June 8, 2004

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Contact: John Scarffe, KU Endowment Association, (785) 832-7336.

Alumni couple pledge $500K for two KU restoration projects

LAWRENCE -- A University of Kansas alumni couple from Sunnyvale, Calif., have pledged $500,000 to restore two historic buildings at the eastern edge of the Lawrence campus, Chancellor Robert Hemenway announced today.

Tom and Jann Rudkin's pledge to the Kansas University Endowment Association will help KU turn a 112-year-old home into a community center for KU's scholarship hall residents and turn the first floor of Spooner Hall into an open, flexible space for academic workshops.

About two-thirds of the gift will fund restoration of the home of the late Juanita Strait, 1346 Louisiana St. Strait was known to welcome many neighboring students into her home. She died in 2002 and left her home and part of her estate to KU Endowment. The Rudkins' gift will support foundation repairs and replacement of plumbing and wiring, and it will fund a new roof, patio area, siding, windows and porches.

The 500 residents of KU's 10 scholarship halls, which are cooperative housing units, do not have a communal place to gather for programs and events, Hemenway said. The offices and programs of the halls' governing body, the All Scholarship Hall Council, are scattered among the halls in spaces generally reserved for other events, he said.

"The rehabilitation of this property is a highly visible demonstration of a good-faith initiative toward preservation of this historic neighborhood," Hemenway said. "We are delighted that Tom and Jann have come forward to help continue the spirit of Juanita's home, which welcomed hundreds of students during the years she lived there."

The large lawn around the home will incorporate park benches within a fenced green space dedicated to Strait and her late husband, Reginald "Reg" Strait, KU professor of physical education. The home will become the community center and be named for Jann Rudkin's mother, Wilna "Willie" Crawford. Jann Rudkin said she wanted to honor her mother with the refurbishment of the house because that would reflect her mother's strengths.

"When I was growing up, my mother did her own decorating, showing off her considerable artistic talent," she said. "She is very home-oriented, so when we saw an opportunity to create a home for the scholarship hall community, we took it."

The remaining $200,000 of the Rudkins' pledge will help fund the restoration of the first floor of Spooner Hall. The renovated space will become the Commons, which will foster research and education on the relationships between nature and culture. The Commons is a collaboration between the Hall Center for the Humanities and the KU Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center.

The work funded by the Rudkins will open the hall and install modern acoustics, lighting and furniture for the Commons' symposia, public lectures and programs, and gatherings for KU faculty, staff and students.

"The Commons will be a think tank and forum putting KU at the forefront of investigations into natural systems and human systems and their impacts on each other across the natural and social sciences, the arts and humanities," said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the museum and research center. "Essentially, the Commons is about the sharing and integration of knowledge and ideas for the public good."

Krishtalka said the symposia will bring together scholars and students from KU and around the world to examine the challenges of 21st-century society and to promote collaborative externally funded research and education projects that will address those challenges. A symposium planned for late 2004, for example, will explore how knowledge of biodiversity and human systems could help detect and counter agricultural bioterrorism.

Architectural plans are being developed by Barry Newton, KU professor of architecture. The project will be reviewed by the KU Campus Historic Preservation Board and is expected to be completed in 2005.

In addition to the Commons, Spooner Hall houses the university's anthropological collections for research and education. Access to these collections will be unaffected by the renovations.

Tom Rudkin said he and Jann were drawn to the project because it will bring together researchers from diverse backgrounds and continue to use Spooner Hall as an educational facility.

"We're excited that the changes will make the space in Spooner Hall a viable and working place for scientists and people involved in the humanities to learn and explore questions together," he said.

Tom Rudkin, mathematics '73, lived in Battenfeld Scholarship Hall as a KU student. After earning a master's degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin, the software engineer worked for Intel and Microsoft. He was one of the two engineers who wrote the first version of PowerPoint. He is now self-employed as a software consultant.

Jann Rudkin, chemistry and anthropology '73, was a resident of Douthart and Miller scholarship halls and president of the All Scholarship Hall Council. She earned a master's degree in cybernetic systems in 1984 from San Jose State University and is now self-employed as an information designer. Her parents, Willie and Robert "Bob" Crawford, also a Battenfeld alumnus, reside in Salina.

The pledge from the Rudkins counts toward the goal of more than $600 million for KU First: Invest in Excellence, the largest fund-raising campaign in KU history. KU Endowment is conducting KU First on behalf of KU through 2004 to raise funds for scholarships, fellowships, professorships, capital projects and program support. KU Endowment serves as the independent, nonprofit fund-raising and fund-management organization for KU.

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