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KU News Release

May 17, 2005
Contact: Margey Frederick, KU Visitors Center, (785) 864-2341.

KU faculty to explore Eastern Kansas on Day 1 of 2005 Wheat State Whirlwind tour

LAWRENCE - At 7 a.m. Friday, May 20, about 40 University of Kansas faculty will board a bus at the KU Visitor Center for a whirlwind review of some highlights of economic development, history and educational institutions in communities along the state's eastern border: Kansas City, Kan.; Mine Creek battlefield near Pleasanton, Fort Scott and Iola.

May 20 is the first day of a six-day Wheat State Whirlwind tour of Kansas that provides new KU faculty members quick lessons in Kansas history, culture, economy and traditions.

In Kansas City, Kan., Darren Cook, Kansas Speedway director of facilities operations and a former KU Athletics administrator, will board the bus to give the faculty a quick overview of the speedway that opened in spring 2001 and attracts about 650,000 fans annually. The adjacent 400-acre Village West development adds to the boom for Wyandotte County attracting an estimated 7 million to 9 million visitors a year. Village West includes a major sporting goods merchandiser, a furniture store, a ballpark for the T-Bones professional baseball team, restaurants and theme hotels. An outdoor shopping plaza and a giant themed-movie theatre complex are under construction.

From the Kansas City, Kan., the bus heads south to Linn County where Arnold Schofield, recently retired historian for the Fort Scott National Historic Site, will come aboard to give the faculty a brief overview of the area's role in Bleeding Kansas. The term was borne in part from a massacre of Kansas abolitionist settlers by pro-slavery Missourians along the banks of the Marais des Cygnes River (May 19, 1858). Schofield will guide the faculty to the site near Pleasanton of the only Civil War battle in Kansas, Mine Creek in October 1864 where Union cavalry action left 300 Confederate soldiers dead and another 300 wounded.

Traveling US Highway 69 south, the faculty will follow the route of a frontier military road that linked Fort Leavenworth established in 1827 and Fort Scott established in 1842. At 11 a.m., the faculty bus will arrive at Fort Scott National Historic Site to tour the fort that first protected trade and travel on nation's frontier and during the Civil War served as a supply depot.

At noon the faculty will meet with Fort Scott Community College administrators, President James Miesner and Admissions Director Mert Barrows, for lunch at the college, 2108 S. Horton.

While the KU faculty will learn more about the numbers of community college students who transfer to KU each year, they will also learn more about the community's efforts to rebuild after the March 11 fire that caused an estimated $10 million to $15 million in damage to the city's historic downtown. Anne Emerson, an area resident who founded Fort Scott's Good Ol' Days celebrations and serves on U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback's Pittsburg staff, will talk with the faculty at lunch about value of tourism to the area. Brenda Parsons, owner of The Kress Tea Room damaged in the fire, will cater the lunch and provide a personal view of what it means to rebuild a business.

Margey Frederick, KU Visitor Center director who co-directs the tour, said "We had planned to go to Fort Scott before the fire. We certainly wanted to show our support for the community during this difficult time by maintaining our original plans."

Don Steeples, vice provost for scholarly support and the McGee distinguished professor of geophysics, co-directs the tour with Frederick.

The Fort Scott visit will conclude with time for the faculty to explore the business district and visit in shops at 1:40 p.m. Before going downtown, the faculty will stop by Mercy Health Center, 401 Woodland Hills, Fort Scott, to view a collection of 26 photographs and five poems by Gordon Parks, the Fort Scott native who became a renowned photographer, writer, film director and musician. Parks' autobiographical novel "The Learning Tree" that he later co-produced as a major film reflects the poverty and bigotry he endured as a child in Fort Scott.

As the bus turns west to return to Lawrence for the day, the faculty will visit the Allen County Historical Museum and Old Jail Museum, an 1869 stone building, 20 South Washington St., Iola. Historian Clyde Toland, a KU alumnus, will talk with the faculty about the city's history and the museum's exhibits. Founded in 1859 and named for the daughter of a prominent settler, Iola experienced a population boom at the end of the 19th century when natural gas was discovered in the area. Iola is the county seat and home of Allen County Community College, the boyhood home of Maj. Gen. Frederick Funston (1865-1917) and the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.

At 5 p.m., the faculty return to Lawrence. After the commencement weekend at KU, the tour continues on Monday, May 23, through Friday, May 27, with stops in more than 25 cities across the state, eventually covering 1,500 miles.

On Monday May 23 the route will include stops in Topeka, Manhattan, Marysville, Belleville and Concordia.
To view photographs from previous years' tours, daily itineraries and maps of this year's route, visit the Wheat State Whirlwind Web site at


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