Finding a home on the Hill

John Nalbandian gives back to the University that became his home

“I joined the KU faculty in 1976.  My family and I moved to Kansas from Los Angeles, our home, and we thought we would spend a few years here and then return to Southern California.  I have returned, but only to visit!   Lawrence became our home, and KU became our home.NALBANDIANJohn_2006_cms

Early on during a gubernatorial campaign, John Carlin, the democratic candidate, came to our door seeking our vote.  I was shocked.  I had never seen a candidate for public office walk door to door in L.A.  Used to the vastness of L.A., this was an intimate and seminal event for me.  I had a thought that would stick with me from then on.  I said to myself, “John, you can become anything you aspire to in Kansas.”  And, it turned out to be true.  In 1991 while fulfilling my faculty responsibilities, I also ran for city council and was elected to a four year term; I was reelected to another four year term in 1995.  I served as the city’s mayor as well.

What a wonderful eight years for a faculty member whose academic specialization is local government.  That experience coupled with my academic work, has enabled me to consult with city councils throughout American and to give workshops and presentations internationally.

I found more than an academic home at KU.  David Whyte wrote the book: “Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work As A Pilgrimage of Identity.”  And that is exactly what KU and Lawrence have meant to me.  Being among faculty colleagues, students, and our dedicated alumni, and being appreciated as well as challenged by them has allowed me to reflect on who I am as a teacher and research and to mature into the person I am today.  And, just as years ago I said to myself that I could become anything I aspired to in Kansas, I know now in retirement that at KU I became everything I aspired to as an faculty member.

With my contributions to KUEA, I am not “giving” to KU; I am “giving back to KU.”  Much of what I have become, I owe to Lawrence and to KU.  And I am proud to call myself a Jayhawk.”

– John Nalbandian is a professor emeritus in the School of Public Affairs & Administration