Kansas City Mayor Receives Rashford-Lyon Award

Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Mayor Sly James speaks after receiving the Rashford-Lyon Award

Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James, ’80, admitted the uniqueness of the occasion on Tuesday.

“This is a rarity,” he said. “I’m a little bit speechless.”

James had just become the latest recipient of the Rashford-Lyon Award for Leadership and Ethics from his alma mater during the fifth Rockhurst University Leadership Series luncheon, listening to praise from his colleagues about his leadership and accomplishments.

The Rashford-Lyon Award is named for two influential leaders in Rockhurst University’s Helzberg School of Management ­—­­ the late Tom Lyon, Ph.D., and the Rev. Nick Rashford, S.J. — and was established in 2014 to honor outstanding alumni who distinguish themselves through their leadership. James follows Jane Chu, ’05 EMBA, the current chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, who received the award in 2016.

A native of Kansas City who grew up on the city’s East Side, James served in the Marine Corps prior to graduating from Rockhurst. Prior to his election as mayor in 2011, James was a successful trial attorney, with Blackwell, Sanders, Matheny, Weary and Lombardi — where he was named the firm’s first African-American partner — and later with his own Sly James Firm.

Throughout his campaign and his tenure as mayor, James emphasized the importance increasing both educational and occupational opportunities for the people of Kansas City. He also made improving municipal efficiency one of his policy cornerstones.

Among his accomplishments is rallying community support behind his Turn the Page KC initiative, which aims to ensure every third-grade child in the city is reading at their grade level; the construction of Kansas City’s initial streetcar line, where ridership has exceeded expectations; moving forward on continued investment in the city’s sewers and streets; and helping the city become one of the pilot sites for high-speed Google Fiber installation. James has used his platform to bolster the city’s image as a rising national innovation and tech hub and advocate on behalf of common sense gun regulations to stem violence.

James said many of the things he’s been able to accomplish have been because of the capable people he’s surrounded himself with and the lessons he learned in life about the value of selfless service to others, especially from Jesuits like the Rev. Louis Oldani, S.J., one of his instructors at Rockhurst.

“I believe that that the experiences and the training and the education that I received at Rockhurst prepared me quite well for what I get to do today and the honor that I have of being the mayor of the city that I love,” James said. “I remember learning in school that the object of the game was not to be seen, the object of the game was to be effective and get things done.”