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Contact: Carol Dias da Silva, International Student and Scholar Services, (785) 864-3617

KU's Betty Grimwood Thanksgiving homestay program turns 50 this year

LAWRENCE -- Thanksgiving 2004 marks 50 years since Betty Grimwood started the Thanksgiving Homestay Program for international students from the University of Kansas in the small farm community of Burns, northeast of Wichita.

The nationally recognized program continues this year for 1,615 international students enrolled at KU who wish to join a U.S. family for all or part of the Thanksgiving break, Nov. 24-28.

The application deadline for families and for international students is Nov. 1 with KUs office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

"Burns, Kansas, is the smallest U.S. community with the biggest foreign diplomatic service in the world," said Vice President Richard Nixon in 1959 when presenting the Institute of International Education's Distinguished Service Award to Ed and Betty Grimwood for their role in creating the homestay program.

The Grimwoods are no longer living, but residents of Burns, population 271, continue to participate in the program. It began when Mrs. Grimwood and her friend Bonnie Lorentz asked neighboring families to share their Thanksgiving holiday with an international student. KU named the program in memory of Mrs. Grimwood after her death in May 1999.

The ISSS coordinates the program that grew from 10 students in 1954 to more than 500 now. The number of Kansas communities participating grew also and has included Burns, Lawrence, Emporia, Eudora, Leawood, Lecompton, Linwood, Overbrook, Tonganoxie, Topeka, Westwood and Kansas City in both Kansas and Missouri.

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway noted that the tradition begun in Burns is a wonderful example of the power of one or two people to inspire others at home and abroad.

"Betty Grimwood and her friend Bonnie Lorentz sought to expand their own knowledge of the world and share their community with young scholars from other countries during the Thanksgiving holiday," Hemenway said.

"They inspired other Kansas communities and families -- ultimately providing more than 500 international students at KU with a unique experience in the home of an American family. Many of these former students and their host families formed a bond of friendship that continues to endure."

Joe Potts, director of ISSS, said: "It is remarkable that these people from a small town in Kansas had, back in the '50s, the international awareness to begin fostering relationships with students of international backgrounds. Because of their commitment and consistency, we still have this program today."

Area families may host one or more international students from Tuesday evening, Nov. 23, to Sunday afternoon, Nov. 28, or on Thanksgiving day only, Thursday, Nov. 25.

Lawrence resident Karen Crusinbery, who was a host last year, said: "I had a great time sharing Thanksgiving with two students. We had a great cultural exchange."

Families interested in hosting international students over Thanksgiving break may contact program coordinator Carol Dias da Silva by phone at (785) 864-3617 or by e-mail at carol@ku.edu.

A total of 1,615 international students from 115 countries are enrolled at KU for 2004. The countries with the largest number of students:
India, 252; China (including Hong Kong and Macau), 212; Republic of Korea, 156; Japan, 110; Taiwan, 67; Saudi Arabia, 61; Canada, 41; Malaysia, 40; Brazil, 32; Indonesia, 25.


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