MANHATTAN (KSNT)– The Kansas State University Alumni Association president has only a few days left on the job as she will officially retire on June 30. But her impact and legacy during her 46 years on the job will live on for decades to come.
Amy Button Renz and her family have bled purple for decades. In fact, she is the third generation to go to K-State.
“I grew up a wildcat,” Button Renz said. “My parents went to K-State. Three of my grandparents went to K-State. I like to share that my grandfather scored the very first touchdown in Memorial Stadium the year it was built. But I am a Wildcat and always have been.”
Let me tell you, it didn’t stop at Button Renz. Her kids and grandkids are Wildcats, and it’s probably safe to say at least one of them will be in Manhattan for college too.
Her name might sound familiar if you’re involved with the university. Button Renz is the president and CEO of the K-State Alumni Association and she has made a difference in so many ways. She started working for the association on June 1, 1977. As the years went on, she didn’t want to leave. For a time, she served as vice president before becoming interim president when her predecessor, Fred Thibodeau, was leaving. While they searched for a replacement, she thought, “why don’t I try for the role?”
“Because I had worked here for over 20 years,” she recalled. “It was not something I was counting on. But I was very excited when they named me permanently as the president and CEO.”
In 1994, she made history for the school’s alumni association.
“I was the first female,” she said. “It was in the Big 8, and then, obviously, in the Big 12. And I belonged to a professional organization called the Council for Alumni and Association Executives. It’s about 100 different schools. At the time, there were less than 10 women that were in this role. K-State, I would maybe use the word progressive, realized it didn’t make any difference whether the CEO was female or male.”
The thought of being the only woman at the top didn’t stop her from getting to work. Button Renz accomplished a lot of big things during her time. One of them is the Alumni Association building. Fun fact, the organization didn’t have a permanent building until 2002. They would kind of just roam around the campus wherever they could fit in. At one point, the association worked out of a residence that was turned into a fraternity. Eventually, the Alumni Association and another foundation shared the space. In 1996, two years after becoming president, she did something to make sure the organization and all alumni had a permanent home.
“By the year 2002, we had an alumni center,” she said. “It was something that everybody really wanted and we had about 1,400 people that donated to the project. So it wasn’t one of those projects that you had a lead gift. I think the fact that that many K-Staters really believed in what we wanted to do was extremely rewarding.”
What about the students? Button Renz said making lasting relationships for the university starts with the kids. Getting to them early, not once they have already graduated. One thing she thought the school needed, was student ambassadors.
“We elected a male and female at homecoming and the students voted on it,” she said. “That started in 1977.”
Before, student ambassadors were whoever won the title of Homecoming King and Queen. In 1977, her first year on the job, her idea of having students vote for students to travel with the organization and represent the school was born. Ambassadors spend a year in the role, traveling with the association and talking to potential students and alumni. Mitch Holthus, the voice of the Kansas City Chiefs, was an ambassador in 1978.
Another one of the many accomplishments she is proud of is getting the K-State license plates approved to be sold across the state. The program started in 1996 and is sold in other states such as Maryland, Oklahoma and Texas. Since its beginning, more than $6 million has been raised through the plates, according to the university.
Button Renz’s has spent her time at the university making sure the university is better not just because she’s alumni president, but because she cares so much for the university and every Wildcat.
So, why not make it all the way to 50 years? Button Renz said she could do it for a few more years, but she was ready to leave once everything was in a good situation.
“Things are so good right now,” she said. “And I’ve always said I would know when it was time. And when I made the decision, I was very comfortable with it. I’m totally at peace, have no regrets.”
Button Renz is not staying away from her Wildcats. While she will officially retire this year, she said she will make sure she volunteers for the university, attend games and more. She will also get to spend more time with family.
If you know someone you think is an Everything Woman, let us know here! We feature these stories on the last Tuesday of each month.