Watkins hospital murals recovering at student health center
A 70-year-old mural that first graced the walls of what is
now Twente Hall has found a new home on the second floor of
Watkins Memorial Health Center.
The colorful mural features vintage Jayhawks in varying degrees
of health cavorting in a field of Kansas Sunflowers. It was
painted in the early 1930s in the third-floor sunroom of Watkins
Memorial Hospital, now called Twente Hall.
Carol Seager, director of student health service's at Watkins
Memorial Health Center, said the murals were removed from
their original location in 1974 when the new health center
opened on the south end of main campus.
murals were displayed in several locations within Watkins
for the next 20 years, but were taken down during remodeling
that took place in the late 1990s.
Recently, the mural was refurbished and now is on display
along with an original Watkins Hospital bed, patient privacy
screen, several exam chairs, and two wheel chairs on the second
floor of the health center.
The display is available to the public during normal hours
"This is an investment in our history," Seager
said. "We are proud to preserve and display relics of
our very unique heritage."
Not all of the mural's scenes could be salvaged from the former
site, however. Old photographs of the mural as it appeared
in Twente Hall show additional scenes including Jayhawks representing
a football-player, a singer, a painter and soldiers performing
Seager said what remained was representative of the original
story told by the mural, which begins with a healthy Jayhawk
napping on a sunflower branch. Along the 15-foot-long painting,
the 6-inch birds can be seen with various injuries, then in
stages of recovery, and finally flying free. "There's
a story to be told, though clearly there are portions that
weren't saved," Seager said.
Marjorie Whitney, f'27, created the painting on canvas-covered
walls in 1931. Alumni Association records show that Whitney
passed away in 1998, but Watkins administrators said they
would like to find her family members to share the display
The mural, furniture and other displays at Watkins are a
tiny portion of the legacy left to KU by Elizabeth Miller
Watkins, Seager said. In addition to the health center that
bears her name, Watkins also was the benefactor behind Watkins
and Miller scholarship halls, the chancellor's residence and
thousands of acres of land.
"She was a very generous benefactor," Seager said.
"We are fortunate that she had the foresight to establish
a trust that continues to serve the medical needs of the university