The History of UMKC (VIDEO: UMKC History in 12 minutes)
Although talk of a university in Kansas City began as early as the 1890s, it was not until the 1920s that talk turned to action. In the postwar decade, a board of trustees comprising leading businessmen was established, and in 1929 the charter for the University of Kansas City was granted. The dream became a reality when William Volker, a local philanthropist for whom the 93-acre Volker Campus is named, presented the board with the 40-acre nucleus of the present campus site in Kansas City’s Rockhill district.
The University of Kansas City, a private, independent university, began its first classes on Oct. 2, 1933, with 264 students. In the eventful decades following that day, the University developed rapidly, in part due to its affiliation with several area professional schools. This included the Kansas City School of Law in 1938, the Kansas City-Western Dental College in 1941, the Kansas City College of Pharmacy in 1943 and the Conservatory of Music in 1959. Also established were the School of Administration (1953), the School of Education (1954), the Division for Continuing Education (1958), the School of Graduate Studies (1964), the School of Medicine (1970) and the School of Nursing (1980).
On July 25, 1963, the University of Kansas City became the fourth institution in the University of Missouri System. The University’s name was changed to University of Missouri-Kansas City.
The History of the Kangaroo
What do The Kansas City Star, Walt Disney and the Kansas City Zoo have in common? All are pieces to a puzzle concerning the question, “How in the world did UMKC pick a Kangaroo as its mascot?”
The Kangaroo issue was first brought up in 1936 when the editors of The University (then named Kansas City University) newspaper decided it was time to find a mascot for the debate team. There were no organized University athletic teams at the time, yet the students on the newspaper staff still wanted a unique identity for their debate team and, more importantly, their school.
The fire was lit later that year when an article appeared in The Kansas City Star titled “Kangaroo May Go to KCU ... Student Editors Believe University Should Have a Symbol.” Interest in the mascot was also spurred by the Kansas City Zoo’s purchase of two baby kangaroos about that same time and the subsequent publicity generated by the kangaroo nearly suffered a quick demise in 1937 when the editors of the University yearbook The Crataegus decided that a kangaroo was not an appropriate university symbol. They opted to delete the proposed kangaroo emblem from the yearbook’s feature section, but supporters of the mascot began a vocal attack.
Just as the criticism began to mount and support for the kangaroo was beginning to wane, famed cartoonist Walt Disney came to the rescue. In April 1937, a leading KCU political group, the CO-OP Party, won a landslide election with “Kasey the Kangaroo” as its insignia. “Kasey,” the group stated, fit KC.
The same month, the first issue of the KCU humor magazine The Kangaroo was published. Six months after the first kangaroo appeared on the cover, another kangaroo was featured, this time alongside Mickey Mouse. The artist of this drawing was the famous Disney, and support for the kangaroo mounted. In a matter of a few years, The Crataegus folded and The Kangaroo became the school’s yearbook.
Over the years, the kangaroo went through numerous changes and refinements before a final edition was agreed upon via a special committee appointed by then-chancellor Randall Whaley.
The Athletics Department introduced a new set of marks in November 2004 working with Plan B. Branding of San Diego, Calif., to create the identity.
The Kangaroos is a unique nickname, and UMKC shares it with a slight few. Just two other colleges in the nation uses Kangaroos as its nickname - Austin College in Sherman, Texas and State University of New York at Canton. The Akron Zips and VMI Keydets, meanwhile, use the kangaroo as their mascots.
The colors of the University of Kansas City, now the University of Missouri-Kansas City, were determined in March 1934 by a student council decree, which cited the school colors as “old gold and royal blue.”
Blue is a symbol for trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith and truth. Yellow represents honor and loyalty.
Hail to thee, our noble Alma Mater,
Our foster mother, cherished gold and blue;
Never in our hearts can any other
Replace the mem’ries of our days with you,
Student days, carefree and true.
May thy years be crowned with glory,
And fortunes never fail thee.
This we pledge will always be the story
That we who love thy fair traditions
May ever sing of KCU.
Written by brothers Vincent and Edwin Robbins, and Bill Hathaway, and introduced first to the Men’s Glee Club. [U-News, Nov. 11, 1940]