In lieu of a traditional letter from the editor, we asked alumnus Chris Wolff, UMKC Bookstore manager and resident university historian, to introduce this issue about UMKC’s intriguing past and present.
By Chris Wolff
What is it that links us as alumni of UMKC? Is it simply the fact that we were students in the same buildings and may have taken the same classes or had the same professors? Or is there a deeper connection between us? When I first became interested in the
history of UMKC and its predecessor, the University of Kansas City, I wanted to answer that very question. It ended up being a winding journey.
I was initially curious about the origin of the university and some of its buildings. However, the more I learned, the further UMKC’s history drew me in. My interest became a hobby. My hobby became an obsession that led to a partnership with the UMKC Alumni Association, which helped me publish my book, “A Pearl of Great Value: The History of UMKC, Kansas City’s University.” Writing the book gave me the opportunity to look at the totality of the university’s history. What I discovered was a story that all alumni share. William Volker and the Kansas City business community created a university from scratch in the heart of the Great Depression for us. Walt Disney drew our mascot, Kasey Kangaroo. We claim Harry Truman and more than 100,000 other UMKC alumni as our own, and they claim us.
What links us as UMKC alumni is our shared history. Each generation of UMKC students is like the squares on a quilt. They are colorful and patterned and bold and unique. What holds all the squares together is the backing cloth, the shared history of the university. Whether we were in the first graduating class in 1936 or the class of 2018, we share the entirety of UMKC’s history, even if we only know bits and pieces of it.
History is alive in the sense that it is always growing. Each new student adds to our story. Moreover, knowledge of the past brings to life a new perspective on the present, just as current events can help explain what happened before. What follows in this issue is a collection of stories that we hope make UMKC’s history come alive for you and help you discover the bond you share with your
Chris Wolff (M.A. ’12)
Author, “A Pearl of Great Value: The History of UMKC, Kansas City’s University”
Manager, UMKC Bookstore