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Our Stories

Alumni, donors, students, faculty and staff

Read the latest feature stories from people who are making a difference for Washburn. Many of these articles appear in our publications like The Ichabod and Bell Tower.

Sen. Bob Dole bronze statue on campusSoldier, Statesman: With humble beginnings in Kansas and at Washburn, Sen. Bob Dole lived life of service 

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
Washburn University joined Kansas and the United States in mourning the loss of one of its most decorated and celebrated alumni, Sen. Bob Dole, who died Dec. 5, 2021, after being diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2021. He was 98. “Sen. Dole made America a better place for all Americans,” said Washburn University President Jerry Farley.

Bob Dole and the Farleys at Homecoming paradeWashburn's Own: Respected worldwide, Sen. Bob Dole was an American leader

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
Washburn alumnus and Kansas Sen. Bob Dole often named a fellow Kansan, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, as one of the most effective leaders in American history, saying Eisenhower not only did great things for his state and country, but his leadership touched the world. The same could be said for Dole.

Rick Ellis with Kris Hart and recent graduate Hayley WynneInto the Sunset: Caring and accepting, Rick Ellis always worked to bring out the best in students

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
Rick Ellis projected a rugged cowboy persona. Perhaps comfort in his own skin inspired others to find their true personalities. “Rick saw people for their potential,” Becca Spielman, bas ’05, said. “But also saw them for who they could be." The professor and director of Washburn’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement died on Sept. 22, 2021.

Volleyball trophyDigging Every Minute: Faith Rottinghaus finishes senior year strong as Bods finish second in the nation

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
Faith Rottinghaus came to Washburn University because of its winning culture. She wrapped up her time at Washburn, graduating in December after the volleyball team finished second in the nation and played in the national championship match. She's a two-time Academic All-American, All-American and four-time all-MIAA player.

Gary Bayens posing at Washburn TechEnd of an Era: Gary Bayens, ba '90, plans retirement after rewarding 25-year career at Washburn 

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
Although Gary Bayens, ba ’90, has had a multitude of exciting jobs over his career, it’s his first eight years as a Washburn University faculty member he said were the best. Bayens recently announced his retirement at the end of 2021 after 25 years at the University. He has served Washburn in several capacities, most recently as dean of Washburn Tech.

Pamela Hollie posing in front of various flagsA Journalist's Journey: The Washburn Review led to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times for Pamela Hollie, ba '70, h '04

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
In her junior year at Washburn, Pamela Hollie received a letter from The Wall Street Journal offering her an internship, and that was the beginning of a 20-year career in journalism. She returned to Washburn recently to share her story with mass media students. 

Michael Odupitan posing in the new building for Omni CircleCircle of Change: Michael Odupitan, bs '11, encourages development for minorities through his nonprofit

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
When Michael Odupitan moved to Topeka in 2002, he didn’t know how that decision would impact the rest of his life – along with his new community as a whole. In 2019, Odupitan moved back to Topeka and founded Omni Circle Group, a nonprofit dedicated to personal and professional development with an emphasis on minorities.

Fanny Hand with a veteran baseball cap and her Quilt of ValorWarm Hearts: World War II veteran and Washburn alumna Fanny Hand, b ed '68, celebrates 103 years

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
Family members, caregivers and others surrounded Fanny Hand to celebrate her 103rd birthday as she sat outside her home, bundled up with a blanket on a seasonably cool day last fall. The gift she was about to receive would literally and figuratively give her additional warmth.

WUmester logoTelling Your Truth: Fourth-annual WUmester will study truth as the theme

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
There is data. There is information. There are beliefs. There are opinions. Some of them are subjective. Some are not. And then there’s truth. Washburn students, faculty and staff will be studying the theme of truth this spring during the fourth-annual WUmester, a semester-long dive into a topic related to social justice.

Arlene Wahwasuck posing in the Memorial UnionA Nursing Life: Arlene Wahwasuck, bsn '76, finds no such thing as retirement when you have passion for your craft

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
Arlene Wahwasuck always wanted to be a nurse. As the youngest of six children, she often felt left out and looked to her imagination to fulfill her nursing fantasies. Her dreams became a reality, and she’s spent the past 67 years nursing and educating fellow Native Americans.

