A crowd-sourced fundraiser to bring KU’s historically black Greek life organizations a space of their own recently reached its goal.
After more than $50,000 was raised, the Divine Nine Plaza will be created. The plaza will honor the history of the organizations and give its student members and alumni a place to come together.
The “Divine Nine” is a nickname for a group of nine historically black fraternities and sororities, led by the National Pan-Hellenic Council, or NPHC. The plaza will celebrate the organization’s history with a monument for each of the nine sororities and fraternities and a marker depicting the story of NPHC.
Darius Jones, coordinator for KU’s fraternity and sorority Life, oversaw the project, which was funded on LaunchKU. The crowdfunding initiative of KU Endowment helps raise funds for projects and passions that benefit the KU community.
“My students informed me this idea has been discussed in previous years, but it never lifted off the ground,” Jones said. “When it was brought to my attention, my NPHC president at the time, Tyler Allen, wanted to know how we could make this happen. Student Senate’s Diversity & Inclusion Chair, Abdoulie Njai, also liked the idea of supporting NPHC with this initiative.”
Plans call for the plaza to be located in KU’s new Central District, between the Burge Student Union and the Integrated Sciences building. Construction is expected to begin soon.
The plaza will also bring greater visibility to the NPHC organizations.
“When people think of Greek life, they often automatically associate it with a house or a facility,” Jones said. “Having a physical presence on campus with these monuments will bring more awareness of our historically black Greek-lettered organizations. With this increased visibility, it is my hope it will help our community grow.”
Jones credits a variety of groups for helping make the project possible. KU’s Office of Student Affairs, including Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs, and Jane Tuttle, associate vice provost, strongly supported the campaign. KU Endowment staff created the LaunchKU page and collaborated on the plaza.
“I’m extremely thankful for my NPHC students,” said Jones. “This was their vision they advocated for, and without that none of this would have happened. Lastly, I want to thank all of the donors and supporters of the campaign. We could not have surpassed our goal without the tremendous amount of support.”
For more on the Divine Nine Plaza fundraising project, check out the campaign’s page on launchku.org.
Wescoe Beach has been a central hub for KU students for decades, where students study, chat and chill between classes.
Thousands of students have spent time soaking up the sun in front of Wescoe. But KU students from the late 1960s through the 1980s remember one particular man’s legacy of relaxing on the beach.
John Schneider, more commonly known as “Tan Man,” spent the better part of three decades as a campus icon, sharing his charm and kindness with Jayhawks.
Alumni track down legend
Celeste Gruhin, ’79, and her fiancé, Marc Jasperson, b’78, were reminiscing about their times at KU when their memories of Tan Man came up. After some digging, the pair got in contact with him and met in Rose Hill, where he now lives. Schneider showed them his scrapbook of photos from KU, and Gruhin and Jasperson knew they wanted to help more alumni celebrate his role in KU and Lawrence lore.
Gruhin organized a get-together to celebrate Schneider’s 75th birthday. She created a Facebook event to help get the word out.
“The response has been crazy,” Gruhin said. “We’re hoping to keep the momentum going and make it a memorable event.”
The birthday party is set for 4-7 p.m. June 23 at Johnny’s Tavern in North Lawrence. The event is open to the public. Those who attend are invited to contribute photos of “Tan Man” to be added to a scrapbook.
Can’t make it to the party? Email your pictures and memories of Tan Man to us at email@example.com, and we’ll be sure to pass them along so they can be included in the scrapbook! For more about Tan Man, check out the Lawrence Journal-World’s article from 2006. Watch for more coverage of the birthday celebration in the next issue of Kansas Alumni magazine.
The Kenneth Spencer Research Library on KU’s campus features seasonal exhibits curated by the library’s archivists. From Jan. 30 to Apr. 30, the library showcased the athletic achievements of KU women through their exhibit “Women’s Athletics at KU: From Physical Education to Recognized Athletic Program.” The display celebrated the strides the University has made in giving women the opportunity to exceed outside of the classroom.
Formation of the Women’s Athletic Association
Women’s Athletic Director Marian Washington
Before the creation of university-sponsored teams, women at KU could only participate in club sports. The first documented sport for KU women was the Tennis Club in 1892. A few years later, women’s basketball was added in 1897.
In 1912, the students and faculty of the Women’s Department of Physical Education established the Women’s Athletic Association, or WAA. The first three sports under the WAA were hockey, tennis and basketball.
While women could now compete in intercollegiate competitions, funding was very limited. Students were expected to supply their own equipment and transportation, so individual sports held fundraisers to cover the cost, such as the gymnastics team who held an annual carnival so they could afford traveling to competitions.
Earning a letter sweater
Throughout this ever-changing landscape of women athletics, the letter sweater served as a literal badge of honor. The WAA awards these letter sweaters to athletes based on criteria outlined in the 1925 Jayhawker yearbook. Each woman had to accumulate 75 points to earn their sweater.
Women could earn points from excelling in their sport, as well as from more obscure ideas of success such as good posture and maintaining grades.
Impact of Title IX
By the 1960s, club teams received funding from the Student Senate, yet not enough to cover all of the costs. Although Title IX was passed in 1972, changes were not immediate.
According to KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, Title IX’s purpose is “to end discrimination on the basis of sex in education and applies to all programs and activities that receive federal funding.” However, Title IX’s passage in 1972 had no immediate effects on the WAA.
The WAA won a victory in 1974 when the state and the Student Senate allocated a combined $122,435 for women student-athletes. Women’s Athletic Director Marian Washington was able to completely fund all nine sports, covering the costs of coaching staff, equipment, transportation and lodging. It was not until 1979 that the men’s and women’s athletic departments merged to meet the federal funding requirements.
