Dr. David Ontjes grew up in Kansas, but he has not lived here since he graduated with Honors in 1959. Despite his physical distance from the state, he holds his KU and Honors experiences closely.
“I had a wonderful educational experience that I don’t think I could’ve gotten anywhere else. It has benefited me through my life,” he says. “I had the opportunity to do all kinds of things, and it has enriched my life considerably.”
Dr. Ontjes, who was a Summerfield Scholar at KU, went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and studied physiology at Oxford University. He attended medical school at Harvard University, did a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health for three years. Then, he joined the medical faculty at the University of North Carolina and is now retired.
He credits the Honors Program with broadening his horizons and exposing him to a variety of disciplines – things that the Honors Program continues to do for KU students today. That is why he has chosen to give to the Honors Program and help fund transformative experiences.
“They are providing individual opportunities for Honors students to do new things, get involved in projects outside their classes – research and other endeavors. I think it’s going to make a difference in their lives,” Dr. Ontjes says. “I am optimistic about the future. From what I know about the program, it’s doing good things.”
Having grown up in the small town of Stafford, Kan., Dr. Ontjes remembers what it was like to arrive at a “big place” like KU. He says that his adviser, George Wagner, former dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and his seminar leader, Frances Heller, helped steer him toward classes that he knew nothing about, that were outside of his major.
“I was kind of a dabbler – I thought I should get all the breadth of education while I could before specializing,” he says.
Although much has changed with students since Dr. Ontjes was at KU, in many ways the role of the Honors Program has stayed the same as what he says it did for him.
“If you get involved in a special program where you’re part of a group, then you get to know faculty members who are interested in you, and you get to know other students – I appreciated that,” he says.
And Honors students appreciate his support.
Click Here to support the University Honors Program.