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50 Kansans You Should Know: Class of 2020

Ingram's Magazine
Dennis Boone
Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The 50 individuals you’ll meet in the following pages bring to an even 500 the number of Sunflower State residents from all walks of life who have been singled out for their over-sized contributions to business success, civic engagement, philanthropic zeal and shared interest in moving their communities forward, and by extension, advancing the interests of an entire state. As in years past, they are a patchwork quilt of life in Kansas. They include business executives, athletes, artists, educators and scholars, hailing from the ranks of health care, real estate, agriculture, banking, manufacturing, hospitality and more. And, as in years past, you’ll see in their personal stories and professional accomplishments the traits that have come to define community leadership in Kansas: superior work ethic, passion for building their enterprises, a genuine desire to improve the lot in life not just for themselves, but for all whose lives their work touches. Here at Ingram’s, we like to describe the 50 Kansans You Should Know feature as the best cross-section of key personalities compiled in that state. Our stock line, in fact, is that we’ve profiled people ranging from uber-industrialist Charles Koch of Wichita to Linda Clovis, manager of Cawker City’s Big Ball of Twine. Success, after all, comes in many forms. An effort like this doesn’t happen on its own. Each year, we reach out to an ever-expanding universe of honorees and ask them: who are the people driving success in your community, and what attributes make them worthy of consideration? We’re looking, you might say, for characters with character. We think we’ve found 50 of them for 2020. We’re confident you’ll be inspired by each.

Raj Bhala
University of Kansas, Lawrence

Kansas sits more than a thousand miles from the coasts, but with residents like Raj Bhala, it’s directly connected to the world. A professor of international law at KU, Bhala brings to his students a blend of insight, experience, rhetoric and oratory (laced with references to Shakespeare) that helps them break down barriers erected by cultures, religions, economic systems and political structures. Canadian born of Indian parentage, he was summa cum laude at Duke University before Harvard, where he wrote a book on international banking law while a third-year law student. Quite a catch for KU, which he says “traditionally is open-minded, willing to see the equivalence, even superiority, of outside-the-box credentials” for its instructors. He also has taught Islamic law to U.S. officers at Fort Leavenworth. There exists, Bhala says, a deep need for Kansas-educated minds to succeed in the world beyond. “The legal profession risks becoming ever-more plutocratic, with top positions going to graduates of elite (dare I say elitist?) law schools. That trend is bad for the country,” he says. “Our international lawyers need to come from the Heartland, and reflect its positive Midwestern values, and its increasing diversity. At KU, I can help train the best and brightest for prominent positions of power and responsibility.”

Faculty name: 
Raj Bhala