It’s all about perspective, author Curtis Marsh says.
With decades of accounts from KU life, Marsh wanted to write about his favorite place, his passion topic: the University of Kansas. His new book, “KU-phoria,” compiles stories about KU’s history and traditions — but the stories would be nothing without the way people felt and experienced them, he says.
“What I would really love to do is just sit down with each KU fan and find out what their KU story is,” Marsh says. “Because some of the stories in my book will resonate with folks and some of them won’t. But if I could only pull out the, you know, perfect stories for each person’s perspective, that’s what I would love to do.”
Marsh, of Lawrence, is often known as “Mr. KU” around campus. He can rattle off anecdotes about KU basketball or demonstrate a clapping sequence in the fight song with ease. He says “KU-phoria” is essentially a guide to prove KU’s superiority above other universities.
“I’m careful not to say that KU is absolutely perfect, but I’m pretty confident in saying that it’s the best place around,” he says.
An alum of the school, Marsh collected stories from his time as a student to his work at the university today. And he’s met plenty of people along the way who have filled him in on more.
Marsh graduated from KU with a journalism and business degree in 1992, and he began working at KU in 1993. He became the director of KU Info in 2005 and then added on the role of DeBruce Center director in 2016. Since 2019, Marsh has worked in KU Endowment as associate director of development, School of Music and the Lied Center.
Working with KU Info for 15 years, Marsh would field all types of questions and inquiries about KU, he recalled. When the KU Info and DeBruce Center director positions were cut from the university’s budget in 2019, Marsh didn’t want the memories to dissolve.
He began fiddling with the idea of creating a book, and the time for the project presented itself during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Marsh released “KU-phoria: A collection of stories about KU traditions, KU Info and KU basketball” on Oct. 11.
People are most captivated by origin stories, Marsh says: folks want to know where traditions come from. One story he hooks with people reveals how KU went 50 years before making the Jayhawk its official mascot.
“We get to claim to be the only university that has the Jayhawk as a mascot,” Marsh says. “And very early in the book, I talk about how ironic it is that our two biggest rivals have the two most boring mascots in the world … Wildcats and Tigers are two of the most common mascots in the entire country.”
But the Bulldog is the No. 1 most common mascot, and it served as KU’s early on before the Jayhawk was introduced. At that time, most colleges didn’t have mascots; instead, fans brought their pets to games for good luck. That’s how the Bulldogs became such a popular choice, Marsh says.
On the book’s front cover, an old photo of the Memorial Campanile stands in the distance. The photo is from KU Commencement 195o, while the campanile was being constructed to be dedicated to KU students, staff and faculty who died in World War II. That year’s graduating class walked through the scaffolded structure, the beginning of one of Marsh’s favorite traditions.
Ripping up the University Daily Kansan student newspapers and throwing pieces up like confetti at the start of men’s basketball games is another student tradition Marsh loves. Some stories included in his book mention words from longtime Voice of the Jayhawks Max Falkenstien, men’s basketball coach Bill Self and others.
Marsh worked with the University Archives to collect photos for the book, and he also included some of his own. Photos range from long before Marsh was a student through recent years.
Published by KU Libraries and sold primarily through the KU Bookstore, “KU-phoria” is a locally made project, which makes Marsh proud. After purchasing a few hundred copies from a local printer to begin with, he was excited to have to put another order in within the first two weeks of the release.
“KU-phoria” is Marsh’s first book, but it may not be his last. He has plans to work on a second edition in the future.
“Really what I want to do with this book is to make sure that people kind of have these stories in their back pockets so that they can tell folks why we are so passionate about this place,” Marsh says. “I would consider this kind of my life’s work. However, in the introduction of the book, what I say is that in no way is this the complete story about our school.”
“KU-phoria” costs $25 per copy and can be purchased online at the KU Bookstore’s website, kubookstore.com. The book is 200 pages long with approximately 40 photos included.
Marsh will also hold a book signing from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25 at the Raven Book Store as part of Small Business Saturday.
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Note: A date in this post has been corrected.