Track and field athletes posing in the Indoor Athletic FacilityLeap of Faith: Move to Washburn brings high-flying track and field athletes closer to international goals

From The Ichabod - Winter 2022
Proving they were among the country’s best wasn’t enough to satisfy two members of Washburn's track and field team. After earning All-America status at last year’s NCAA Division II outdoor championships, the two student-athletes followed up the 2020-21 collegiate season by returning to their native countries to compete on an international stage.

Recital Hall RenderingBuilding for the Future: Anonymous gift will be a catalyst for change on campus

From Bell Tower - 2021
This past July, Washburn announced it had received the single largest gift in the university’s history: an incredible $10.2 million commitment from anonymous donors. The gift, which will go toward several capital projects and scholarships, was appropriately heralded as transformative. 

Members of Ichabods Moving Forward posing on and around the Ichabod statue benchPhilanthropy in the Age of COVID: Nimble, responsive giving becomes a lifesaver in times of uncertainty

From Bell Tower - 2021
Given the outside factors created by COVID-19, it wouldn’t have been a big surprise if the 2021 Day of Giving endured a temporary dip in contributions. Instead, the day was the most visible example yet of a theme that’s been present on campus since the pandemic began: donors offering a helping hand to fellow Ichabods in need.

School of Law eagle statueThinking Ahead: George Barton plans his philanthropic legacy at Washburn

From Bell Tower - 2021
Over the last four decades, George Barton, jd ’77, h ’15, has established himself as a philanthropic leader at Washburn University School of Law. By including the law school in his estate plan, Barton ensures his alma mater will receive ongoing support for years to come. He made Washburn a beneficiary because it has been essential to his success.

Redbud Success Scholars in Mabee LibrarySeeding Success: The Redbud Foundation helps make achieving an education possible

From Bell Tower - 2021
As a first-generation college student, Kevin Alvarez didn’t know what to expect. College seemed out of reach not only because of the expense, but also because his family members lacked the practical experience to provide guidance and direction when it came to academic life. That’s when Washburn's Ichabod Success Institute stepped in. 

Mulvane Art Museum building frontGenerosity on Display: The Mulvane’s growth continues thanks to gifts-in-kind

From Bell Tower - 2021
The Mulvane Art Museum is home to more than 6,000 works of art, but curating pieces requires more thought than simply throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. A growing number of donors have approached the museum in to help expand the collection. These gifts are transformative for a museum that will soon celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Berenice Calva-Morales posing outdoors on campusOpening Doors: A new scholarship helps advance minorities in STEM

From Bell Tower - 2021
Before Berenice Calva-Morales received a scholarship to attend Washburn, going to college was a “maybe." She was interested in higher education, but the financials didn’t quite line up. However, when one of her high school teachers and her advisor recommended that she apply for a new STEM scholarship, everything seemed to fall into place. 

John, ba ’76, and Renee Arnett Staying Involved: Becoming major donors, one gift or trip at a time

From Bell Tower - 2021
When John Arnett, ba ’76, retired, he looked back on his career and looked ahead to his future – and Washburn University was a big part of both. After retiring, he and his wife, Renee, decided it was important to give back to ensure other students are able to find the same kind of success.

Stained glassWindow to History: Cottrils reunite pre-tornado stained-glass windows with Washburn

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
Wayne and Nancy Cottril purchased stained-glass windows from a garage sale thinking they once hung on Washburn's campus. After some digging by archivist Martha Imparato, they discovered the two windows were, in fact on campus prior to the 1966 tornado. They were gifted back to Washburn and recently hung in the lobby of White Concert Hall.

Jane Carpenter and a studentDean for Students: Jane Carpenter, bsn '80, focuses on student success, meeting demand for quality nurses

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
Jane Carpenter seemed to always have an encouraging voice urging her when it became time to make career moves. She’s thankful for those people and hopeful she and the School of Nursing are doing the same for students studying to become nurses or elevate their credentials with certificates and graduate degrees.

Tonya RicklefsLeader: Social work department chair Tonya Ricklefs, aas '98, bas '00, msw '11, supports student success 

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
Going to college can be a lot of work and pressure. But in a profession where caring is crucial, the Washburn University social work department goes out of its way to instill core industry values from the start to help students find success. One alumna turned chair of the department knows all too well just how the social work department can make a huge impact.

Recital Hall RenderingHistoric Support: Washburn University receives largest gift in campus history

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
In July, the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation announced a gift of $10.2 million from anonymous donors. The gift will be used for scholarships and several capital projects on the Washburn University campus in the coming years. This is the largest gift received in Washburn University’s history.

