The Williams Education Fund generates financial support for all University of Kansas student-athletes with a responsibility to facilitate, promote, and enhance academic and athletic experiences.
The University of Kansas athletics department has a long, proud tradition. The Williams Education Fund supports this tradition by providing funding for scholarships needed to attract the finest student-athletes.
Dick, Skipper, and Odd Williams organized the Outland Club – raising $2 million from 1949 to 1973. At that time, the Outland Club became the Williams Education Fund. Today, more than 6,000 KU alumni, friends and fans contribute $20 million each year in support of more than 500 student-athletes.
The Early Years: Outland’s Influence on Kansas Athletics
Dr. John H. Outland is best known to Kansans as the “Father of the Kansas Relays” and is known nationally as the namesake for the Outland Trophy, recognized as one of the nation’s most prestigious awards given to the nation’s most outstanding collegiate interior lineman. Outland had never played football before starting his college education at Kansas, where he was invited to try out while watching the team practice one day. Two years later while pursuing a medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania, he was named to Walter Camp’s All-American team as a tackle.
Outland returned to his home state of Kansas in the early 1900s where he practiced medicine in Kansas City and made an impact on local sports, including urging the University of Kansas to host a relay carnival similar to the Penn Relays. Enlisting the help of Athletics Director Phog Allen and track coach Karl Schlademan, Outland saw his dream become reality in 1923 as 600 athletes entered the newly constructed Memorial Stadium – with its quarter-mile running track – to compete in the inaugural Kansas Relays.
Taking Shape: Dick Williams Takes the Baton
Development efforts for athletics at the University of Kansas were taken to the next level in 1949, when Dick Williams helped formalize the athletic scholarship fund and started the Outland Fund.
By 1968, the Outland Fund reached $1 million in support for Kansas Athletics with contributing members from 73 different cities in Kansas, as well as from 10 other states. Less than a decade later, the Outland Fund surged past $2 million as Skipper and Odd continued to direct the fund after Dick’s death in 1970. In 1974, the Kansas athletics department assumed responsibility of the fund, and on March 6, then-athletics director Clyde Walker announced that the Outland Fund would be re-named the Williams Educational Fund in honor of the families’ efforts.
Skipper passed away later that year and Odd kept the Williams family at the forefront of the Jayhawks’ fundraising efforts until his death in 1982. Although gone in physical presence, Dick, Skipper and Odd Williams’ legacies live on as Kansas Athletics enjoys calling some of the finest facilities in college athletics home, and annual contributions continue to provide an opportunity for current Jayhawk student-athletes to study and compete.
Still Supporting Student-Athletes Nearly 70 Years Later
Today, the Williams Education Fund staff of 17 helps identify and meet student-athlete needs in the way of financial aid and capital projects, and serves as stewards for the fund that has grown to more than 4,700 annual members from its humble beginning of 115 charter members. The staff also manages hospitality and the gameday experience for Williams Education Fund members, and manages KU’s priority point system and select-a-seat process.