Q&A with Alumnus Dr. Clait E. Braun C’59

Dr. Clait E. Braun is a graduate from Kansas City Kansas Junior College Class of 1959. After attending KCKJC, Dr. Braun went on to earn his BS in technical agronomy (soil science) from Kansas State University in 1962. Then, his MS in Forest Wildlife Management from the University of Montana in 1965, and in 1969, his PhD in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University. Clait worked for the US Department of Agriculture in Kansas and Montana and the Montana Department of Fish and Game while he was in school. He went on to work for the Colorado Division of Wildlife for over thirty years. Dr. Braun has over fifty years of experience studying different species of grouse. He has had a very long, impressive, and interesting career. Dr. Braun is involved with several wildlife organizations, sits on a few boards, has written multiple books, and has been published over three-hundred times. His extensive research of Sage-Grouse specifically led him in his discovery of the Gunnison Sage-Grouse in 1977.

What led you to take classes at KCKJC/KCKCC?

My Mother wanted me to start college locally. She also attended KCKJC, her maiden name was Melva Emery, class of (looking for this info in the yearbook currently). Her brothers were Harold, Gilbert, Don, and Walt. I learned from the “History of Kansas City Kansas Community College” book that my Uncle Don Emery was on the basketball team in 1941-42 and Uncle Walt Emery was on the basketball team in 1945-46. I recall Walt being stationed at Olathe where they had a Naval Officer’s training program in 1944-45. Don attended KCK Jr College while he was waiting to be inducted into the military in Florida. Walt played after his service in WWII prior to going to a University. Both brothers survived the War and had long careers. Both are now deceased. My Mother had 4 brothers all of which served during or at the end (Walt) of WWII. Walt was a favorite of Professor Iden Reese as Walt was a great singer! I was not. Mr. Reese learned that I was Walt’s nephew and wanted to know if I could sing. He knew that I was in the chorus at Washington High and in a musical. He asked that I audition as a singer and quickly learned that I was not Walt. Too bad! I was fine in the chorus but not as a lead. 

Did you have a favorite class or professor at KCKCC?

European History: Mr. Iden Reese and English: Miss Bessie Cannon. I took European History with Mr. Reese and it was excellent, he made history come alive! I liked him so much that I took his class on singing in the Choir! I am not known for my singing, except my kids loved it when they were young. Plus, I sang in the Chorus at Washington High School.

What was your next move after completing classes at KCKCC?  

I enrolled at Kansas State University and earned a B.S in Technical Agronomy. (Soil Science.) I then went on to earn graduate degrees from the University of Montana (M.S. in Forest Wildlife Management) and Colorado State University (Ph.D. in Wildlife Biology).

Dr. braun holding a male evermann’s Rock ptarmigan on attu island in the north pacific

How would you say attending KCKCC impacted your career and/or life?

I improved my writing and study habits. I have some strong memories from a now fading past. It is too bad that I did not better apply myself at Washington Rural or while attending KCK Jr. College in 1957-58. By 1959 I was attending Kansas State University. I never really had time to look back as I kept charging forward on my career plans (plus marriage and 3 kids). That led me to Montana (M.S.) and Colorado (Ph.D.) and 30 years with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. I seem to be just as busy now (writing for publication, and Declarations for lawyers). I have to admit that I am now taking a wee bit more time to look at where I started and who really kick started me down my career path.

Why do feel it is important to give back to KCKJC/KCKCC?

Two teachers (Iden Reese and Bessie Cannon) knew how to stimulate me to do my best. They gave me confidence that I could make it through College and were important to my development. Presently, I am considering gifts in memory of Mr. Reese and Ms. Cannon.

What advice would you give to current KCKCC students?

Have a plan. Do not hesitate to broaden your learning opportunities. Do not be afraid to explore outside of your plan.

Dr. Braun out in the field conducting research

Why do you feel schools like KCKCC are important?

Many students fresh from High School do not have sufficient understanding to focus on defined career goals.

How did attending KCKCC change you or your life?

I gained the confidence that I could do well in college. I have been lucky and opened the correct door given the opportunity. Plus, I am a survivor and have had the opportunity to work with some bright highly motivated people.

Anything else you would like to share with readers?

I could have done better at KCKJC knowing then what I know now. I apologize for not better using my brain. One has to start somewhere.

If you are interested in reading a sampling of Dr. Braun’s published work over his 50 year career, some of his favorite pieces are provided below!

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