LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Alumni Association and the student-led Homecoming Steering Committee have named Howard and Debra Cohen of Leawood as winners of this year’s Rich and Judy Billings Spirit of 1912 Award. The annual award recognizes Jayhawks who consistently display school spirit, pride and tradition.
The Cohens will ride in the Homecoming Parade at 6 p.m. Sept. 27 on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence and receive their award at the Homecoming Reception, before kickoff of the KU-Oklahoma State football game Sept. 29.
Howard earned his KU bachelor’s degree in business in 1979 and for nearly 40 years has worked at Deloitte in Kansas City, where he’s a lead client service partner. He chaired the business school’s advisory board and served on the national board of directors for the Alumni Association from 2006 to 2011. He has volunteered as a trustee for KU Endowment since 2003. He is a Life member of the Alumni Association and participates in Jayhawks for Higher Education. In 2005, the School of Business honored him with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Debbi is a dedicated Jayhawk and co-chairs the Women Philanthropists for KU advisory board. She and Howard have attended numerous KU events in Kansas City, including the Rock Chalk Ball, the association’s largest fundraising event, for nearly two decades. The Cohens are longtime contributors to the Presidents Club and donated to the School of Business’ capital campaign, which raised funds for the construction of Capitol Federal Hall.
The Spirit of 1912 Award commemorates the first year of KU’s Homecoming and honors Rich and Judy Billings of Lakewood, Colorado, who in 2011 created an endowment to fund future editions of Homecoming. The Billings, both 1957 KU graduates, will attend their 60th KU Homecoming celebration this year, serving as grand marshals in the parade.
The theme for KU’s 106th Homecoming is “Home on the Hill.” The Alumni Association and its Student Alumni Network oversee this year’s event, which is sponsored by Crown Toyota, Volkswagen and Hy-Vee, with two locations in Lawrence, and is supported by Kansas Athletics. A complete schedule of Homecoming week activities can be found at kualumni.org/homecoming.
About the KU Alumni Association
Through the support of members and donors, the KU Alumni Association advocates for the University of Kansas, communicates with Jayhawks in all media, recruits students and volunteers, serves the KU community and unites Jayhawks. For more information, visit kualumni.org.
Photo: Debra and Howard Cohen. Credit: Steve Puppe.