There’s an annual community event that rallies support and funding for one local elementary school, all while satisfying hungry patrons with delicious chicken.
The Lee Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization Chicken BBQ, held Friday evening, has been a Manhattan staple for decades: 67 years to be exact.
The event raises money for technology and equipment at the school. But it takes a lot of work from some experienced volunteers to pull it off.
Craig Graves, Rock-A-Belly Bar & Deli kitchen manager, the “chicken master,” oversees the process for cooking the chicken to perfection.
“I’m used to dealing with large amounts of food, and putting it together,” said Graves, who has helped with the fundraiser for 12 years.
Hy-Vee furnished 250 birds while Kansas State University’s poultry department provides the tasty BBQ sauce, which has been the same recipe since the first fundraiser, Graves said.
Cooks place the chicken in metal racks above a long pit filled with 500 pounds of charcoal at KSU’s poultry unit, at 2000 Marlatt Ave. The volunteers turn the chicken until it’s is cooked to a golden brown.
After that, volunteers place the chicken in the sauce, and then resume cooking it over the coals.
This double-cooking method ensures the chicken is cooked all the way through, Graves said.
“Nothing’s better than cooking chicken with some friends,” Graves said.
Meredith and Will, Graves’ two children, attended Lee. Meredith is now a sophomore at Manhattan High School and Will is in his first year at Eisenhower Middle School.
Graves said people still volunteer to help with the fundraiser even after their children age out of Lee.
“The best part is that we’ve all done it together for a long number of years,” he said.
The event allows friends to catch up with one another while prepping and getting the chicken ready.
“It’s (an) opportunity for us to see each other once a year and kinda reconnect with some of the other parents that have had kids at Lee,” he said. “We have a lot of camaraderie out here.”
Phil Hewins, who Graves refers to as his “right-hand man,” is another person who helps get the birds ready. This is his seventh year volunteering.
He said he enjoys the process of cooking the chicken.
“There’s a sequence that they’ve used for years and years,” Hewins said.
This year, Hewins’ 12-year-old son Cale, a sixth grader, helped.
“This is my first year that I’ve come out here and really helped,” Cale said. “But yeah, I’m liking it so far.”
Hewins’ daughter, CJ, is the same age as Meredith, Graves’ daughter. Meredith also attended Lee.
Graves said he plans to help with the fundraisers in the future.
“It’s just a lot of fun to do and I’m glad to keep up with the tradition,” he said. “And I’ll always cook chickens.”
In his fourth State of the University address, K-State president Richard Myers related the university’s progress in the context of K-State’s goal to become a top 50 public research university by 2025.
At the K-State Alumni Center Friday afternoon, Myers said that since his predecessor developed the K-State 2025 plan, the university has met several challenges, including declining enrollment and state funding in the past half decade. Myers and provost Charles Taber have hinted that this year will mark a sixth consecutive fall semester of decline in the 20th day student headcount. A complete enrollment report is expected this week once the Kansas Board of Regents releases statewide enrollment data.
“As we reflect on our progress, there’s been a lot of things that make us better, even as challenges and circumstances energize in new ways,” Myers said. “I’m really proud of the way we’ve overcome and tried to accommodate some of those challenges.”
Myers focused on areas of development identified in the K-State 2025 plan, including research, scholarly and creative activities and discovery; undergraduate educational experience; graduate scholarly experience; engagement, extension, outreach and service; faculty and staff; facilities and infrastructure; and athletics.
Myers said the university has made substantial progress in increasing cutting-edge research at the university, but much work is left to become a top 50 public research institute in the next five years.
He pointed out that the university has continued to break its own records in research. The university’s fiscal year runs between July 1 and June 30, and in the 2018 fiscal year, the university spent $218.3 million on research — a record amount that was up 35.8% from $160.7 million in 2011.
The university also saw a record $174 million in research awards spread across 1,553 awards in the 2019 fiscal year.
“That’s no small feat,” Myers said. “When a lot of government research was declining, ours was going up.
“This is all accomplished because we have really hardworking research faculty here, and then I think we have excellent administrative support for research, both centrally and decentralized,” Myers continued. “We’re making it easier for people who have really good ideas and want to get funded to get the funding they need to write the grants to get the awards. Success breeds success, and that’s what you see on this chart.”
Myers boasted of the university’s recent positions on the Princeton Reviews annual rankings of 385 colleges in the country. This fall, K-State ranked No. 2 for best quality-of-life and No. 3 for happiest students and for students who love their college.
“That, to me, says a lot of things, but it says a lot of things about our faculty and the way our faculty cares about students and student progress,” Myers said.
He also said that K-State’s six-year graduation rate stands at a record 65.2%, referring to the number of students who started college in 2013 but have graduated in the six years since. K-State also conferred a record 207 doctorates last school year.
