A Celebration of Life will be held for William “Bill” Andrew Conboy at The Smith Center at Brandon Woods on Sunday, September 29th from 2 to 4 pm. William passed away peacefully on August 27th at his home at Brandon Woods South.
Bill is survived by his two sons, Fred Conboy, William “Andy” Conboy, Jr. both of Lawrence; daughter, Connie Conboy (Flagstaff, AZ and Groton, CT); three grandchildren, Leroy, Lamar, Lindsay; and three great grandchildren, Thea, Kyra, Zyiah. His beloved first wife, Carolyn “Cari” Campbell, passed away in 2008.
Bill was born on October 16, 1924 in Omaha, NE, son of Raymond Phillip and Gertrude Martha (LaCoss) Conboy. Bill lived in Phoenix as a child before the family moved to Lawrence where he attended Liberty Memorial High School from 1940-1942. His mother was originally a school teacher in Cottonwood Falls, KS; his father worked for Ridenour-Baker Grocery Company out of Kansas City before establishing Conboy Real Estate in Lawrence. In 1942, Bill was elected Boy Mayor of Lawrence by the American Legion for Boys’ and Girls’ week and made a public address at the historic Eldridge Hotel.
In 1943, Bill joined the 625th Platoon of the United States Marine Corp, stationed in San Diego, in the middle of his undergraduate career at KU. He became a radar technician in Hawaii, Guam and later the occupation of Japan. Serving until 1946, he then returned to KU to complete his B.A. in English and Creative Writing (1949) and his M.A. in Speech (1951). Bill was a Summerfield Scholar and a member of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity.
Bill met his future bride, Carolyn “Cari” Campbell, in a KU creative writing class in 1948. Bill was editor of the 1949 Jayhawker yearbook; Carolyn was assistant editor. After a mutual courtship, they married in June 1949.
After earning his PhD from Northwestern University in 1954, he was recruited to KU during the tenure of Chancellor Franklin Murphy to serve as Chair of KU’s Speech and Drama Department for the next 16 years. The Department flourished and became nationally prominent under his leadership. He served KU 42 years.
Bill built the foundation of the Speech and Drama Department by establishing its PhD program, expanding curricula in theater, speech pathology and audiology, and master’s programs in radio-TV-film. His scholarly expertise focused on the social influence of speech and the science of listening. He was a founding member of the World Future Society and advanced its global programs and scholarship. His books include: “The Challenge of the Future: Visions and Versions” and “Working Together: Communication in a Health Organization”.
Bill’s reputation for excellence as a teacher was rivaled only by his prowess as a dynamic softball pitcher. His talent for putting spin on the ball was famed, making home runs by opponents unhittable. During his pitching career, his teams won the 1952 and 1954 KU Intramural Championships for the Faculty Fossils, and the 1966-69 Championships for the Speed Rats.
In 1965, in celebration of KU’s Centennial, Bill conceived and helped organize a landmark seminar, The Inter-Century Seminar on Man and the Future. The Lawrence Journal World described the Seminar as a “World’s Fair of Ideas” uniting some of the world’s most creative minds of that time on KU’s campus to exchange their visions of the Future, including luminaries Arthur C. Clarke, Buckminster Fuller and Karl Menninger.
In 1990, Bill received The Chancellors Club Career Teaching Award from Chancellor Gene Budig in recognition of a lifetime of outstanding teaching for the benefit of KU’s students.
Bill’s sons, Fred and Andy, and daughter, Connie, his “Princess”, were his constant companions during his residency at Brandon Woods. They filled each day with family visits, music, ballgames, movies and musicals, and dining on special occasions at Mariscos, including a memorable celebration of his granddaughter Lindsay’s graduation from KU Law School in 2012.
Bill’s favorite musical was South Pacific, and he loved singing the longing song, Some Enchanted Evening. He maintained a lifelong inspiration for creative writing and made gifts of his original stories and verses to his children and grandchildren on Christmas Eve.
Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the “William A. Conboy Fund” established with Kansas University Endowment Association to benefit students. KU Endowment Association, Box 928, Lawrence KS 66044, or may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044. To post a condolence go to warrenmcelwain.com.