Gene Arthur Budig was born on May 25, 1939, in Lincoln, Neb., and raised in McCook, in the western part of the state. His birth parents gave him up to an orphanage and he was adopted by Arthur Budig, an auto mechanic, and Angela (Schaff) Budig, a nurse who worked at the hospital where Gene was born.
When he was 12, Gene sent a letter to Bill Veeck, the maverick owner of the St. Louis Browns, asking to try out for the team after learning that Mr. Veeck had once sent the 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel to pinch hit as a gag. “He said, ‘I’m pretty good at second base. Can I come for a tryout?’” Mrs. Budig said in an interview. “Bill wrote back and said, ‘Sure, when you get out of high school.’”
Gene never tried out for Mr. Veeck, with whom he later became friends. But he played for his high school team and at the University of Texas, Austin, during his only semester there. He graduated from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and remained there to earn a master’s in English and a doctorate in education.
After holding various jobs at the university, including assistant vice chancellor and assistant vice president, Dr. Budig left for Illinois State University in 1972 as a vice president, dean and professor of educational administration. He was named president the next year.
In 1977 he was hired as president of West Virginia University. He left four years later when he was appointed chancellor at Kansas, where he remained until 1994. While there, he oversaw the construction of several buildings and helped secure an $18 million state grant to rebuild Hoch Auditorium, which had burned down in 1991 and was renamed Budig Hall in 1997.
He also approved the hiring of two high-profile men’s basketball coaches: Larry Brown in 1983 and Roy Williams in 1988.