Photo of Ali boxingA Thousand Words: Mulvane Art Museum acquires new photography collection for Washburn

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
The Mulvane Art Museum recently added new photography works to its permanent collection that are expected to inspire collaboration across academic disciplines on campus. This stunning collection includes over 600 photographs from 10 photographers of note and is valued at more than $2 million.

WU Moves student and clientA Perfect Fit: After five years and a pandemic, WU Moves still going strong

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
One of the most important parts of maintaining fitness is making healthy choices a habit. Since its 2016 inception, WU Moves, a wellness program for senior citizens and low-income individuals in the community, enjoyed the consistent momentum necessary to gain staying power at Washburn University.

Col. DanksSharpened Steel: Army surgeon Col. Roy Danks, ba '94, shows depth of a military career in ad campaign

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
From deployment in Afghanistan to caring for patients in private practice, Col. Roy Danks, ba ’94, has never shied away from a challenge. In 2006 he decided to take his career to the next level by joining the Army Reserve. He was featured in a recent Army ad campaign showing people the breadth and depth of a military career

Marissa DakeAbundant Care: Pandemic forces Marissa Dake, ba '17, back home where an opportunity to lead sprung up

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Marissa Dake faced a major plot twist in her life. She had been living in Washington, D.C., working at a government affairs firm. She had hoped to build a career there, but plans quickly changed. Suddenly Dake found herself driving back home to Kansas.

Andrew BecklerDriven for Greatness: Collegiate golf career capped by national player of the year award

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
It’s easy to be skeptical when an award-winning athlete claims they compete simply for the love of the game. But when Andrew Beckler, the 2021 Division II recipient of the Jack Nicklaus Award, said he doesn’t golf for the accolades, there’s reason to believe him. He was also an Academic All-American, All-American and the MIAA player of the year.

Tyler GeimanExtra Shot: Ichabods take advantage of NCAA’s extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
When much of the world went remote and the COVID-19 pandemic limited in-person activities in 2020, many student-athletes were left wondering if their college athletic careers would be cut short. However, thanks to an exception granted by the NCAA, student-athletes are getting another chance, including Tyler Geiman, bba ’21, and Hunter Bentley, ba ’21.

Abigail McCroryConnections: Student callers look forward to phone calls with alumni and friends

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
The art of a phone conversation is still an invaluable asset to fostering relationships and sharing information. This is especially the case for Washburn University students working for the Alumni Association and Foundation’s Phonathon and the individuals they build long-standing relationships with through the program.

Mendoza familyAlumni Spotlight: Mendoza family patriarch was Washburn Law’s first Mexican American graduate

From the School of Law Newsletter - Fall 2021
Manuel Mendoza, jd ’57, didn’t find a job after earning a business degree in 1954. Spending the summer unemployed led him and his future wife to a decision that changed their future family’s trajectory for the better. He worked his way through law school, was an Army reservist and became the first Mexican American graduate of Washburn Law.

Michaela KerlsAlumni Spotlight: Michaela Kerls, ba '08, mls '15, jd '19, donates stem cells, encourages others

From the School of Law Newsletter - Summer 2021
Michaela Kerls was walking through the Memorial Union as a political science student when a group tabling caught her attention. Be The Match was signing people up to become potential bone marrow donors. “Thirteen years later, I got a call out of blue asking if I was still available to donate. How can I not be? A 20-year-old kid needs help.”

Blake Robinson PotteryAlumni Spotlight: Blake Robinson, jd '10, turns to pottery in spare time while maintaining private practice

From the School of Law Newsletter - Summer 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has given many people time to pursue new hobbies, but Blake Robinson, jd ’10, decided to dive headfirst into an old one. He first studied ceramics in high school, but he didn’t touch clay again until about three years ago. That’s when his wife began a doctorate program and Robinson suddenly found himself with a lot of free time.

Sherika Carey posingNo Longer Alone: Former foster youth find stability, support system at Washburn

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
Foster youth are part of a system throughout their childhood, and then as adults, the opportunities become voluntary. For those who seek higher education, two Ichabods hope more people become aware of their unique needs and the stigma is erased from this non-traditional group of students.

