Samira Sayeh

Samira Sayeh, assistant professor of French and Italian, specializes in Francophone literature and culture and the history of countries other than France that speak the language. Read More

KU dominates 'Kansans of the Year'

Six of eight have Jayhawk ties

The Topeka Capital-Journal’s list of 2008 Distinguished Kansans of the Year had a decided KU flavor.

Chancellor Robert Hemenway was named a co-Kansan of the year with Kansas State University President Jon Wefald, and six of the eight Distinguished Kansans of the Year have KU ties.

The list included Sheila Bair, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., who earned a bachelor’s in philosophy and law degree, both from KU. She was noted for being one of the first to identify the mortgage crisis and working to promote confidence in the U.S. banking system.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Broun, director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, was also on the list, noted for “heading a major national museum that provides an understanding of the American experience through art.” Broun earned a doctorate in French and art history from KU.

Funnyman Rob Riggle was noted for his work in comedy as well as his service to his country. Riggle, who earned a bachelor’s in theatre and film from KU in 1992, is probably best known for his turn as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that, he was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 2004 to 2005. He recently left the Daily Show to create his own half-hour comedy series. Riggle, a major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, has served in Liberia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Hal Ritter, business editor with the Associated Press, was also among those chosen. Ritter, who earned a bachelor’s in journalism from KU, was noted for founding the money and news sections of USA Today and for making them competitive with the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, respectively.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who earned her master’s in public administration from KU in 1977, was honored for leading the state in improving education, the state’s business climate and efforts to bring a federal bioresearch laboratory to Kansas.

Nearly anyone in Kansas could guess why KU men’s basketball coach Bill Self was selected. Self led the Jayhawks to the 2008 national championship and managed to beat North Carolina and former KU coach Roy Williams in his first appearance in the Final Four.

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