If it weren’t for William Volker, a local philanthropist who still had some money left during the Great Depression, UMKC might not be here today. In 1930, Volker donated a 40-acre site near 51st and Rockhill Road to establish a university in Kansas City. In the fall of 1933, the University of Kansas City (our original name) opened its doors with 17 faculty members and
264 students. Classes were held in the old Dickey mansion, which is still used as office space and classrooms. In 1963, the University of Kansas City became a part of the four-campus University of Missouri System. Today, UMKC is home to over 14,000 students and more than 1,300 faculty members.
The Kangaroo The idea for having a kangaroo as the mascot for the University of Kansas City (UMKC’s predecessor) began more than a year before the marsupial actually appeared on the scene. An article, “Kangaroo may go to KCU ... Student Editors Believe University Should Have a Symbol,” appeared in a September 1936 edition of The Kansas City Star. Will Mansfield, feature writer for the KCU yearbook, was quoted as saying, “The Kangaroo would
be a good name for the debate squad, since there (was) no university athletic team.” Interest continued to grow when the Kansas City Zoo purchased two baby kangaroos. Soon after, the University News suggested a contest for a school song rhyming kangaroo with KCU. The first known drawing of the kangaroo appeared on the cover of the November 1937 issue of a KCU humor magazine. It was followed six months later by another cover showing Mickey Mouse and the kangaroo. The artist for this second kangaroo cover was Walt Disney. During the spring 1987 campus elections, an overwhelming majority of students voted to retain the kangaroo as the UMKC mascot. Gold and Blue The University’s colors were determined in March 1934 by a student council decree as “old gold and royal blue.”