Leadership, Ewing Kauffman, and the Kauffman School

Hannah Lofthus wins Ryan AwardCEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman School, Hannah Lofthus, hugs a student after she was named a recipient of the Ryan Award, which honors individuals who get results leading schools serving lower-income students.


It takes a special leader to recognize talent, how to work with others and how to get the best from people. Mr. Kauffman did that by living two simple philosophies – treat others as you would want to be treated and share the rewards with those who produce.

We are fortunate to have leaders in Kansas City today that personify these philosophies. And, it’s fitting that in the year we celebrate Mr. Kauffman’s 100th birthday, our city is getting national recognition for this type of visionary leadership.

Recently, Hannah Lofthus, CEO at the Kauffman School became one of two national winners of the prestigious Ryan Award. The Ryan Award celebrates individuals who get results leading schools serving lower-income students.

We are so proud of the results that Hannah and her team have achieved:

  • On average, three years after enrolling in the Kauffman School, Kauffman students show learning gains on state exams equivalent to an additional 1.61 school years in math and 1.64 school years in reading beyond the gains made by similar students in Kansas City.
  • These results show the Kauffman School has achieved impacts that are larger than those observed for a number of other high-performing charter networks. These include the average three-year impacts observed in Boston, New York City, and the KIPP network of charter schools.*

We’re just as proud that 99 percent of parents at the school are satisfied with their child’s educational experience.*

We all know that results are important. Mr. Kauffman wanted and got results from those around him—in his company, in his baseball club, and in his foundation. However, he also understood that it’s the people involved who are the difference between success and failure. And that’s when leadership comes into the equation.

Leadership in a school setting is challenging. It’s about setting high expectations and driving toward results, but also living a philosophy that brings others along. It’s important to pursue excellence. But as Hannah has demonstrated, it’s also important to be guided by respect, humility, and openness—and to encourage teamwork, joy, and comradery. In other words, the “what” matters, but so does the “how.”

One of my favorite Ewing Kauffman quotes is, “All the money in the world cannot solve problems unless we work together. And, if we work together, there is no problem that can stop us as we seek to develop people to their highest potential.” I’m fortunate to work with so many people committed to working together to solve our community’s and nation’s biggest challenges.

Congrats to Hannah, her team, and her students for being exemplars of Mr. Kauffman’s legacy.

*Mathematica evaluation report (2015)

EMKS Graduation 2016 photos courtesy of the Ewing Marion Kauffman School

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Wendy Guillies

Wendy Guillies

Wendy Guillies is the president and chief executive officer of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.  Established in Kansas City, Missouri, by the late entrepreneur and philanthropist, Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States with an asset base of more than $2 billion.

Guillies is a native of Kansas City, Kansas, and she and her husband are the proud parents of two daughters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska.