KU News: Kevin Willmott’s new film shines light on KC civil rights figure

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Kevin Willmott’s new film shines light on KC civil rights figure

LAWRENCE – For Academy Award-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott, the material closest to his heart inspires the stories he tells of overlooked historical events, and particularly local ones, that cast a light on the problems of today. Premiering June 19 as part of the Juneteenth Film Festival in Kansas City, Missouri, “Binding Us Together: The Heroic True-Life Adventures of Alvin Brooks” is a tribute to one of Kansas City’s first Black police officers who went on to a storied career as the city’s first Black department director, as founder of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime and its Crimestoppers anonymous tip line, and as a City Council member. The documentary also will be shown June 30 at the Free State Festival.

KU ranks 60th among US public universities granted utility patents in 2023

LAWRENCE — For the second year in a row, the University of Kansas has landed a spot on the National Academy of Inventors’ top 100 U.S. Universities Granted Utility Patents list. The 2023 list showcases universities that play a pivotal role in advancing the innovation ecosystem within and beyond the United States. From 2021 to 2023, KU filed 376 new patent applications and had 165 patents issued.

KU Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship awarded to 2023 graduate Aylar Atadurdyyeva

LAWRENCE — Aylar Atadurdyyeva, a 2023 University of Kansas graduate who successfully completed four bachelor’s degrees — global & international studies, microbiology, political science and Slavic studies — is the 2024 winner of the James Blackiston Memorial Graduate Fellowship from the KU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. Atadurdyyeva, originally from Turkmenistan, won $1,500 and is the chapter’s nominee for a national Phi Kappa Phi fellowship.

 

Full stories below.

 

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Contact: Rick Hellman, KU News Service, 785-864-8852, [email protected], @RickHellman

Kevin Willmott’s new film shines light on KC civil rights figure

 

LAWRENCE – For Academy Award-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott, the Hollywood jobs are great and all. But the material closest to his heart inspires the stories he tells of overlooked historical events, and particularly local ones, that cast a revealing light on the problems of today.

The newest film written, produced and directed by the University of Kansas professor of film & media studies is just such a story.

Premiering June 19 as part of the Juneteenth Film Festival at the Screenland Armour theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, “Binding Us Together: The Heroic True-Life Adventures of Alvin Brooks” is a documentary tribute to a Kansas City civil rights icon.

Brooks, still “sharp as a tack,” according to Willmott, at age 92, was one of Kansas City’s first Black police officers in the early 1950s. He went on to a storied career as the city’s first Black department director and creator of its human relations department, as founder of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime and its Crimestoppers anonymous tip line, as a City Council member, an educator and an all-around advocate for human and civil rights.

Willmott said he first got to know Brooks 20 years ago while filming “From Separate to Equal: The Creation of Truman Medical Centers,” about the racial history of Kansas City’s public hospital.

“We interviewed him for that,” Willmott said, “and he had so many great stories I was like, ‘Wow, there should be a documentary just about him!’ And so when I did a blurb for his autobiography, it reminded me again of how much I really wanted to make that film. And so we finally did it.”

Willmott said Brooks makes for a great documentary subject.

“I’m not sure if it’s because he was a policeman or what, but he can tell you the street addresses of where things happened 65 or 70 years ago,” Willmott said. “He tells a story in the film about an encounter he had with a white cop when he was a little kid, maybe 10 years old, and we go back to that location 82 years later, and he says, ‘This cop put a gun to my head and told me, “Run up this hill, (N-word), before I shoot you!”’

“I know I use the term ‘living history’ a lot, but he is truly living history.”

Willmott said it’s more important than ever, in light of political efforts to downplay and cover up the history of racism in America, to remind people of it.

“I have tried to tell stories that other people don’t want to tell and that Hollywood definitely is not interested in,” Willmott said. “There’s this whole thing right now that people don’t want to hear the ugly part of the American story. They don’t want Alvin to tell what happened to him on that street corner 82 years ago. But to me, you can’t get to the beautiful part of the American story without dealing with the ugly part.”

Willmott said the film offers viewers a ray of hope in dark times.

“We’re so divided, and there’s so much hate going on right now,” he said, “and who knows where it’s going to end up? But Alvin is a reminder of what we can be. He’s a reminder of the best of us. Because I still hold on to Dr. King and what he believed in. That’s the America I believe in. And it’s hard to hold on to that these days. So the movie, in some ways, is a great reminder of … who we really are, and who we can be.”

The early show of the June 19 premiere is sold out at press time, but tickets remain for the 8:30 p.m. show. The film will also be presented at 6 p.m. June 30, at the Lawrence Arts Center as part of the Free State Festival.

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The official university account for X (formerly Twitter) is @UnivOfKansas.

Follow @KUnews for KU News Service stories, discoveries and experts.

