Ellsworth tradition

Jayhawks’ volunteer service continues alumni leader’s legacy

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L: Jeff Kennedy | R: Don Brada

Two alumni who have championed the University for decades will receive the 2019 Fred Ellsworth Medallion, the Association’s highest award for volunteer service to KU. Don Brada, c’61, m’65, of Lawrence, and Jeff Kennedy, j’81, of Wichita, have excelled in numerous roles as KU advocates, ambassadors, recruiters and benefactors.

Ellsworth Medallion

Since 1975, the Association has presented medallions to individuals who have shown unique and significant commitment to KU, a tradition that celebrates the late Fred Ellsworth, c’22, the organization’s longest-serving chief executive. Brada and Kennedy will be honored Sept. 5 in conjunction with the fall meeting of the Association’s national Board of Directors, and they will be introduced at the home football game Sept. 7.

Brada, who grew up in Hutchinson, was the first in his family to attend college. He was involved in student activities, including Beta Theta Pi fraternity and Rock Chalk Revue, and he has remained devoted to KU for more than 50 years. He currently leads the KU School of Medicine Alumni Association as chair, and he is a member of the Jayhawks for Higher Education Steering Committee. He served on the Alumni Association’s national Board of Directors from 2012 to 2017.

“The long list of Don’s volunteer roles for KU doesn’t begin to capture his lifetime of service, both as a student and alumnus,” says Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, Alumni Association president. “Don is a thoughtful, dedicated and action-oriented Jayhawk. He takes great pride in KU and the many people who have served as stewards of our great institution.”

Brada began his alumni involvement in Puerto Rico as a young physician in the Air Force, hosting an event for Caribbean Jayhawks with his wife, Kay, c’61. He continued to volunteer when he returned to his hometown and established his practice as a psychiatrist. He assisted the Kansas Honors Program (now the Kansas Honor Scholars Program) and student recruitment, and he urged KU’s participation in the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson through the years. 

Don and Kay continued their local alumni network service after they moved to Wichita, receiving the 1990 Mildred Clodfelter Alumni Award for their years as volunteers. Kay received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion in 2015. The Bradas are Life Members and Presidents Club donors. 

Don also dedicated much of his career to the School of Medicine-Wichita as a longtime volunteer faculty member; he later became a clinical associate professor and associate dean, retiring in 2016. He strongly advocated for the expansion of the Wichita campus medical curriculum from two years to four, and he continues to volunteer as professor emeritus and a mentor to students.

Since the Bradas’ move to Lawrence in 2010, the breadth of their service has expanded. They both served on the KU Campus Master Plan Steering Committee, and Don has advised and supported the Biodiversity Institute, the Hall Center for the Humanities, the Lied Center, the Williams Education Fund for Kansas Athletics, and the Dole Institute of Politics, where he co-founded the Elizabeth Dole Lecture Series. 

During his term on the Association’s national Board of Directors, he served on the Adams Alumni Center Master Facility Planning Task Force and the 2015 selection committee for the Association’s president and CEO. The Bradas also have attended and supported the Jayhawk Roundup in Wichita and Rock Chalk Ball in Kansas City, and they travel often with the Flying Jayhawks.

For KU Endowment, Don is a Chancellors Club Life Member. The Bradas’ philanthropy has benefited numerous areas of the University and the Association. 

“Don is such an integral part of the University; KU simply would not be the same without him,” says Dale Seuferling, j’77, KU Endowment president. 

Kennedy, a Pratt native, followed up his KU undergraduate journalism degree (including work for the University Daily Kansan and KJHK radio) with a law degree from Washburn University. He began his KU alumni service in Wichita, where he joined the law firm of Martin Pringle Oliver Wallace & Bauer in 1986. He served as the firm’s managing partner from 2002 to 2014.

A stalwart volunteer for the Wichita Network, Kennedy received the Mildred Clodfelter Alumni Award in 2007 for his local service. He guided the local alumni group as president and served for many years on the board. He also has contributed to the Kansas Honor Scholars Program, recruited prospective students and participates every year in the Jayhawk Roundup, a Wichita tradition since 2003. He and his wife, Patti Gorham, assoc., chaired the Roundup in 2013, and they travel often with the Flying Jayhawks.

Kennedy, a Life Member and Presidents Club donor, was elected to the Association’s national Board of Directors in 2008. He chaired the Strategic Communications, Technology and Records Committee as well as the Executive and the Nominating Committees during his term, and he led the organization as national alumni chair from 2013 to ’14.

An ardent advocate for state funding of higher education, Kennedy is a longtime member of Jayhawks for Higher Education and, since 2014, he has chaired the JHE Steering Committee, working closely with Association staff and the KU Office of Public Affairs to coordinate alumni communications with legislators. 

“Jeff is a proven and committed volunteer who cares deeply about all of KU,” says Peterson. “He is passionate about the vital importance of KU and higher education to the future of Kansas, and he has tirelessly and effectively spoken out about the urgent need to restore state support for our universities.”

Kennedy also helped lead the effort to expand the School of Medicine in Wichita to a four-year curriculum as chair of the first 4-Wichita Advancement Board, and he continues to serve on the board’s executive committee. 

For KU Endowment, Kennedy is a Chancellors Club and Elizabeth Watkins Society member, supporting many areas of the University, including the Association, Kansas Athletics and the Spencer Museum of Art. 

“Jeff has volunteered for KU for more than 30 years,” says Seuferling. “His leadership helped move the School of Medicine-Wichita forward through his effective advocacy and vital connections in the local business community.”

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