advances science fiction and medicine at KU
James Gunn, KU professor emeritus
The brother of a University of Kansas professor emeritus
of English has left more than $388,000 for a science
fiction center at KU named for the brothers' parents
and for three lectureships.
The late Richard W. Gunn, c'41, m'44, gave to the Kansas
University Endowment Association for the department
of English and the School of Medicine. About $290,000
of the gift has been divided between an annual lectureship
in English and the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center
for the Study of Science Fiction. The Gunn Center was
founded and is directed by Richard's brother, James
Gunn, KU professor emeritus of English. The center offers
special courses and conferences, facilitates research
and makes annual awards for outstanding fiction in the
"Dr. Gunn's gift will advance the study of science
fiction at KU and help the department bring outstanding
speakers to campus who will enhance the public's understanding
of literature and writing in the 21st century,"
said Professor Dorice Elliott, chair of the Department
The remainder of the gift supported two medical lecture
series and cardiovascular research. The lecture series
are named for the late Don Carlos Peete, a former KU
professor of medicine, and his late wife, Alice V. Peete.
The series are coordinated by the KU Division of Cardiovascular
Diseases and the department of history and philosophy
Richard was one of the youngest doctorsif not
the youngestto graduate with a medical degree
from KU, James said. He was born in October 1921 and
graduated from medical school just short of his 23rd
birthday, in part because of accelerated school programs
in place in Kansas City, KU and in the military during
World War II.
James said his brother's studies in medicine did not
afford him much time for taking classes outside the
"But Richard was always interested in literature
and was fond of books and opera, and he was a patron
of literary, dramatic and opera causes, among many others,"
James said. "He picked up on the controversy over
the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, and he became
an advocate of the theory that the Earl of Oxford had
written Shakespeare's works."
James also noted that he and Richard discussed science
fiction. "We both began reading the same pulp magazines
back in 1932, but Richard's time got diverted into studies."
Richard read early versions of James' 1962 novel The
"The Immortals is dedicated to Richard,"
James said. "I'd consult with him periodically
while I was writing it, and he'd read my speculations
about future medicine and say 'this could never happen.'
Now a lot of it has come to pass."
Richard's recent gifts were not his first. A 1991 gift
of $50,000 endowed a fund for the science fiction center
in honor of the elder Gunns. J. Wayne Gunn died in 1990
at age 95 and Elsie Gunn died in 1994 at age 97.
"Richard took care of them in his home beginning
in 1952," James said. "For about 50 years
they lived with him and helped him in his practice.
He was devoted to them, and when they died I think a
part of himself went with them."
Richard was a medical officer in the U.S. Army during
and after World War II. In 1948, he joined the Missouri
National Guard in Kansas City, eventually rising to
the rank of colonel before retiring from the Guard in
1981. He began a neighborhood medical practice in Kansas
City, Mo., in 1950 and later joined Don Carlos Peete,
m'25, in private practice in internal medicine. Despite
a 1989 heart attack, Richard continued with the practice
for 20 years after Don's death, operating it out of
a home office.
The gift from Richard's estate counts toward the goal
of KU First: Invest in Excellence, the largest fund-raising
campaign in KU history. KU Endowment is conducting KU
First on behalf of KU through 2004 to raise in excess
of $600 million for scholarships, fellowships, professorships,
capital projects and program support. KU Endowment serves
as the independent, non-profit fund-raising and fund-management
organization for KU.