Kansas basketball clinches NCAA-record 14th consecutive conference title

Posted on Feb 26, 2018 in News and Sports

After Saturday’s 74-72 win over Texas Tech, the 2017-18 Kansas men’s basketball team clinched a 14th consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship.

The streak, which began with the 2004-05 team, is now the longest in NCAA history, passing UCLA’s 13 consecutive Pac-10 titles from 1967-79. The conference title is KU’s 61st, extending its own NCAA record.

Kansas Athletics commemorated the accomplishment with a video featuring the people that made KU’s legendary run possible:

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‘Commemorate the Gr8s’ tour highlights basketball champions

Posted on Jan 18, 2018 in News and Sports

Commemorate the Gr8s tour | KU Libraries and KU Alumni Association

As the 2017-2018 Kansas basketball season enters conference play, the “Commemorate the Gr8s” tour continues to provide fans a behind-the-scenes look at the history of KU Basketball.

The exhibit celebrates the anniversaries of the 1988 and 2008 title teams with memorabilia from KU’s national championship seasons. Thanks to a partnership between the University of Kansas Libraries and the KU Alumni Association, the exhibit is making its way across America on a 28-city tour, visiting watch parties and other Jayhawk alumni network events.


LeAnn Meyer, assistant director of advancement at KU Libraries, has seen firsthand how the Jayhawk connection brings people together on the tour stops.

“Connecting with alumni, both near and far, has been incredibly rewarding,” Meyer said. “Jayhawk pride can be found coast to coast, and these events provide an opportunity for friends and alums to mingle with one another while perusing iconic photographs and memorabilia from the University Archives. The exhibit items often spark fond memories, and the stories shared create bonds between local Jayhawks.”

The exhibit includes the newspapers and magazines chronicling Danny and the Miracles’ amazing run and Mario Chalmers’ tying shot against Memphis, pictures from before, during and after the games that made the titles possible, and other artifacts from the championship teams.

Colorado Springs Jayhawks at the Commemorate the Gr8s event with KU Libraries and KU Alumni Association

Mark Merriman, c’73, Colorado Springs network volunteer, attended this year’s exhibit.

“I have had the opportunity to see the last three KU Library exhibits that have been here in Colorado Springs and each of them have been fun and interesting,” Merriman said. “The library staff has a track record of putting together amazing presentations of artifacts and memorabilia. Those of us living out of state truly appreciate the chance to view and relive those moments.”

The stops on the tour also provide a chance for local Jayhawks to get to know fellow KU alumni who live in their area. Visit our networks page to find a Facebook group with nearby Jayhawks, and visit kualumni.org/commemorate to learn more about the tour and see when it comes to a city near you.

– Ryan Camenzind

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Classic holiday specials drawn to life by Lawrence native

Posted on Dec 8, 2017 in News and Sports

Paul Coker Jr, who illustrated classic holiday specialsThe holiday season brings classic TV specials that generations of people have enjoyed. Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to TownThe Year Without a Santa Claus and other holiday specials from Rankins/Bass Productions credit a Lawrence native and University of Kansas graduate for their famous style.

Paul Coker, Jr. began leaving his legacy as an artist as early as high school. While a junior at Liberty High School (soon to become Lawrence High School) in 1946, Coker, f’51, sketched the Chesty Lion logo that is used to this day as the school’s mascot.

As the designer for the holiday specials, Coker created the look and feel for the characters that have aired since 1969.

Coker spent most of his career as an illustrator for MAD magazine, illustrating over 375 articles in the satirical publication. The storybook style he used for Frosty the Snowman also was used to design Hallmark greeting cards.

Frosty the Snowman airs December 9 at 8 p.m. CST on CBS.
Frosty the Snowman, illustrated by Paul Coker Jr-Ryan Camenzind

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Mascots in memoriam

Posted on Mar 22, 2017 in News and Sports

The mentality of March Madness is ‘survive and advance’ or your season will become a casualty of the tournament. Along with defeat, the hopes and dreams of fans and alumni can die in pursuit of that one shining moment, and that loss can be tough to take. Now imagine how it must feel when the symbol of your team, your school’s mascot, literally passes away.