Today Title IX plays an active role in providing equity for male and female student-athletes. Under Title IX, three key principles apply to men’s and women’s athletics: equitable opportunity to participate; equal proportion of scholarships; and equal treatment and benefits.
Ask KU alumni about their favorite KU traditions, and inevitably the walk down the Hill at Commencement will rank near the top. Chancellor Robert E. Hemenway famously remarked in nearly every one of his Commencement addresses that “the walk is the ceremony,” and all who have witnessed this unique spectacle agree that the winding procession down Mount Oread is not only beautiful to behold, it has become a cherished rite of passage for Jayhawks culminating their KU careers.
Fondly remembered by alumni, the walk down the Hill has been celebrated at KU with great pomp and pageantry for nearly a century, making it difficult to imagine a KU Commencement ceremony before this famous tradition.
At his final Commencement in 2009, former Chancellor Hemenway summarized the experience best. “Today, you have joined graduates in the University’s most time-honored ritual, one that binds Jayhawks together, that attaches them as friends with an emotional glue that never breaks. As we say every year, the walk is the ceremony. You have to walk before you can fly. The walk prepares Jayhawks for flight.”
2003: Chancellor Hemenway at Commencement
Founded with grand fanfare and lofty expectations in 1865, the University of Kansas was little more than a preparatory school offering a few college classes in its early days. As a result, it took more than four years for its first graduates to earn their degrees.
On June 11, 1873, KU conferred its first degrees at a formal ceremony inside the brand new and barely finished University Hall. The building, the most modern and finest of its kind on any college campus, would later be known for the chancellor who championed its construction and presided over that first Commencement ceremony, John Fraser.
Although KU’s first graduates did not walk down the Hill, KU’s commencement has always featured a procession. At KU’s first Commencement in 1873, the walk was atop the Hill, starting just south of what is now Spooner Hall toward University Hall, positioned just west of present-day Fraser. Around 1897, the graduates adopted the practice of donning academic regalia, including caps and gowns.
When Robinson Gymnasium was completed in 1907, with a larger space for convening a growing class of graduates, the procession moved with graduates gathering at Fraser Hall and continuing west to Robinson, where Wescoe is currently located.
1913: Commencement at Robinson gymnasium
By 1921, plans were being made to construct a memorial stadium on the site of McCook field, and in 1923, organizers decided to try an outdoor ceremony. A giant tent was erected near the new stadium, however the ceremony proved so hot that the tent-covered Commencement would never be repeated.
1923: The infamous commencement tent
In 1924, Commencement exercises were held for the first time at Memorial Stadium located at the foot of the Hill. Graduates walked from Strong Hall down Mount Oread into the stadium, and the tradition continues to this day.
1950s: Commencement as the Campanile is under construction
In the 1950s, KU graduates added to the tradition by walking through the new World War II Memorial Campanile. With the tower nearing completion–yet still clad with scaffolding–enthusiastic seniors found it too difficult to resist and became the first graduates to walk through the Campanile. The symbolic act of walking through Campanile has signaled the transformation from KU student to graduate ever since.
To learn more about Commencement, including the history of class banners, honorary degrees, and the special experience for Big and Baby Jays, read our full feature, The Walk.
For the students who play Big Jay and Baby Jay, their special KU experience is one big secret. The students are told to tell as few people as possible their identity, leading to some awkward questions about their whereabouts on game days.
The identity of the students behind the masks are never publicly revealed. You can’t look them up on any website, and there’s no trace of their mascot exploits on social media.
But when Commencement comes, the graduating seniors get their one day to share with the world the activity that made them both a campus icon and completely nameless.
Laura Ballard, d’08, g’09, spent three of her four years at KU cheering for the Jayhawks from the sidelines as Baby Jay. As a sophomore, a graduating senior explained to her the tradition of wearing the boots for the walk down the hill.
“One of the first rules I learned as a mascot was to never be partially dressed in the suit – it ruins the ‘magic’ of the mascot,” Ballard said. “That’s when it hit me how truly special Commencement is. We spend our mascot career doing our best to perform anonymously, and graduation is the one time when we can be both Baby Jay and ourselves.”
“I overheard lots of people commenting on my shoes. A few thought it was a random way to stand out in the crowd, but I heard many exclaim, ‘She must be Baby Jay!’ I was really proud of all I had accomplished at KU as a student and a member of the Spirit Squad, so it felt good to be recognized. I was even asked to take a few pictures with random students, which actually felt very normal since I posed in many pictures with random people as a mascot.”
To learn more about Commencement, including the history of class banners, honorary degrees, and when the walk through the Campanile got started, read our full feature, The Walk.
The class banner tradition dates back to the first Commencement in 1873. Since then, students have lead their graduating class down the hill with banners designed by the Board of Class Officers. A collection of class banners is available for viewing in the Kansas Union.
For Board of Class Officers member Briana McDougall, ’11, Commencement led to “long discussions about what the banner should say” for the class motto, before settling on “Rooted in the Blue, Towering Toward the New.”
“We also got to take photos with the chancellor in her office before Commencement & sat on stage during the ceremony,” McDougall said. “It was a great honor to be able to represent the class & present our motto to the university.”
Jason Fried, c’14, served on the Board of Class Officers, and was chosen to carry the class banner down the hill. “Looking back, it was a great moment. It was definitely something that my parents and relatives were proud of.”
To learn more about Commencement, including the history of the ceremony, honorary degrees, and the special experience for Big and Baby Jays, read our full feature, The Walk.
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:
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.
“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.
The holiday season brings classic TV specials that generations of people have enjoyed. Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, The 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. -Ryan Camenzind
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.
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.