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Former KU chancellor and wife establish new faculty award

Gretchen and Gene Budig
Gretchen and Gene Budig

Nationally known University of Kansas debate coach Scott Harris is the inaugural recipient of a new teaching professorship award thanks to a gift from former Chancellor Gene Budig and his wife, Gretchen.

The Budigs provided the lead gift to establish the $100,000 Budig Teaching Professorship in Social and Behavioral Sciences. The contribution brings their total giving to KU to more than $1 million.

Harris coached the KU debate team to a national championship in 2009 and was named national debate coach of the year in 2006. He was recognized as an “outstanding teacher” by KU’s Center for Teaching Excellence in 1999.

The Budigs, of Isle of Palms, S.C., created the Budig Teaching Professorship in Social and Behavioral Sciences fund at KU Endowment. It will be given annually to a department faculty member who has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in teaching.

Gene Budig was KU’s chancellor from 1981 to 1994. He received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion in 1994 and the Distinguished Service Citation in 1997. He is a KU Endowment trustee. Gretchen Budig will receive the Fred Ellsworth Medallion on Sept. 10.

“What is more important than good teaching at the university? The answer is nothing,” Budig said. “There certainly is nothing more important in our society than education. Likewise, quality education is dependent upon exceptional teaching. KU is blessed with an unusual number of able and dedicated teachers, and that has been the case for many generations.

“Giving to the University of Kansas is a joy. It is something that my wife and I hope many more KU alumni and friends will do in the years ahead. We have attempted to identify a number of areas to support at KU. We also have given for the purpose of student scholarships and deserving projects. We intend to continue that practice.”

Danny Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the Budigs’ gift will allow the College to highlight outstanding educators in the social and behavioral sciences, which, he said, are at the heart of how professors inspire students to come up with solutions to the problems facing our nation and world.

“I’m grateful to Gene for his academic leadership as chancellor and continuing institutional leadership through this generous gift he and his wife made,” said Anderson.

Since 1981, the Budigs have provided more than $1 million to support areas across KU’s campuses. Their gifts also have established two teaching professorships in social welfare; the Budig Teaching Professorship in Special Education; the Budig Teaching Professorship of Writing; the Budig Teaching Professorship in Education; and the Budig Distinguished Librarian Program.

Harris has been KU’s debate coach since 1991. His teams have qualified for the National Debate Tournament every year that he has coached at KU. They reached the final four on three occasions and the elite eight six times. His teams have finished in the top 10 of the final rankings ten times.

Harris teaches classes in the Department of Communication Studies that focus on argumentation, rhetoric and public address.

The funds are managed by KU Endowment, the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

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