Like losing a family member

The University of Colorado announced this week that Ralphie IV, also known as “Rowdy,” was laid to rest near Boulder as fans mourned the passing of their beloved buffalo mascot. This has been a tough year for live mascots, as LSU’s Mike the Tiger VI succumbed to cancer last October and had to be humanely euthanized. Texas’ Bevo XV sent flowers, as did Reveille from Texas A&M. Bevo XIV had passed just a year prior.

When a school’s mascot passes on, fans and alumni mourn the same as if they’d lost a member of the family or a cherished pet.

“Losing ‘Rowdy’ is like losing a family member,” said former associate athletic director Gail Pederson who oversaw the Ralphie program at CU for 20 years. “I know all Buff fans, and especially the Handlers that had the honor to run with her, will always have her in their hearts, especially when Ralphie V and all the future Ralphie’s take the field each fall.”

While they’ve been in the news more lately, the practice of having live mascots to represent university athletic teams dates back more than a century. KU alumni may not know that some of the university’s earliest mascots required feeding, and we’re not talking about birdseed.

Before Big Jay

KU teams have been called Jayhawkers or Jayhawks since around 1886, when Professor E.H.S. Baily first coined the famous Rock Chalk chant, but the sidelines of KU’s first football games were guarded by a bulldog, common at many schools around that time. The bulldog even made its way onto pennants and postcards symbolizing the KU team (Frank Mason would be proud).

Then for a brief time in 1909, KU’s gridders were pictured with a pig. According to KUhistory.com, the proud porker–a gift from an assistant coach–was known as Don Carlos, and the sow only appeared for one year.

Don Carlos

KU’s history with live mascots was short-lived, as the mythical Jayhawk came to life only in the illustrations of Henry Malloy in 1912, leading off a parade of cartoon variations of Kansas’ beloved bird. Today, the famous symbol of KU pride appears court side in the costumed form of Big Jay and Baby Jay.

Animal rights activists abhor mascots kept in captivity, but age-old college traditions die hard. At LSU, officials made sure the next Mike the Tiger would have an accredited tiger sanctuary. According to a January 2017 news release, “Becoming an accredited sanctuary means that LSU has met high standards of excellence in animal care and is operating ethically and responsibly.” Doing so, however, means Mike will never again run onto the field at Tiger Stadium, ending a tradition that dated back to 1936. Killing the tradition was the trade-off for keeping–and caring for–a live mascot on campus.

Meantime, Ralphie V, Rowdy’s successor, remains in good health as fans witnessed when he ran onto the field at last weekend’s spring game. The fan-funded program lives on at Colorado, even while alumni mourn the loss of Ralphie IV. And the loss feels very real.

Jayhawks send condolences to our former Big 8 brethren in Boulder.

–David Johnston

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Whistle, a happy tune

Posted on Oct 29, 2016 in News and Sports

The birth of an idea

IMG_news_steamwhistlecreativeThe students at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications have done it again. First, The Agency was brought together by eager students to form, in their words, an “interdisciplinary strategic communications agency, connecting strategy, creative, research and leadership.” And according to the students involved in a new spinoff creative shop, if the Agency had a baby, it would be Steam Whistle Creative, dubbed the Agency’s “creative hothaus.” Let them explain:

The steam whistle: a 400-pound beacon of freedom, standing tall over The University of Kansas. Its sound travels for miles. It can’t be ignored. Good luck sleeping through that. We are Steam Whistle Creative, The Agency’s creative hothaus. We exist to be the whistle for your brand.