The university is also working to begin its physician-assistant program as well as a nursing program in partership with Wichita State University. Myers said those programs will help attract more students to K-State and hopefully address a need for those skills in the region.
Faculty and staff
Myers said the university is filling three new university administration posts: vice provost for student success, vice provost for enrollment management and associate provost for institutional research.
Those are not entirely new positions, Myers said, but rather positions that have been repurposed.
He said that while he couldn’t yet announce names, the university has made an offer to two people who have essentially accepted two of the jobs. Myers did not specify which of the positions he was referring to.
Myers said the university has invested $569.5 million in academic facilities since 2012.
The university has several facilities projects in the works, including the restoration of Hale Library, K-State’s central library that was heavily damaged in a May 2018 fire incident. The library’s first floor opened earlier this semester, and the rest of the building will open in stages over the next year. The historic Great Room will likely take a little longer to restore, Myers said.
Initial construction for the Morris Multicultural Student Center is underway, and the K-State Student Union-adjacent center is on track to open by fall 2020.
After the Hale Library fire, in which much of K-State’s network infrastructure was taken out by sprinkler water, Myers said that Information Technology Services is in the middle of moving much of its storage to cloud storage.
Derby Dining Center is also undergoing a $16 million renovation this year, although the center remains open. Workers will break ground on a $6 million project to expand McCain Auditorium’s lobby in June with an estimated February 2021 completion date.
Fundraising and enrollment
Apart from the main areas identified in K-State 2025, Myers also highlighted some of the university’s other accomplishments. In April, the university’s All In donation event raised $320,000 for the student food pantry Cats Cupboard to combat food insecurity on campus. More than 1,000 students have visited the pantry since it opened two years ago.
The university also beat its Innovation and Inspiration Campaign’s goal to raise $1 billion by June 30, 2020. So far, the university has raised $1.4 billion, and Myers projected that the campaign will finish in June with $1.6 billion raised.
K-State’s endowment grew to $613.4 million, representing an 82% increase since 2011. The university has raised $84.7 million fo scholarship and student success endeavors in the past two years, including 375 new scholarships.
The university is in the middle of a two-year budget transition to a revenue-center model, which is intended to allocate university funding to departments based on performance. Myers said this budget model allows for better transparency in understanding how budget decisions are made.
“You might not like what you see, but it’s all going to be there,” Myers said. “Before, it was behind a curtain.”
K-State also will look to bolster its revenue by bringing enrollment back up, Myers said. With three new administrative positions to oversee enrollment initiatives, the university’s strategic enrollment plan will focus on new marketing and communication strategies, particularly in attracting out-of-state students to Kansas.
Myers said that although the university currently has less than 22,000 students, the campus still has the capacity for its 2014 peak of 24,000.
“Our goal is to get back to where we were in 2014, because that’s what we were built for,” Myers said. “We’d like to see that growth, then we can take time to assess if we’re having an effect out there and attracting a lot of students, particularly from out of state. We’ll make that decision then.”
After months overseas in Europe and Afghanistan, thousands of 1st Infantry Division troops are returning home.
Fort Riley-based units are wrapping up nine-month deployments that began in January and February.
Families will welcome 1st Combat Aviation Brigade soldiers at 1 p.m Oct. 19 in Building 863 at Fort Riley. Fort Riley’s website notes that arrival times are subject to change.
Troops from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team returned to the base in mid September.
Almost 4,000 1st ABCT soldiers and approximately 2,700 1st CAB soldiers deployed to Europe as part of a regular rotation in support of the Atlantic Resolve mission.
Atlantic Resolve’s purpose is to build readiness, increase interoperability and enhance the bonds with partner militaries using multinational training events in Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
More than 150 1st Sustainment Brigade headquarters soldiers also have been deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, continuing counterterrorism efforts.
Those soldiers are also set to redeploy this fall.
Football fans experienced disruptions from both Mother Nature and ESPN+ Saturday while the No. 24 Wildcats took on Oklahoma State in Stillwater. (Full coverage, Page B1.)
The Wildcats and Cowboys faced a lightning delay of just over an hour during the first half of play.
On top of weather, fans attempting to watch the game from home expressed their frustrations with ESPN+ on social media. One fan referred to the streaming service as “ESPN Minus.”
This is the first time a K-State football game has been broadcast on ESPN+. ESPN+ is a streaming servive launched in 2018. It costs $4.99 per month or $49.99 annually and is not part of a cable or satellite subscription.
Fans experienced frozen screens and delays while using ESPN+. They also complained that the network didn’t use virtual markings, like a first-down marker, either.
In the past, Big 12 games generally have been televised. Other games have been on K-State HD.