 

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Contact: Danya Turkmani, Office of Research, [email protected]

KU ranks 60th among US public universities granted utility patents in 2023

 

LAWRENCE — For the second year in a row, the University of Kansas has landed a spot on the National Academy of Inventors’ top 100 U.S. Universities Granted Utility Patents list.

The 2023 list showcases universities that play a pivotal role in advancing the innovation ecosystem within and beyond the United States.

“Patents are incredibly important to promoting innovation, with proprietary rights to an invention often being the foundation upon which a new opportunity or business is built,” said Clifford Michaels, executive director of the KU Center for Technology Commercialization. “The repeated inclusion of KU on this year’s NAI list of top 100 U.S. universities demonstrates our institution’s sustained investment and commitment to supporting innovation and commercialization.”

A utility patent, which is typically referred to as a patent for invention, is a type of intellectual property protection granted by a government authority for a new or improved product, process, machine or composition of matter. Utility patents are a fundamental tool for inventors and companies to protect their ideas and inventions, giving them a competitive edge in the marketplace, encouraging innovation and contributing to technological progress — which ultimately drives economic growth.

From 2021 to 2023, KU filed 376 new patent applications and had 165 patents issued. This activity came from a diverse group of academic schools and departments across all campuses and includes research and innovations in biotechnology, engineering, therapeutics, digital technologies, physical science, education, software and medical devices.

The Top 100 U.S. Universities list is the NAI’s newest ranking and is meant to provide a more focused view of the national innovation landscape, featuring contributions by U.S. academic institutions. NAI’s Top 100 lists are created using calendar year data provided by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Top 100 placement includes all named assignees listed on the patent.

“As we look at the current and future state of innovation in our nation, we need to ensure that the U.S. is remaining competitive in the international innovation ecosystem,” said Paul Sanberg, NAI president. “Protecting intellectual property is a key component to this, and the Top 100 U.S. Universities list allows us to recognize and celebrate universities and their faculty, staff and students who are not only innovating at high levels but taking the additional step of protecting their IP through patenting.”

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Don’t miss new episodes of “When Experts Attack!,”

a KU News Service podcast hosted by Kansas Public Radio.

 

https://kansaspublicradio.org/podcast/when-experts-attack

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Contact: Cody Howard, School of Engineering, 785-864-2936, [email protected], @kuengineering

KU Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship awarded to 2023 graduate Aylar Atadurdyyeva

 

LAWRENCE — Aylar Atadurdyyeva, a 2023 University of Kansas graduate who successfully completed four bachelor’s degrees — global & international studies, microbiology, political science and Slavic studies — is the 2024 winner of the James Blackiston Memorial Graduate Fellowship from the KU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. Atadurdyyeva won $1,500 and is the chapter’s nominee for a national Phi Kappa Phi fellowship.

Atadurdyyeva, originally from Turkmenistan, was a Rhodes Scholar nominee. She also received multiple honors from KU including the Class of 1913 Award, Clark Coan Leadership Award and the Outstanding International Woman Student Award. She was named the state of Kansas Student Employee of the Year after winning the same award at KU.

She was a clinical research fellow at Department of Radiation Oncology in the KU School of Medicine and worked as an undergraduate researcher in the Department of Molecular Biosciences. She was also active in a broad range of activities and endeavors, serving as a Security Affairs Research Fellow at the Foreign Military Studies Office at the United States Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth and as a Think Tank Scholar with the U.S.-Russia Foundation and Howard University.

“Aylar is a terrific student — one of the three best I have taught in over 30 years at the undergraduate level, meaning I measure her performance against several thousand undergraduate students,” said Robert Rohrschneider, Sir Robert Worcester Distinguished Professor of Political Science. “She is extremely smart, very driven and has intellectual depth and dexterity that I hardly ever see in any student, especially at the undergraduate level.”

In addition to her academic and research accomplishments, Atadurdyyeva dedicated time to serving the broader university community. In 2023, she was executive director of the Big Event, KU’s largest public service event. She was also executive director of KU’s Homecoming Committee in 2023. She also worked as an academic tutor for KU’s Transition to Postsecondary Education program.

Atadurdyyeva plans to pursue a graduate degree in biological and biomedical sciences at Vanderbilt University.

About the Blackiston Fellowship

The Blackiston Fellowship was created to honor the memory of James Blackiston, a graduate student in the Department of Linguistics and an instructor in the Intensive English Center, now the Applied English Center, at KU. He graduated from Michigan State University, where he was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi. In 1975, Blackiston played a key role in the formation and activation of the KU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi.

The Blackiston Fellowship recipient becomes the KU chapter’s nominee for one of nearly 60 fellowships from Phi Kappa Phi with values from $5,000 to $15,000. These national fellowships assist students during their first year of postgraduate study.

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest and most selective honor society for all academic disciplines. More than 100,000 members maintain their active status in Phi Kappa Phi, which offers them numerous benefits as dues-paying members including access to $1.4 million in awards and grants each biennium.

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Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, director of news and media relations, [email protected]

 

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