The Jayhawk

December 23, 2023

Last week, I was gifted a book by a teammate. The Jayhawk is the story behind the beloved mascot of KU (The University of Kansas). I had seen the book mentioned in a recent alumni newsletter and was interested. I added it to my wishlist that I provided for our Secret Santa gift exchange. I believe it is the first and only time that a teammate has bought me something from a wishlist. I was really excited to get the book and finally found some space to start reading it this week.

I have loved this bird since the time I was in junior high. I “decided” I was going to study architecture after doing a science project in 7th grade where I researched architecture. Missouri did not have any public schools that taught architecture but my guidance counselor told me that KU did and that they had a reciprocal program that allowed Missouri students to attend KU paying in-state tuition.

At some point in high school, that same guidance counselor (who had transferred to the high school) gave me an 8 1/2 x 11 poster of the KU mascot. I am guessing it was part of KU recruiting material that she had received. I hung it near my bed and it became a visual representation of the dream I had to go to school–a dream of my future.

By the way, that guidance counselor was also my fourth-grade teacher and one of my favorite teachers from elementary school.

The 1946 Jayhawk with the updated 2005 KU in Trajan font. The poster I had was this logo with a san-serif font.

That friendly bird still conjures up a sense of pride and delight about my alma mater. It represents a time in my life that I spread my wings and tasted a new level of independence as I lived away from my parents. My times at KU are ones that I cherish. I became a follower of Christ at KU. I found a community of other students. I got to cheer on a national championship basketball team and see them advance to the Final Four two other times. I had the opportunity to travel overseas for the summer. And I met my wife there.

I have enjoyed reading the story of how the Jayhawk evolved. The term “Jayhawker” was already tied closely with the state of Kansas when the school was founded in 1866. Professor Edgar Henry Summerfield Bailey first proposed the cheer that would evolve into “Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU” in the 1880s.

The graphic representation of the Jayhawk has evolved over six official representations and many others. Most of them came from students working for The University Daily Kansan (The UDK) or other student magazines or alumni publications. But it is the 1946 version that has stuck. It was updated in 2005 with the new university branding based on the Trajan font. I found out from reading the book that the long leg of the “K” represents the hill that the campus sits on.

I bought this shirt from Charlie Hustle last summer with the 1912 Jayhawk. The University started using this version at its centennial in 2012. I have seen it in the men’s basketball apparel over the last few years.

I have always liked that my school had a very unique mascot. Many schools have cats as their mascots or other generic animals or living things. But very few have one that is unique to its history or to the area where the school is located.

The ironic thing is that I do not like birds. They make me a bit nervous when they fly around me. My mom told me a story that when I was a toddler, we were visiting my dad in Europe (Navy). I was feeding birds in a public square when the flock flew away. I guess it rattled me a bit. But I have always had a bit of a fear of birds. The funny thing is my sister who is 13 years younger has the same fear.

But I love the Jayhawk. He is the one bird that I like.

An architecture Jayhawk I drew in high school holding a t-square in one wing and a blueprint in another. He is also wearing a construction hard hat.
An architecture Jayhawk that I drew in high school. Many times I need graphic representations of my dreams or the things that I am excited about. I want to bring the concept into reality. It is the creative itch that I feel and what inspires most of my creations.
Picture of me and two other band mates holding our trumpets in our KU Marching Band uniforms.
I proudly wore the Jayhawk across my chest for 2 years as a member of the Marching Jayhawks.

This post is part of my attempt to post something every day for a month. I was inspired by Michelle Barker, who recently participated in National Blog Posting Month.

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