Hal Sandy, designer of famous smiling Jayhawk, dies

In this file photo from 2008, Hal Sandy is pictured in front of a Jayhawk statue outside the Adams Alumni Center on the University of Kansas campus. Sandy created the happy Jayhawk that is the basis for the university's current logo.

The smiling Jayhawk that graces University of Kansas logos and merchandise far and wide could be excused for looking a little less happy these past few days. The creator of the current version of the Kansas Jayhawk has died.

Longtime designer and Prairie Village resident Harold “Hal” Sandy died on Dec. 9, according to information from the Kansas University Alumni Association and an obituary published by The Kansas City Star.

Sandy is credited with creating the current version of the Jayhawk — known as the Happy Jayhawk because of the design’s large smile — in 1946 when he was a KU student, according to the Alumni Association.

In a 2008 interview with the Journal-World, Sandy explained that the Happy Jayhawk was drawn in 1946 when university leaders decided they needed a Jayhawk that looked less warlike than the one that represented the university through World War II.

The university told Sandy it couldn’t pay him for his design work but that he could sell decals with the logo as a way to pay himself. Sandy said he ultimately sold a few thousand decals at a dollar apiece. He did copyright the logo and netted $250 when he sold it to the KU Bookstore about a year later.

According to the 2008 article, Sandy then largely forgot about his design — he wasn’t much of a sports fan — until he was on a trip with KU alumni in 1970.

“Someone was along who said we have an illustrious person on board,” Sandy recalled. “She said ‘I want you to stand up. This is the man who designed the Happy Jayhawk for KU. He probably doesn’t know, but last year the royalties on that Jayhawk earned the university over $400,000.'”

Today, such royalties are in the millions.

Sandy went on to own an advertising agency in Kansas City, according to the 2008 article. He designed many advertisements but never again drew a cartoon character like the Jayhawk.

“It was drawn completely without computers,” Sandy recalled in 2008. “They weren’t even imagined at the time. I drew it all using India ink and then did the coloring myself.”

Sandy’s obituary — which did not list his age, but he was 84 at the time of the 2008 article — states that survivors include his wife, Wilda, and a nephew.