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KU Libraries celebrate James Naismith’s 150th birthday with exhibit, panel of basketball and KU sports experts

Friday, September 9, 2011

LAWRENCE – To celebrate the 150th birthday of basketball’s inventor, the University of Kansas Libraries will unveil a new exhibition, “James Naismith’s Life and Legacy: Celebrating 150 Years.” The collection of historic materials, including photographs, a scrapbook, university records and pamphlets from McGill University, Springfield College and the University of Kansas Archives, will be displayed in the Library Gallery in Watson Library. 

An opening reception on Thursday, September 15 will feature a panel of nationally known figures from the world of basketball, who will discuss the sport's impact on their lives. Panelists include KU Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, former KU sports radio announcer Max Falkenstein, former KU basketball player Isaac "Bud" Stallworth, retired sportscaster Gary Bender and former KU assistant coach Jerry Waugh.

Zenger, who received his Ph.D. from KU in 1996, returned as director in 2011. Falkenstein, who announced KU games from 1946 to 2006, covered more than 1,750 men's basketball games and 650 men's football games. Stallworth was named 1972 All-Big Eight Player of the Year and played in the NBA from 1972-1977. Bender began his career announcing KU football and basketball games in the 1960s, and has also worked for a number of broadcasting companies, including CBS and ABC. Waugh, who played at KU as a starting guard under Coach F. C. "Phog" Allen and later served as assistant KU basketball coach, helped lead the Jayhawks to the 1957 national championship game.

The event will be held on the third floor of Watson Library with a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m. and the panel discussion at 6:30 p.m. The exhibit will run through December 16.  In addition, an online exhibition will be launched on Naismith’s birthday, November 6th.

The exhibited items come from the archives of McGill University, where Naismith graduated; Springfield College, where he was teaching when he invented basketball; and the University of Kansas, where he founded KU’s long-running basketball program and worked for 40 years. Included in the exhibition are early university records such as the 1889 minutes of the Kansas Board of Regents meeting announcing that Naismith had been hired at KU.

“Exhibitions such as this serve to make us pause and remember the great events and people in the history of the University,” University Archivist Becky Schulte said. “Many people don’t realize that the inventor of basketball was actually a member of the KU community and that he arrived here just a few years after inventing the game."

Naismith began to work for the university as “Associate Professor of Physical Culture and Chaplain Director” in 1898 and continued to work for KU until his death in 1939. Above and beyond  his work in basketball, Naismith was exceptionally well-educated and held a doctorate in divinity, a doctorate of medicine and a master’s degree in physical education.

“Generations of KU students and fans have shared moments of joy and heartbreak which link us all together throughout history,” Schulte said. “The enjoyment of sports lends a special flavor to our memories of the university even as we remember that our primary purpose here is to learn.”

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