Dear Wildcat Nation,
Thank you! Mary Lawrence and I are incredibly honored and humbled to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come to Manhattan and join the team at Kansas State. We are grateful to incoming President Kirk Schulz and the search committee for giving us the opportunity to join the K-State family.
I want to thank K-State Alumni Association CEO Amy Button Renz and her search committee members Lee Borck, Suzie Fritz, Dr. Mike Holen, Dr. Melody LeHew, Kevin Lockett, Chris Merriewether and Lydia Peele for their service. Having served in this fashion a few times myself, most recently on the search committee for UT's new chancellor, I fully appreciate the extra time and effort they put into the process.
As I told the committee when we met, our first real in-person exposure to Wildcat Nation was at the 2001 Cotton Bowl in Dallas. It was on that cold, snowy morning that Mary Lawrence (seven months pregnant at the time!) and I witnessed both the passionate support of K-State fans as well as the disciplined work ethic of a football team led by Coach Bill Snyder, one of the true legends of college football. Since that time we have always admired not only the spirit and dedication of KSU fans but also the toughness and determination that seem to be the mark of the K-State athletics program.
We have already jumped into the transition process and are looking forward to getting to Manhattan permanently very soon. After being officially introduced as athletics director Monday, my first order of business Tuesday is a trip to Colorado Springs for the annual Big 12 Spring Meetings.
I was also able to attend my first K-State sporting event last Saturday as I drove over to Oak Ridge, TN, to meet Coach Sweeney and the rowing team as they participated in the Central Regionals. Attending competitions is important to me and you can plan to see me at events regularly, supporting our coaches and student-athletes.
I also would like to take a few moments to recognize some of our athletic programs that are currently wrapping up competition this spring or gearing towards postseason play. Coach Tim Norris and the men's golf team capped a memorable season this past weekend with a berth in the 2009 NCAA West Regional, while Coach Brad Hill and the baseball program will take its national ranking and record-breaking squad to Oklahoma City for this year's Big 12 Baseball Championship.
Congratulations to Moritz Cleve, who was crowned Big 12 Champion in the decathlon on Saturday after setting a Big 12 Championship record in the event. K-State will be well-represented at the 2009 NCAA Track and Field Midwest Regional next weekend and we wish them the very best of luck.
We also would like to recognize Coach Suzie Fritz, who will represent Kansas State and the Big 12 Conference on a national level, as she begins her duties this week as head coach of the USA Women's National Volleyball A2 Team.
Since one of the first items on our to-do list is getting to know our new K-State family, I want to let you know just a little bit more about us before we proceed.
Mary Lawrence and I will celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary on June 27th. She works part-time as a CPA and full-time as a great mom to our three children, while making time to be involved in our church and play a little tennis. Jack is a second-grader who loves all sports, especially baseball, and we (as biased parents) think he has a pretty good aptitude for math. Gigi is finishing a great year of kindergarten and likes cheerleading, tumbling and soccer. Purple is one of her favorite colors. The whole family enjoys our new sister/daughter Mary-Dell, who was born on January 13th!
Mary Lawrence and I both grew up in college towns, she in Orangeburg, SC (home to South Carolina State and Claflin College), and me in Chapel Hill, NC. Both of us have parents who still hold academic positions so higher education has always held an important place in our lives.
As athletic director or administrators, our job is pretty straight-forward. We need to work every day to provide tremendous support to our coaches and student-athletes, and great service to our fans and our school. Over the next several weeks I will be working with our coaches and athletic staff to learn more about the department.
Here's where I need the help of our fans, ticket purchasers, Ahearn members and the entire Wildcat Nation. I need your views, opinions and suggestions, along with any other stories or information that will help us understand K-State better. Just click on the "Tell John" icon to share your thoughts.
Finally, I would like to take the time to thank Mr. K-State, Ernie Barrett, and his wife Bonnie for taking the time to visit with me prior to my arrival in Manhattan. Their warmth and spirit are prime examples of what makes the K-State Family so special.
That's it for now. We have some more boxes to pack and change of address forms to complete! We can't wait to get to Manhattan. As always thank you for your loyal support of K-State.
And don't forget, tickets for our October 3 football game against Iowa State at Arrowhead Stadium are now on sale. I hope to see all of Wildcat Nation in Bill Snyder Family Stadium and in Kansas City!