Booth family pledges more than $4 million for KU Hall of Athletics

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway (left) examines an artist¹s rendering of the KU Hall of Athletics with Mark Booth (second from left), David Booth, KU Associate Athletics Director John Hadl and KU Athletics Director Lew Perkins.

In honor of their parents' love of University of Kansas athletics and the sacrifices they made for their children, the family of the late Gilbert and Betty Booth have committed more than $4 million for a Hall of Athletics at Allen Fieldhouse.

Originally announced anonymously in February, the pledge to the Kansas University Endowment Association is from the Booths' children and grandchildren. Booth family members pledging their support are David and Suzanne Booth of Los Angeles and their children, Erin and Chandler; Mark and Lauren Bacich Booth of London and their children, Miles, Coco and Cyrus; Mark and Jane Booth Berkley of Tescott, Kan., and their children and spouses, Stuart and Tina Berkley, Elizabeth and Pete Reininga, and Melissa and Marco Ungaschik.

Their gift will help fund construction of an addition to be built on the east side of Allen Fieldhouse, home of KU's basketball programs. The Hall of Athletics will feature memorabilia spanning more than a century of KU athletics programs, a ticket office and a store. Construction is expected to begin in 2005.

"The Hall of Athletics will be an outstanding facility that will honor the achievements of dozens of exceptional former KU student-athletes," said Lew Perkins, director of athletics. "With the support of the Booth family, we will now have a place for all Jayhawk fans to experience the history of KU's strong athletics traditions."

Betty and Gilbert were longtime residents of Garnett, Kan., until 1959. That year, although Jane and David had not yet completed high school, the family relocated to Lawrence so David and Jane could eventually attend KU.

"This wasn't a time when people were mobile," said Jane, who attended KU from 1963 to 1965. "Looking back, it was a huge sacrifice for them after living in Garnett for so long. We can't imagine how much they gave up for us."

Their new home at 1931 Naismith was just down the street from Allen Fieldhouse. Jane said that living so close allowed the family to feel like they were an integral part of the University, where they often attended cultural events and football and basketball games. An added bonus for Mark, c'78, was the proximity to KU men's basketball team members.

"It was very exciting to be a young boy who could go watch practices and get to know the players," Mark said. "The players were always very kind. They would occasionally let me win a game of '21' and gave me a jersey now and then."

David, c'68, g'69, added that a gift for Allen Fieldhouse was an appropriate memorial.

"When I get to see games at Allen Fieldhouse, I get flashbacks to my years at KU and the times I went to basketball games with my parents," David said. "KU athletics were more than just sporting events to us; they were a way of life."

Mark said the gift was the best way to honor two dedicated parents and Jayhawk supporters.

"We were fortunate to have wonderful parents who made us believe that anything was possible," Mark said. "KU basketball and Allen Fieldhouse were things they both loved. It seems a fitting tribute to give this gift in honor of two very lovely people."

Gilbert was in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and attained the rank of sergeant. When he returned to Garnett, he ran a local IGA and sold cars. For many years he traveled the south-central portion of Kansas as a route manager for the Kansas City Star, retiring in 1981. He died in 1985.

Betty and Gilbert married in Garnett in 1944. Originally given emergency certification to teach in Pomona, Kan., during World War II, Betty earned a degree in education from Ottawa University in 1968. She taught from 1968 until 1980 at Kaw Valley rural school and also in Eudora. She died in 1995.

The Booth family's gift 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.

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