James K. Hitt Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research
This award, named in honor of the late James K. Hitt, was established in October, 2011 by his son Alan B. Hitt and his daughter and son-in-law, Nancy Hitt Clark and David Clark. Awards from this fund will be presented annually at the Undergraduate Research Symposium to three students who are engaged in outstanding research and scholarship. The inaugural awards were presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 28, 2012 to Jessica Ludwig, Santiago Ferreira, and Cara Smith. The next awards will be presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 27, 2013.
Hitt’s leadership and dedication at the University of Kansas were evident as a student and continued during his 32 year career as an influential and innovative administrator. He retired in 1977 and was given the title University Registrar Emeritus. Born in 1914 in Everest, KS and raised in the small town of Hamlin in northeastern Kansas, Hitt first came to the university in 1930. He graduated in 1934 from KU with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and earned his master’s in mathematics, also at KU, in 1936. As an undergraduate, Hitt was a Summerfield scholar, ROTC member, and a member of several honors societies including Phi Beta Kappa. He was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity. Hitt first served as a staff member in 1940 as Assistant Registrar, and left on military leave as a second lieutenant for active service in the Army during World War II from 1942-1946. He returned to KU and served in several positions over the next 32 years. He worked as University Registrar, Director of Admissions, Director of the Office of Admission and Records, Associate Director of Institutional Research and Planning, and finally as a Special Assistant to the Chancellor.
He felt a deep attachment to the university throughout his life. He followed the Jayhawks’ athletic teams and, as faculty representative, accompanied the Wilt Chamberlain-led basketball team to the NCAA regional tournament in Dallas in 1957. Among his many accomplishments at KU, Hitt began the transition of university records to a computerized system, a very innovative practice at the time. This transition was the precursor of today’s online enrollment system. Hitt’s signature can be found on generations of KU graduates’ diplomas.
Following his retirement, Hitt continued to engage in his love of music through his piano playing and remained a die-hard KU basketball fan. He spent many years as a loving care-giver to his wife Bernadine and co-founded the Caregiver Support Group for individuals caring for family members with Alzheimer’s disease.
James Hitt died in January 2011. Hitt’s son, daughter, and son-in-law, all of whom are KU alumni, wished to commemorate Hitt’s achievement and dedication to the university. They felt that his sincere attention to KU students and faculty was truly exceptional and well-known across campus. As Hitt was involved both as a Summerfield Scholar and the head of the Summerfield committee, his son and daughter were keenly aware of their father’s respect for academic excellence and research. Both felt their father’s values are reflected in the University Honors Program’s focus on scholarship, research and innovation.