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Commencement 2007

Five to earn KU's highest honor

Three alumni who have become leaders in their professions and contributed greatly to their communities and a pair of partners in KU's fight against cancer will receive the Distinguished Service Citation during commencement weekend.

The citation is the highest honor given by KU and the KU Alumni Association. Since 1941, it has been presented to men and women whose lives and careers have helped benefit humanity.

The citation winners will be honored at the All-University Supper, at 7 p.m. May 18 in the Kansas Union ballroom. This year's winners are:

Dana Hudkins Crawford, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1953

Dana Hudkins Crawford

Dana Hudkins Crawford

In the 1960s, Denver's downtown area was slowly deteriorating. Crawford did not stand idly by. Long before the words "urban renewal" and "downtown revitalization" were common at city council meetings nationwide, she pioneered the concepts, starting with a few friends and a few buildings in historic Larimer Square.

From abandoned buildings and neglected streets grew a revived district that harks back to its proud past while providing a vibrant place in which to live, work and play. LoDo, as its called, serves as a model for communities nationwide, inspiring cities to preserve their historic sites.

For her efforts, Crawford has received the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Award and the Louise DuPont Crowninshield Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She also has been inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame, and Colorado Preservation created an award in her honor. In addition to her KU degree, Crawford completed a Harvard-Radcliffe business management program.

Wes Jackson, Graduate School, 1960

Wes Jackson

Wes Jackson

In 1976, Jackson founded the Land Institute in Salina. Using native prairie as a guide, he sought to mimic its two primary features, perennials and mixtures. Geneticists are now at work to turn such major crops as wheat, sorghum, sunflowers and corn — all annual species — into perennials to be planted in mixtures. The goal is to reduce soil erosion, fossil fuel dependency and chemical contamination of land and water.

Life magazine described Jackson as one of "the most important Americans of the 20th Century," and Smithsonian magazine listed him among the "35 Who Made a Difference." In 2000, Jackson was the International "Right Livelihood Laureate" courtesy of the Swedish Parliament. The award is also known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize." In 1992, he received the MacArthur Fellowship, often called the "genius grant," from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Along with his KU degree, he holds a bachelor's from Kansas Wesleyan University and a doctorate from North Carolina State University.

Christine Knudsen, College of Liberal Arts and Science, 1991

Christine Knudsen

Christine Knudsen

For 12 years, Knudsen has led efforts to speed the recovery of children in regions where war, disease and disaster have wreaked havoc. In 2003, she was on the front lines, among the first 20 international staff allowed to enter southern Iraq. In 2005, she again raced to aid the suffering. Living in the same squalid conditions as the tsunami victims she helped, Knudsen established a strategy to ensure families and children were reunited.

She also has worked within bureaucratic channels, developing programs to help improve the future safety of the most vulnerable children. While chair of the InterAction Working Group on Protection, she gathered more than 180 U.S.-based non-governmental organizations. As the key spokesperson for Save the Children, she testified in front of Congress. She has continued to advocate for children's rights in well-respected journals.

She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and received a master's of international relations from Johns Hopkins University and a degree in modern literature from the Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) in addition to her KU degree.

James E. and Virginia G. Stowers, Kansas City, Mo.

James E. Stowers

James E.Stowers

Virginia G. Stowers

Virginia G. Stowers

Both cancer survivors, the Stowers know firsthand the anguish of patients and their families. In 1994, they founded the Stowers Institute for Medical Research to find a cure for cancer and a variety of debilitating illnesses. Today, the institute attracts the finest minds to study genes and their interaction in living cells.

KU is a vital partner in the Stowers' crusade. Many of the organization's scientists, doctors and researchers also have joined the KU faculty, assisting in KU's effort to obtain National Cancer Center designation and the Kansas City area's life sciences initiative.

The Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Touched by Cancer Foundation have recognized the couple for their work to meet medicine's most daunting challenges. They have received numerous awards and honorary degrees.

James, founder of American Century Investments, graduated from the University of Missouri with bachelor's degrees in chemistry and medicine. Virginia, a former nurse, earned her certificate of nursing from the Research Hospital School of Nursing.

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