From its early days to the modern era, UMKC has played host to actors, musicians, athletes, authors, activists and revolutionary thinkers.

By Kelsey Haynes



MARCH 16, 2016
Five-time Olympic champion Greg Louganis spoke at the annual UMKC Pride Breakfast. In addition to being one of the greatest divers in American history, Louganis came out as gay in his 1995 autobiography, “Breaking the Surface.”

MARCH 4, 2015
Ina Garten came to campus and was interviewed about her venture into the food industry and rebranding as “The Barefoot Contessa.”

AUGUST 9, 2012
Judith Martin — better known by her pen name, “Miss Manners” — came to Kansas City as keynote speaker of the Cockefair summer lecture. Her columns, managed by local syndicate Andrews McMeel, are carried by more than 200 newspapers in the U.S. and abroad.

MARCH 4, 2006
Writer Maya Angelou spent an evening at UMKC with students and visitors. Angelou gave a lecture and shared excerpts of her poetry at an event hosted by the Office of Student Life in Swinney Recreation Center.

SEPTEMBER 24, 1990
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu accepted an honorary doctorate at UMKC Convocation. One of the gifts presented to him was a Missouri quilt called “Star of Peace.” In his acceptance speech, Tutu said, “The only way we can be human is together — black and white.”

DECEMBER 8, 1988
Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Updike came to UMKC at the invitation of the Carolyn Benton Cockefair Chair in Continuing Education. Two years later, he won a second Pulitzer Prize for his novel, “Rabbit at Rest.”

President Harry S.Truman speaks at UKC in 1945

OCTOBER 1, 1977
Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald performed in Pierson Auditorium as part of UMKC’s “Count Basie Day” honoring Basie’s jazz legacy. She also accepted an honorary degree from UMKC.

MARCH 5, 1969
Boxer Muhammad Ali, who at that time was facing a prison term for failure to serve in the armed forces, spoke during the university’s first “Afro American Week.” Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks also spoke, giving a one-hour poetry reading of poems tied to the theme, “Identity in Black.”

MARCH 7, 1964
Singer Nina Simone and musician Herbie Mann performed for students at a concert sponsored by the University Program Council and Ford Motor Company. Concert tickets cost $1 and, as an added attraction, record albums were given as door prizes.

JANUARY 5, 1955
Eleanor Roosevelt spoke to a 500-person audience at the University Playhouse. Accompanied by former President Truman and his wife, Bess, Roosevelt discussed her work at the United Nations in a meeting sponsored by the Young Adult International Relations Council and the American Association for the United Nations.

FEBRUARY 1, 1949
Entertainer Bob Hope made an impromptu visit to UKC, along with Doris Day and alumna Ruth Warrick (Theatre ’38) to rehearse for a performance that evening at Municipal Auditorium. Word quickly spread that the trio was visiting, and the campus community packed the University Playhouse for a chance to see Hollywood up close.

JUNE 28, 1945
President Harry S. Truman served as guest speaker and honorary degree recipient at the School of Law’s 50th anniversary alumni reunion. In celebration of his homecoming, the president rode with fanfare down the streets of Kansas City on his way to campus. The honorary degree presentation took place later that evening in a public ceremony at Municipal Auditorium.


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