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UA bids farewell to spokeswoman

MATTHEW ROBLES/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sharon Kha will be leaving the university Oct. 8 after serving 21 years as UA spokeswoman. Filling her position will be UA alumnus Paul Allvin.
By Natasha Bhuyan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
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After 21 years as the voice of the UA, spokeswoman Sharon Kha will leave her post at the university next week to focus on her health.

Kha, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease last November, said her last day at UA will be Oct. 8 when she will go on disability leave until her retirement next year.

Although Kha did not want to leave the UA, she said over the summer she was advised to exercise and care for her health in order to prevent her condition from worsening.

Determined to battle the disease, Kha said she is "still kicking" and has hope for a cure.

Prior to landing her position at the UA, Kha was a reporter, assignment editor and associate news director for KGUN-TV with a work schedule that forced her to miss 10 Christmases with her son.

When Kha came to the UA in 1983, she said she was simply looking for a job that allowed her to spend holidays with her family.

Twenty-one years later, as vice president for strategic communications and director of news services, Kha's job is to oversee news services operations and general university communications.

Paul Allvin, Gov. Janet Napolitano's communications director, will replace Kha.

Allvin was chosen for the position because of his experience in communications at the national, state and local levels, said Janet Bingham, vice president of University Advancement.

"We had excellent applicants, but Paul had all of the expertise that we dreamed of attracting," Bingham said.

Bingham said Kha will be sorely missed.

"Sharon has been an extremely loyal UA employee and supporter," Bingham said. "She has given her all to represent the university."

The first from her family to graduate from high school, Kha said she never imagined she would end up working in such a high-caliber academic environment.

"It's the most exciting way to spend your life," Kha said.

Kha said she has had her share of mishaps, triumphs, compromises and excitement over the years. Her experiences ranged from funny to embarrassing to intense to touching, she said.

More than a decade ago, Kha said she found out from a colleague there were drugs in a tunnel under Douglas.

Going into alert mode, Kha called UAPD to report there were drugs under the Douglass Building on campus.

Kha said police responded quickly, but she said she was later embarrassed to discover the drugs were in a tunnel under Douglas, Ariz.

Kha said her most educational and trying experience at the UA was during the 1999 Students Against Sweatshops protest.

Approximately 67 students stormed UA President Peter Likins' office, organizing a sit-in and vowing to remain until Likins signed an agreement regarding employee rights at companies who manufacture university apparel. Students camped out in the administration building for 10 days.

With students sleeping in the offices, under tables and on desks, Kha decided there was only one logical thing to do.

"I thought, if they sleep there, I was going to sleep there, too," Kha said.

Likins spent days negotiating with the students, trying to reach a practical agreement.

Likins called Kha's assistance during the sit-in "extraordinary," adding she has been "enormously helpful" during his time at the UA.

"She was here for many, many hours, trying to deal in a thoughtful way with students who were distressed about important matters," Likins said, "and at the same time, taking care of the interest of the university as a whole."

Through the years, Kha said she has been impressed by the hands-on quality of undergraduate education.

"Some universities are like museums: they pass along the works of Shakespeare," Kha said. "But the UA tries to create Shakespeare."

An avid Wildcats fan, Kha has a license plate that reads "GoKat," and can hear the chimes of the university bell from her home as well as the "Bear Down" fight song everyday at noon.

"(It's) a fizzy atmosphere, immersed in ideas, full of answers," Kha said of campus.

Allvin shares Kha's passion for the UA.

A UA alumnus, Allvin said he is excited to return to the university where he has "seven years of fond memories."

"I've never stopped missing the UA, the really vibrant community there, the rich concentration of students, professors, spirit, culture and learning," Allvin said.

Allvin, a former Arizona Daily Wildcat editor in chief and Arizona Students' Association executive director, worked with Kha when he was a freshman reporter for the Wildcat.

"It's a fitting close," Kha said. "I couldn't have planned it better than that."

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