers from Emporia who raised about $250,000 so Kevin could produce the documentary film “William Allen White: What’s the Matter with Kansas” [“No joke,” issue No. 4, 2018]. The committee was concerned that the legacy of White, a well-known editor, not be lost. Many of the issues during White’s era are still with us—overproduction of farm products, racism and inept public officials. The film is being aired on Public Broadcast System stations nationally thanks to Kevin’s good work.

–Murrel Bland, j’63
Kansas City

Power or hope

Your article on The University of Kansas Health System’s Medical News Network (MNN) was as well-written as it was timely [“Hope is Real,” issue No. 3]. The MNN is a powerful and unprecedented resource that’s already positively influencing (and in some cases changing) how health news is shared—not only in Kansas and Missouri, but nationwide. This can save lives.

While writing Proud But Never Satisfied with Kansas Health System [executives] Bob Page and Tammy Peterman, to be released this fall from Huron Publishing/The Studer Group, I interviewed Sen. Jerry Moran and his communications director, Tom Brandt. Brandt told me, “I’ve had multiple Senate offices reaching out and asking me how we are coordinating this because they’re trying to replicate it in their states. Not only is this a valuable thing for Kansas City, but it’s being seen nationwide as the standard for how to communicate and share information. Love leading from the heartland!”

The importance of this news source and educational tool during a time of pandemic couldn’t possibly be overstated. Thanks for writing about it with just the right combination of creativity and gravitas.

—Leeanne Seaver

Bluebonnet memories

I am a 1963 graduate and greatly appreciated reading about John Hadl in the latest issue of Kansas Alumni [Hail to Old KU, issue No. 3]. 

While John and I have never met, I respected him greatly and never missed a game for the three years we shared at KU. I remember well his record-long 94-yard punt but always thought of it as a 98-yard punt. I remember John taking a step or two back from the snap and kicking the ball while standing on the goal line, forgetting that the measurement was made from the line of scrimmage rather from the point of the kick. In any event, it was an awesome football feat. 

On the Friday before the Bluebonnet Bowl, I finished my last class at noon. I am not certain but I seem to remember that it was the weekly seminar for Western Civilization Studies. While walking back to the Pi Kappa Alpha house I started thinking about the boring weekend awaiting me. The active Pike members had agreed to turn the frat house over to the pledges for the weekend, which meant that all the members had to vacate the house. I had no plans to fill the weekend.

That started me thinking about the Bluebonnet Bowl game and I had the crazy thought of going to the game. I entered the Pike house around 12:30 and while in the foyer shouted out: “Anyone want to go with me to the Bluebonnet Bowl game?” Within a few minutes three other members eagerly agreed to go.

We departed Lawrence at about 3 p.m. in my 1961 Cutlass. We knew it was a long trip but really did not grasp that it was a 700-mile trip. Obviously, we drove all night and did not encounter interstate highways until near Dallas. All went well and we arrived in Houston at about 8 a.m. The weather was wet with light rain falling as we arrived. Unbelievably, without a reservation we checked into a hotel just a bit over a block from Rice Stadium. Went to our rooms only long enough to drop off our overnight luggage.

At this point we had just two urgent needs, getting breakfast and finding four tickets to the game. While at breakfast, we discussed how we were going to get tickets, not having any real idea of how to get them so near the kickoff. As we were eating, a gentleman approached our table and said, “I understand you are in need of tickets for the game.” We anxiously affirmed the need for tickets and asked if he had four. Unbelievably, he did. Thinking we were dealing with a scalper, the next question was, “How much and where are the seats?”

He advised he would sell the tickets for the regular price and that they were low on the 35-yard line. We did not hesitate a second to seal the deal. By game time, the weather was better, raining very lightly and intermittently. As you all know, the game was exciting, and KU won. After the final gun, we managed to get onto the field.

That evening we celebrated with KU fans at various venues, staying up later than we should. We departed Houston relatively early on Sunday morning and arrived back in Lawrence late that evening. Many will think we were completely out of our minds to attempt this trip. However, we were young and full of energy and gave no thought to just how grueling this adventure was going to be. We managed to pull it off and created a lifelong memory.

Today I am near 79 years old but still remember this adventure as if it happened just a few weeks ago rather than nearly 60 years ago.

–Ralph B. Praeger, c’63
Ogden, Utah



Issue 4, 2020


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