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Archive for Wednesday, February 19, 1997

BRONZE JAYHAWK RETURNS TO CAMPUS PERCH

February 19, 1997

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Repaired and renovated, the bronze Jayhawk was re-installed Tuesday morning on Kansas University's campus.

Elden Tefft squinted as he looked up at his creation.

Gleaming in the early morning sunlight, the bronze Jayhawk he cast in 1958 was being re-installed on its granite perch Tuesday morning in front of Kansas University's Strong Hall.

The Lawrence sculptor smiled broadly.

Yes, it's still a mystery who toppled the 4-foot-3, 600-plus pound bird from the pedestal last fall, he said.

"No one ever admitted anything, so it's just speculation," Tefft said, smiling. "It didn't blow over, we know that."

On Oct. 29, the statue was knocked over backwards and landed on the crest on top of its head. The center of the head was also dented. And there were cracks in the neck and wings.

For the last few months, Tefft and his son, Kim Tefft, have been nursing the bronze piece back to health at their studio just east of Lawrence.

Kim Tefft said they had to weld the fractures and the breaks and reform some of the areas on the crest that were deformed from the fall.

"It's a quarter-inch thickness on the bronze, so it was a significant job to straighten those out," Kim Tefft said. "Then we had to weld up the fractures and cracks and breaks around the neck area."

Kim Tefft, who restored Lawrence High School's Chesty Lion mascot sculpture about a year ago -- also created by his father -- said he found some evidence of past pranks by Kansas State University fans.

"I found residues of purple paint in the crevices," he said.

The Jayhawk piece was inspired by an early Jayhawk known as the Fighting Jayhawk. However, Tefft said it was his own original design.

It was first installed in a niche in the west wing of Kansas Union. It was moved by former Chancellor Archie Dyches in the 1970s to its current post.

The Teffts looked on Tuesday morning as the piece was lowered by a forklift and bolted and attached to the pedestal with epoxy by KU's facilities and operations staff.

A few students stopped to watch.

"They cleaned him up and everything," said Jennifer Mai, a Hoisington sophomore. "It's good to have him back."

Rachel Smith, a sophomore from Liberal, took notice of the restored bronze patina.

"He looks so much cleaner. He used to look gray," Smith said.

Darin Mangan, a Garden City senior, said he had missed seeing KU's mascot as he walked to classes along Jayhawk Boulevard.

"It looks good. They did a really nice job of cleaning it up," Mangan said. "It's good to have it back home where it belongs."

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