EVERY CHANCELLOR HAS LEFT A MARK AT THE UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS. Bernadette Gray-Little, who retires at the end of the spring semester, will be remembered as a thoughtful leader who exuded grace and a keen intellect.

She arrived in Lawrence in 2009 after a long career at the University of North Carolina, and people wondered how she would adapt to living in Kansas and what kind of leader she would be. Her body of work proves that she was focused on the right metrics, steadily moving the university toward improved admission standards and higher graduation rates.

In selecting her as its 17th chancellor, KU got it right. Gray-Little respected our institutional history while focusing in areas where she could bring forth positive change.

For my own two daughters, she was a role model. My oldest, Marci, started her freshman year at KU when Gray-Little became chancellor; my youngest, Tess, graduates in May as she ends her tenure. They’ve only known a woman as chancellor of KU, a remarkable symbol of accomplishment.

My daughters, Marci (top photo) and Tess (lower photo), became Jayhawks at different times during Chancellor Gray-Little’s career here, but both have been inspired by her leadership.

I had the opportunity to travel around the country with her to meet alumni and friends, including donor solicitations. She has an almost magical ability to read people and make powerful connections. Perhaps her doctorate in psychology accounts for this uncanny skill. It also helped her navigate meetings with ease and aplomb — knowing how to actively listen and gently steer the conversation in the right direction.

Her husband, Shade Keys Little, is anything but reserved. He is the consummate cheerleader, radiating a youthful zest for life. Shade became a staple in the Lawrence community, involved in various nonprofits and student organizations. He also was an avid fan at KU athletic events, particularly at women’s basketball games.

Under Gray-Little’s leadership, we raised more than $1.6 billion for the Far Above campaign. As a result, our alumni are in awe of the physical transformation of the campus during her tenure.

But I will remember her mostly for her humanity, collegiality and friendship. Thank you, Bernadette, and Rock Chalk!