Jayhawk/Academic Jay

In front of Strong Hall Lawrence, KS

Elden C. Tefft, 1958

This distinctive Jayhawk in front of Strong Hall was commissioned by the Class of 1956 and designed and cast by Elden C. Tefft, professor of sculpture. He has said he was inspired by the sharp-beaked “fighting Jayhawks” that were mascots from 1929 to 1946, but the statue also has been called “the Pterodactyl.”

The bronze is 4 feet 2 inches tall and weighs more than 600 pounds; it was cast at the KU foundry established by Tefft, a faculty member from 1950 to 1990. After its completion in 1958, it was sited on the west side of the Kansas Union and moved to Baumgartner Drive in the early 1960s. In April 1975, at the suggestion of Chancellor Archie Dykes, it was moved from this obscure site to the front of Strong Hall on Jayhawk Boulevard. It is mounted on a granite base 4 feet 5 inches tall that is in turn mounted on an octagonal concrete base 12 feet in diameter.

In late 1996, vandals knocked the Jayhawk off its pedestal, damaging its head and wings. Tefft and his son, Kim Tefft, repaired and remounted it in February 1997. In September 2005 the Teffts made a mold so they could reproduce the statue for placement in front of Regnier Hall on the Edwards Campus in Overland Park.

Another version of this Jayhawk is on display on the third floor of Kansas Union. Called “Jayhawk II Kansas Sarimanok,” it is a copy of a 26-inch model Tefft created at the request of KU alumni in the Philippines because it resembles the sarimanok, a bird in Filipino mythology. The original was destroyed in university student riots in 1984, but the Philippine chapter could not afford to buy a replacement.