Sean Bird posingWe Love our Librarian: Mabee librarian Sean Bird, ba '91, receives American Library Association award

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
As the associate dean of university libraries and the Center for Student Success and Retention, Sean Bird has made it his primary focus to do everything he can for the success of Washburn students. With a passion that shines through in all he does, he was recently named a winner of the 2021 I Love My Librarian Award.

Taylor Molt posingStill Performing: Even with limited audiences, performance arts students find ways to hone craft 

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
At Washburn’s theatre department, the show must go on – even in the midst of a global pandemic. Despite social distancing guidelines intended to curb the spread of COVID-19, the University’s resilient performing arts students and faculty have found a way to make performances happen. That’s not to say the experience has been easy or ideal.

Ron Brown posingThe Education Beat: Ron Brown, bs '97, mcj '14, balanced education and experience during law enforcement career

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
Education and experience are key to moving up in almost any profession. For Ron Brown, he was able to have a rewarding career in law enforcement thanks to invaluable experience on the streets and advanced education in the classroom.

Chaz Havens at Tech announcementGrowing Confidence: Faculty, staff and industry partners continue investing in Washburn Tech East

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
With a waiting list in some programs and room to grow in others, Washburn Tech East is becoming a catalyst for workforce development and a lifeline for residents in East Topeka seeking easier access to adult education. And there’s no “wait and see” approach as COVID-19 limited enrollment capacity in some programs and tapered demand in others.

Social work students and facultyHard Questions: Suicide intervention training available through Washburn

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
“Have you ever thought about taking your own life?” It is as intimidating a question to receive as it is to ask. Being prepared to ask these kinds of questions comfortably and confidently doesn’t come easy to many but proper training can help. The Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training program at Washburn seeks to offer that special training.

Students at the Bods Feeding BodsEssential Needs; Campus food pantry expands offerings with new freezer, commodities section

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
Food insecurity can be a hidden problem that is not often discussed on college campuses. As a student and manager of Washburn University’s Bods Feeding Bods Food and Commodities Pantry, Matthew Smoker wants to talk about it. The pantry recently purchased a freezer, allowing volunteers to stock more perishable items and premade meals.

SAAC group photoCatalyst for Change: Washburn’s student-athletes advocate for social and racial justice

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
In a year when athletes saw competition seasons cut short or eliminated completely, Washburn's student-athletes took to a different playing field. Their goal? To make a positive impact on the campus and Topeka community by educating themselves and their fellow students through a series of lectures and events on the issues of the world around them.

Brooke Preston posingImpactful Decisions: Business simulations prepare students for reality and success after graduation

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
Not everyone can say they placed in the top three out of hundreds of teams from around the world, but Washburn School of Business alumna Brooke Preston can. Preston, bba ’20, finished third last year in the Capsim Challenge, a business simulation that determines the world’s best at running a multi-million dollar simulation company. 

Mitch Schurig playing footballCome Back for Good: Student-athletes make positive changes through Brenneman Series

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
Greg Brenneman, bba ’84, h ’99, the former CEO of Continental Airlines, Burger King and Quiznos, authored “Right Away and All at Once: Five Steps to Transform Your Business and Enrich Your Life” to explain how people can use his business principles to better their personal lives. A seven-week program at Washburn teaches students these principles.

Emma Ginder posingLearning's a Gas: In a trying year, educators find new ways to keep kids smiling

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
Keeping third graders on the same page is hard enough when they’re all learning in a confined physical space. Scatter them across town into their “home offices," and the task takes on added difficulty. Emma Ginder, b ed ’17, a teacher in Topeka, found a unique way to pep up a group of 9-year-olds mired in another full day of screen time.

Derik Flerlage posingSlowing the Spread: Derik Flerlage, as '18, ba '18, helping manage Shawnee County’s COVID-19 response

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
When Derik Flerlage joined the Shawnee County Health Department, it was in the midst of battling one of its most difficult challenges in its history – the COVID-19 pandemic. “This wasn’t your typical start to a job," said Flerlage, the infectious disease division manager and deputy COVID-19 operations section chief where he works to control spread.

Reuben MarkhamFriend of Humanity: Reuben Markham, 1908, spent career writing in opposition to Nazi Germany, communism

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
In 1949, the Washburn Alumni Association initiated its Distinguished Service Award, choosing Reuben Markham among its first honorees. Markham's life reflected Washburn’s abolitionist heritage and inclusive core values.

More stories

The Ichabod Magazine Winter 2022 cover - Memorial Union with snow, pine needles in the foreground

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


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Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483