Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Flashback Friday: Elden Tefft Edition

February 27th, 2015

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 2,600 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

The KU community recently mourned the death of long-time professor and internationally-recognized sculptor Elden C. Tefft. Examples of Tefft’s artwork can be seen across northeast Kansas and the KU campus, including two of its signature sculptures: “Academic Jay” in front of Strong Hall and “Moses,” Tefft’s self-acclaimed masterwork, outside Smith Hall.

Portrait of Elden Tefft, 1951

Elden Tefft shortly after he began teaching at KU, 1951.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty:
Tefft, Elden Prints (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Elden Tefft working on the university seal, 1955

Tefft working on the university seal, 1955. KU’s first chancellor, Rev. R. W. Oliver,
chose the seal in 1866, and Tefft redesigned it for the university’s centennial.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty: Tefft, Elden Prints (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Elden Tefft working on "Academic Jay," 1958.

Tefft working on “Academic Jay,” 1958. Lawrence Journal-World Photo.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty: Tefft, Elden
Prints (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of "Academic Jay" in front of Strong Hall, 1978

“Academic Jay” in front of Strong Hall, 1978. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Jawhawk Statue (Tefft) 1978 Prints: Campus:
Areas and Objects (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Elden Tefft with his sculpture of Moses, early 1980s

Elden Tefft with his sculpture of Moses, early 1980s. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Moses 1980s Prints: Campus: Areas and Objects (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the installation of "Moses" sculpture, 1982

Installation of “Moses” sculpture in front of Smith Hall, 1982.
Note the stained-glass window “Burning Bush” behind Moses. Both are
prominent components of KU’s seal. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Moses 1982 Negatives: Campus:
Areas and Objects (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Elden Tefft and his son Kim repairing "Academic Jay," 1996

Elden Tefft and his son Kim repairing “Academic Jay” after vandals damaged it, 1996.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Jawhawk Statue (Tefft) 1996 Prints:
Campus: Areas and Objects (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Elden C. Tefft was born in Hartford, Kansas, twenty miles southeast of Emporia, in 1919. He moved with his family to Lawrence as a boy, eventually graduating from Lawrence Liberty Memorial High School and before entering KU. Service in the Army Air Corps during World War II interrupted his studies, but Tefft returned to KU to earn his bachelor’s (1949) and master’s (1950) of fine arts in design. Tefft began his teaching career at KU in 1950, founding the university’s undergraduate and graduate sculpture degree programs. Two years later, he began construction of what is believed to have been the first complete collegiate bronze sculpture studio and foundry in the nation. Throughout his career, Tefft also traveled extensively, researching bronze casting techniques and setting up bronze foundries. He is credited as the founder of the International Sculpture Center, the world’s largest sculptor’s association and research center. Tefft was awarded the State of Kansas Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement upon his retirement from KU in 1990.

To learn more about Elden Tefft, see the biography “Elden Tefft: An Informal Look at a Founding Father of Twentieth Century Bronze Casting in the United States” by Craig Voorhees, available online through KU ScholarWorks. KU Libraries also has several of Tefft’s published writings, which you can find by conducting an author search in the online catalog.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants