In 2002, KU Alumni Association’s Los Angeles Chapter gained new local leadership and started gathering Jayhawks for happy hours, picnics and watch parties. The new LA “City” Jayhawks leader, Maria Skeels, was in charge of the area spanning Pasadena to Santa Monica, so most events took place between them in either Hollywood or West Hollywood.

As the group grew larger and stronger, Maria noticed that a majority of her members worked in various areas of the entertainment industry. She decided to create a group called the “Hollywood Hawks” with the goal of developing a community where Kansas graduates could help and support each other professionally, just like other alumni groups were doing. So, in 2005, with lots of ideas and excitement, she and a small group of volunteers worked to get the group up and going. Unfortunately and for various reasons, the idea never took flight.

Cut to 2009.

By this time, the LA Jayhawks group had around 500 members and a core group of them had become like family. One such member, Gordy Hoffman, was deemed “The Nucleus” because he attended almost every watch party and befriended everyone he met. Knowing Gordy was a screenwriter and director, Maria asked him if he’d extend his passion for KU sports to helping her round up Jayhawks and create an indomitable force in the entertainment industry. Luckily, he said “yes.” And not a polite “yes,” but a “YES!!!!!”

Then they added Emmy-winning visual effects artist, Chris Martin, to their team. Man, they were on a roll!

However, they still needed one more piece of the puzzle: a “cheerleader” at KU who saw the value in partnering up with a group like this to accomplish mutual goals. They needed someone enthusiastic, optimistic and super organized, and as soon as they connected with Professor Tamara Falicov, Chair of the Film & Media Studies Department, the search was over.

Finally, on Saturday, November 21, the Hollywood Hawks officially kicked off in the side bar of El Guapo (currently The Parlor), with Professor Falicov and around 30 KU graduates in attendance. That night, alumni expressed excitement for this new group, saying it’s one they wish would have been around when they moved to Los Angeles, but one they looked forward to supporting wholeheartedly. Most alumni knew few, if any, Jayhawks working in entertainment at that time and learned quickly that the whole “it’s who you know” saying is incredibly true.

Since that night, their leadership team has grown and their enthusiastic liaisons (Elise, Caitlin, Cameron and Jenna) have made formal connections with faculty and staff from KU’s Department of Theatre and School of Journalism. The expanse of their membership has also increased. Now, in addition to their California members, they are proud to also have members in New York, Illinois, Oregon, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Washington, D.C. and, of course, Kansas!


Before our group, there was The Kansas Connection (now known as The Midwest Entertainment Connection), a 501(c)3  nonprofit organization founded in 1999 for the purpose of connecting entertainment communities of Los Angeles and Kansas. It was a group for anyone connected to Kansas in any way and Hollywood Hawk, Connie Ventress, was one of the founding members. Fantastic!

Also, our group owes a special thank you to Jon Niccum, then-reporter for the Lawrence Journal-World, for writing an article about the Hollywood Hawks a couple years ago. That article got published in numerous papers and really helped get the word out about the goals of our group.