picture by: Contributed
Updated at 5:22 p.m. Monday
Burdett Loomis, a longtime University of Kansas political science professor and well-known supporter of grassroots arts, has died. He was 76 years old.
Loomis, who had retired from KU, died Saturday at his home in Lawrence after being recently diagnosed with cancer.
KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, in a message to the KU community on Monday, said Loomis, known as “Bird”, was “among the giants in the history of KU”.
“It’s hard to imagine the University of Kansas — past or present — without Bird,” said Girod, who hailed Loomis’ success as an educator, public servant and researcher.
Girod particularly noted the Washington, DC and Topeka internship programs that Loomis developed.
“These programs are among the best of their kind nationally today,” Girod said.
Professor Patrick Miller, a colleague of Loomis in the KU Department of Political Science, took over the internship program after Loomis retired and praised the decades of mentorship Loomis had provided to students.
“His students have become elected officials, lobbyists, public policy makers … people who have worked for governors or even presidents,” Miller said.
Miller lamented “the wealth of institutional knowledge about Kansas politics” that would be lost with Loomis’ passing.
Born in 1945 in New York, Loomis began his career at KU in the late 1970s and worked there for more than 40 years. Prior to that, he worked at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a visiting professor, according to KU’s website. He also served as director of administrative communications for former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and acting director of the Robert J. Dole Institute for Public Service and Public Policy from 1997 to 2001.
Books he has authored or co-authored include, among others, “Republic on Trial”, a 2002 defense of representative democracy, and “The Sound of Money”, a 1999 examination of the influence of government spending. special interest in Congress.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly tweeted on Sunday that she was “saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Burdett Loomis.”
“Burdett was a fixture and a voice of reason in Kansas politics for decades, and a mentor to countless political science students,” she wrote.
Loomis has been frequently quoted in various publications as an expert on state and national politics. His column for Insight Kansas, for which Miller also writes, appeared about once a month in the Journal-World for several years.
“What I’ve always found interesting about him is his expertise in the woods of Kansas politics,” said Miller, who described Loomis as “gloriously old school” when it comes to political science, distinguishing him from the current trend driven by data and statistics. on the ground and noting that Loomis personally knew the politicians he wrote about “extremely well.”
Longtime friend Alice Lieberman, a retired KU professor who met Loomis through politics, praised Loomis’ tolerance and ability to connect with people.
“Bird could talk to anyone,” she said. “He had his own policy, but he treated everyone with respect.”
On his Twitter profile, Loomis described himself as a “sort of retired political science professor”, an avid art collector, an avid tennis player and “a born NY Yankee fan”.
picture by: Mike Yoder
In October 2020, the Journal-World published an article about the 19th century home and art collection that Loomis and his wife, Michel, own in Old West Lawrence. The couple hosted guest artists from all over.
About her love of art, Loomis said, “Since we got married and had no money, we bought art. It has absolutely enriched our lives both in terms of what we have on the walls… but also getting to know so many artists has been great.
Lynne Green, the former director of Van Go Inc. who was a close friend of Loomis, said Loomis was a “huge supporter” of the local arts scene, with her generosity extending to institutions and individuals.
“I don’t know anyone else who gives to the arts like he did,” she said. “He made this place so much richer. Someone like Bird Loomis is irreplaceable.
In addition to his wife, Loomis is survived by a son, Dakota, and two grandchildren.
Services are pending at a local funeral home. The Journal-World will report further details as they become available.