The steam whistle ringtone

To help launch Steam Whistle Creative, the clever KU students decided to make the whistle available to download as a ringtone, putting “the Big Tooter” in the pocket of everyone who ever loved–or loathed–the timely blast. Available now for iPhone (used overwhelming by college students these days), it is not yet available on GooglePlay, however it is coming soon. Alumni can purchase the ring tone by Steam Whistle Creative for $1.29 by searching for “The Steam Whistle” or “Steam Whistle Creative” in the iTunes Store (which is different than the “App Store”):

Step 1: On your iPhone, open the iTunes Store* app
Step 2: Search in the store for “Steam Whistle Creative”
Step 3: Download The Steam Whistle ringtone to your phone for $1.29
Step 4: On your iPhone’s main screen, open “settings” and go to “sound”

Now you can select The Steam Whistle as a ringtone.

*Note: Ringtones are available in the iTunes Store, which is where you would normally download music and movies. Ringtones are not available in the App Store, which is exclusively for apps.

A proud–and loud–history

The tradition of KU’s steam whistle, which predates Henry Malloy’s 1912 Jayhawk, began as a way to wake up campus at 7:45 a.m. for the day’s classes and signal curfew at the end of the day. But in 1912, according the KUhistory.com, the University Council tapped the steam whistle to signal the end of classes, which were changed from 55 to 50 minutes. And it’s been blowing ever since. Well, almost.

The whistle, nicknamed “the Big Tooter,” that KU used for most of the second half of the twentieth century had previously served on a German freighter in the 1940s. The whistle finally blew its stack in January 2003. You would too after more than 60 years of blowing 300-degrees worth of steam through your pipes at 175 pounds of pressure, according to an article in KU Connection.

For a moment, it seemed the tradition would fade into the atmosphere, deemed a relic of KU history, its echo a memory. That is until generous, anonymous alumni stepped up to fund a new whistle so KU’s unique tradition could live on. The old, broken whistle now sits on display in the Kansas Union, part of the KU History project, while a shiny new whistle carries on the tradition from atop the old power plant, both near and dear to the KU School of Journalism students at Stauffer-Flint Hall. That longstanding tradition–outlasting the various and beloved Jayhawk designs KU has had through the years–is now the symbol of The Agency’s creative shop, Steam Whistle Creative. And for the students involved and the clients they look to serve, it is music to their ears.

–David Johnston

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New era begins with old Jayhawk

Posted on Apr 1, 2015 in News and Sports

Vote for your favorite Jayhawk

The following was shared with alumni members as an April Fool’s Day joke on April 1, 2015. Our playful prank, which included a “new” logo added to the website, fooled more than a few alumni, but by sundown everything was back to normal, and everyone was let in on the joke. We’ve kept the post for posterity, but don’t be fooled again! What follows is pure folly and is not to be believed. Proceed at your own risk:
At the end of 2014, we asked alumni to vote for their favorite Jayhawk, and hundreds of you responded. In January we shared the results of the survey, and the winner, with a whopping 27% of the vote, was the 1941 “Fighting” Jayhawk.

KU alumni spoke, and we listened.

So starting today, a new era begins for the KU Alumni Association, with an old twist. Today we are proud to announce our new logo and brand identity that pays tribute to KU’s history and tradition, while echoing the voice of KU alumni.

The Fighting Jayhawk Returns

Our new logo proudly features the Fighting Jayhawk, originally designed by student Eugene “Yogi” Williams in 1941. Williams, who worked as a cartoonist for the University Daily Kansan, created the Fighting Jayhawk with a more aggressive demeanor, reflecting the mood of campus and the country in the midst of World War II.

fighting_sig_rgbThough the Fighting Jayhawk was replaced as KU’s official symbol by a happier version in 1946, Yogi Williams’ version never went away entirely, attesting to its popularity. As of today, it’s been called back into action.

We expect the rest of the university to follow the Alumni Association’s lead, adopting the Fighting Jayhawk everywhere from KU business cards to the center of James Naismith Court, including the mascots. While Big Jay is already imposing enough to intimidate opponents, a new “Fighting Baby Jay” will strike fear into the hearts of children who dare support KU opponents.

