University of Kansas' Bernadette Gray-Little soars high - KCTV5

University of Kansas' Bernadette Gray-Little soars high

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LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV) -

University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little didn't seek to become a university leader.

"I did not have aspirations to be a university administrator or chancellor," she said.

After spending 30 years as a professor and university administrator in North Carolina, Gray-Little was invited in the spring of 2009 to apply for the position of KU chancellor.

The university liked her for the job, but needed an answer immediately. Her meetings with faculty, staff, students, regents and alumni convinced her to move west.

"It just became very evident to me how much they cared about and loved the university and the kind of aspirations they had for the university, and that made me interested because I thought 'they really love this place,'" she recalled.

She's grown to love it, too, even with the high demands. When asked to name her greatest accomplishments so far, Gray-Little rattled off a list, including the University of Kansas Cancer Center's designation as a National Cancer Institute. But, she's quick to give ample credit to colleagues.

"We've also had outstanding debate teams, faculty that have gotten outstanding grant funding, we've had Rhodes Scholars since I've been here. In many different areas, there are accomplishments and they're not really my accomplishments, they're the university's and there are a number of them each year," she said.

Whether it's fundraising, public speaking or attending the many events at the university, it can be a blurry line between her work time and her own time.

"It would be difficult to say where the time that's private starts and where the work begins and as a representative of the university, a spokesperson for the university, there might be activities at any time that I might need to participate in," she said.

While academics are her forte, she's played a major role in athletics at the university. She played a role in the hiring of football coaches Turner Gill and Charlie Weis. She also helped sign KU basketball coach Bill Self to a long-term deal.

The chancellor downplays her role in athletics. She says you may see her catching a game at historic Allen Fieldhouse, but says her involvement ends in the stands with the other spectators.

"Do I call the plays? No, I don't call the plays," she joked. "I certainly select the athletic director and I would have conversations about new coaches. But, I'm not involved in the way in which the team is coached or conducted or any of those things," she said.

Gray-Little is the first woman to hold the position of chancellor at KU. She is the 17th chancellor at the university and the first African-American. She thinks her selection as chancellor meant a lot to female alumni.

"It's about time. That's how I feel about it. It's not something I give a great deal of thought to on a day-to-day basis," she said.

It may not always have been her goal to become the head of a university, but Gray-Little is leaving a lasting legacy at the University of Kansas.

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