Posted on Apr 17, 2018
in Alumni News and News
Nearly 500 KU alumni and friends gathered April 13 at Murfin Stables for the Alumni Association’s Jayhawk Roundup, the Wichita Network’s largest fundraising event, which was presented this year in partnership with Kansas Athletics and Williams Education Fund. The event, typically held in the fall, moved to spring this year for the first time in its 15-year history.
The theme for the festivities was “Game of Hawks,” a playful spin on the popular fantasy epic “Game of Thrones.” Bleached-white trees with crimson leaves lined the stables and centerpieces of swords and shields adorned each table, echoes of medieval times.
The event featured silent and live auctions, with top dollars going for a trip to the 2018 Champions Classic in Indianapolis, and the KU Libraries exhibit “Commemorate the Gr8s,” which celebrates the 1988 and 2008 men’s basketball national championship teams. Guests were also treated a feast of food and drink and live music from the band Annie Up, as well as a live carving of a Jayhawk from Kansaw Carvings artist Dan Besco.
Alumni Association President Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09, thanked event chairs and stable owners Dave, e’75, b’75, and Janet Lusk Murfin, d’75, for hosting the Roundup and honored longtime Wichita volunteer and 2017 Wintermote Award winner Camille Nyberg, c’96, g’98, along with Mildred Clodfelter Alumni Award winners Jerry, p’69, and Lucy Burtnett, who hosted the event in 2011 and 2012.
Chancellor Doug Girod detailed the University’s recent accomplishments in Wichita, which included the debate team’s victorious run to the national championship title and the Jayhawks’ first- and second-round wins in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which brought thousands of alumni and fans to the area in March.
Several members of Kansas Athletics also attended the Roundup, including head football coach David Beaty, men’s basketball assistant coach Kurtis Townsend and Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, PhD’96, who was celebrating his birthday.
“We had more guests in attendance than we have had in years,” says Danielle Lafferty Hoover, c’07, director of donor relations and Wichita programs. “The fans love having University partners and KU guests in the stables—it’s like bringing a part of Lawrence to Wichita.”
Check out more pictures from Jayhawk Roundup! Photos may be downloaded for personal use. Photos from the Lamphouse Photo Booth Company can be viewed here.
Posted on Mar 28, 2017
in Alumni News and News
Chainsaw-carved Jayhawks delight alumni
For two weeks each September at the Kansas State Fair, dozens of Jayhawks stand silent on the midway, ready to meet their fans. The state’s annual celebration in Hutchinson is where artist Dan Besco first introduced Kansans to his wonderful and whimsical birds. His chainsaw-carved Jayhawks, each with its own unique personality, delight alumni and adorn lawns throughout the Kansas City area and across the state.
Besco’s Jayhawks will be featured at the Rock Chalk Ball April 29 at the Overland Park Convention Center, where he will carve a 4- to 5-foot Jayhawk on the patio during the reception. The bird will be included in the live auction, and the piece can be customized with the buyer‘s name or initials. Smaller Jayhawks used for centerpieces also will be available for purchase.
A true passion
Of course, not every Kansan is a Jayhawk fan, as Besco learned one year during the state fair. One morning following a concert at the grandstand, a Kansas highway patrolman showed up to take a report on “the assault.” It took Dan a minute to realize that K-State fans had knocked over his 5-foot Jayhawk the previous night. “There were plenty of witnesses,” the officer chuckled, gesturing to several dozen wooden Jayhawk statues, “but none of them are talking.”
Besco says he does get considerable harassment from other schools who don’t like KU, but carving the Jayhawk is his true passion. A self-taught artist, he first learned to carve a bear. “It was terrible,” he says. “It was more like a bear-dog-pig, and I didn’t enjoy it at all.” He liked carving, but the bear didn’t interest him, and he didn’t think it would sell. “After all, who wants to buy a bear in Kansas? We don’t have bears in Kansas,” he says. Besco has always been a KU fan, so he decided to focus on the Jayhawk. He carved his first one in 1995, and he hasn’t stopped yet.
Quality and endurance
The sculptor says he is one of few carvers who use standing dried timber from Colorado. Other sculptors use green wood to carve, but that’s a poor investment because the wood will dry and crack unpredictably, and new cracks can ruin a piece, Besco says. Because quality and endurance are important to him (and a Jayhawk should be tough), he purchases wood that has died naturally yet is still standing in forests. To keep up with demand, he rents a truck and drives to Colorado several times a year to haul logs to ensure that the wood he uses is stable. Existing cracks in the wood, which add charm to the piece, won’t further crack or warp, he says.
Besco hews his birds from memory and can finish a carving in about two hours, then he trades his chainsaw for a blowtorch, burning the sculpture to smooth rough edges, waterproof the wood and add a deeper base for the stain, giving it an “antiqued” look. His Jayhawk renditions include a basketball-playing bird that attaches to an SUV and a long plank featuring all of the historical ’Hawks. His appearance at the Rock Chalk Ball will be one of the few times he has turned his talent into “performance art,” carving a sculpture from a tree stump for a live audience.
Watch the video to see Besco in action:
To see more of Besco’s work, visit www.kansaw.com. His KU work is officially licensed, and a portion of his sales support the University.