LAWRENCE – A University of Kansas graduate who established a nonprofit organization to support military families will be honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
Dan Rooney, founder of Folds of Honor, will be recognized Thursday, Oct. 8, at the Dole Institute of Politics, 2350 Petefish Drive. The recognition event will feature a Q&A session with Rooney and the presentation of the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor the College bestows upon its graduates. The public is invited to attend. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the event starts at 7 p.m.
Nearly 10 years ago, Rooney took a flight that changed his life and led him to found Folds of Honor, which has provided more than 8,000 educational scholarships to family members of soldiers killed or disabled in combat.
In 2006, Rooney, an F-16 pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, was on a commercial flight carrying the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin, who was killed in the line of duty in Iraq. He watched as Corporal Bucklin’s flag-covered casket was unloaded to his grieving family. Among them was the corporal’s young son, Jacob. Rooney thought of his own wife and daughters. He’d seen combat, but witnessing the other, more intimate side of war through Jacob’s eyes was life-altering.
Rooney decided he had to do something. He called his wife and told her his mission was to help the family he had seen that night on the tarmac. To achieve this goal, Rooney turned to his other passion – golf. In 2007, he gathered golfers and asked them to donate an extra dollar in greens fees to help fund scholarships for the families of killed or disabled veterans. Today his nonprofit has raised more than $70 million to support scholarships, including one that went to Brock Bucklin’s 6-year-old son, Jacob.
In addition to leading Folds of Honor, Rooney is a retired fighter pilot and a professional golfer. He has been awarded numerous honors, including being named People magazine’s “Hero of the Year” and ABC World News’ “Person of the Year.” He is also author of “A Patriot’s Calling: Living Life Between Fear and Faith.” Rooney received a bachelor’s degree in geography in 1996 from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and a master’s degree in education in physical education in 1997 from the School of Education.
For more information on the event, contact Jessica Beeson, firstname.lastname@example.org or 785-864-1767.
The College named three Distinguished Alumni honorees for 2015-’16. The other recipients are are civic leader and retired Judge Anne Levinson and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Brad Garlinghouse. Levinson was recognized last month in Seattle; Garlinghouse will be recognized at an event in the San Francisco Bay Area in the spring.
The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences has recognized nearly 60 alumni since it established the Distinguished Alumni Award. The College is KU's broadest, most diverse academic unit, with more than 50 departments, programs and centers.
Photo: Major Dan Rooney and Jacob, scholarship recipient and inspiration for Major Rooney’s nonprofit Folds of Honor.