Alumni James Ascher says the University of Kansas is part of his history. Now, because of his donation, the history of the Jayhawk will be displayed through six bronze statues in front of the Union.
“Once you're a Jayhawk, you're always a Jayhawk,” Ascher said. “It's something you carry with you and the history of the Jayhawk, as we'll represent when we put the different ones up, goes way back, even before any of us were born.”
Ascher donated $200,000 to the project, and the plaza where the statues will be installed will be named after him. The rest of the funding for the project came from the Pi Deuteron Chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, Class of 1980.
"We went up [to campus] last spring, and it was raining like the dickens ... and where the plaza is now, there was nothing but a mud pool,” Ascher said. “And it's really something to see what they turned it into."
Union Director David Mucci said the project wouldn’t have been possible without Ascher.
“At that point we didn’t have any money for the birds. So that’s when we began reaching out to people … to see if there was anybody willing to do that. Ultimately, Mr. Ascher said yes,” Mucci said. “It became something he was quite generous about.”
Ascher attended the University in the 1950s, and owned a pharmaceutical company before retiring in 2010. He also has two daughters who graduated from the University.
“I've always had a soft spot for KU,” Ascher said.
Ascher’s first major donation to the University was in 2013 when he and his wife donated $130,000 to KU Endowment so that a 1,000 piece collection of memorabilia could stay at the Union.
“I said… we can't let a collection that large get away from the University,” Ascher said.
The statues will be unveiled Thursday, March 7 in front of the Union.
"The Jayhawk, of all the logos of all the teams and universities and organizations in the world, the Jayhawk is independent and well-known everywhere,” Ascher said. “They've got bears and tigers and all kinds of animals, and they don't mean anything, but the Jayhawk is all by itself. It doesn't belong any other place. It belongs at KU."