Don’t be fooled by today’s announcement, as logos are often here today and gone tomorrow. We appreciate all of the proud members of the KU Alumni Association who voted for their favorite Jayhawk, giving an old bird a fighting chance.

Happy April Fool’s Day, and Rock Chalk!

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Vote for your favorite Jayhawk: Results

Posted on Jan 12, 2015 in News and Sports

At the end of 2014, we asked alumni to vote for their favorite Jayhawk online, with a promise to share the results in early 2015. Well, the votes have all been tabulated, and we’re ready to reveal your favorite. More than 1,000 votes were recorded by KU alumni from all around the world in a contest that came down to the final week, with almost half of the Jayhawk variations leading the vote total at one point or another. In the end, one bird soared above the rest, earning 27% of the total. Without further ado, the winner is…

jhawk1941_3C_RF1941 “Fighting Jayhawk” by Yogi Williams
In 1941, a student named Eugene “Yogi” Williams created a version of the Jayhawk that was much more animated than his 1929 predecessor. Williams, who worked as a cartoonist for the University Daily Kansan, the Jayhawker and the Sour Owl, made a more aggressive Jayhawk that quickly gained favor as America plunged into World War II. The newly adopted “Fighting Jayhawk” served KU during wartime but was soon replaced after the war by Hal Sandy’s happier, smiling Jayhawk that reflected the national mood. Although the Fighting Jayhawk had the second-shortest tenure among all of KU’s historic ‘hawks, alumni voted it their favorite.

According to the KU Office of Trademark Licensing, the popularity of the Fighting Jayhawk shouldn’t come as a surprise. It has proven to be a favorite of fans and alumni alike, based on retail sales. Next to the current Jayhawk, the 1941 “Fighting Jayhawk” appears on more merchandise sold at the register, followed by another fan favorite; the 1912 Jayhawk designed by Henry Maloy.

How did your favorite Jayhawk fare? Check out the final results below, and thank you to all of the proud Jayhawks who voted!

1. 1941 Jayhawk (27%)
2. 1912 Jayhawk (25%)
3. Current Jayhawk (24%)
4. 1946 Jayhawk (15%)
5. 1923 Jayhawk (5%)
6. 1929 Jayhawk (3%)
7. 1920 Jayhawk (1%)

– David Johnston

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Move-in day on the Hill

Posted on Aug 21, 2014 in News and Sports

Move in day on the Hill, University of Kansas | www.kualumni.orgThey’re back!

As a caravan of vehicles loaded with the students’ survival “essentials” arrived on Daisy Hill at 7 a.m. Aug. 21, teams of movers and empty carts stood ready to roll, welcoming Jayhawks—including the Class of 2018—back to campus.

Of course, the process began long ago for residence hall staff members. “All the practice and preparation is working out, so we’re getting them in. We’re trying to make sure folks are moving in as rapidly as they want to,” says Oprah Revish, assistant complex director for Ellsworth Hall.

Jim Higgins of Overland Park helped his son, Josh, settle in before the day warmed up. “We left about 6 a.m. All the heat’s moving in, so we’re happy to move in early. It’s going to be hot this afternoon.”

Students will attend community meetings in their residence and scholarship halls tonight, the first night of Hawk Week. Activities include ’Hawk Fest at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 23 in Parking Lot 91 (south of the football practice fields), followed by Traditions Night at 8 p.m. in Memorial Stadium. The Student Alumni Association is among the ’Hawk Fest sponsors.

Two more interesting tidbits about August 21:

KU basketball great Wilt Chamberlain, also known as “Wilt the Stilt” and “The Big Dipper,” was born on Aug. 21, 1936.

And on a more somber note, Aug. 21 marks the anniversary of William Quantrill’s 1863 raid on Lawrence that left 150-200 men and boys dead and much of the town burned to the ground.

See more photos from move-in day in our slideshow below, or click here to view the pictures on Flickr.

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