Throughout the history of mankind, human ideals have not only been well represented by people but also by symbols. For example, when a person stands in front of the American flag or looks at a photograph of the Statue of Liberty, what they see is not just a banner or a piece of architecture, but also a sign of freedom, power, justice, democracy and what it means to be an American. At West Chester University, our symbol, the Golden Ram is much more than an animal picked at random to serve as a university mascot. The Golden Ram serves its purpose in embodying the spirit of a West Chester University student. Its horns represent strength and determination, its stare represents courage in the face of all problems and its gold color symbolizes the standard sought by every young life that chooses education here. However, while the ideals represented by this animal are alive in every student, for many years the campus has lacked a main focal point to remind us of the ram’s power as a symbol of the West Chester spirit. Those days, however, may soon be at an end.
Over the last few months, a committee of representatives from Student Services Incorporated (SSI), the Student Government Association (SGA) and the WCU Arts and Facilities departments have been working hard to bring a ram statue to the university grounds. Recently, proposed ideas have been fully developed and the devised plan is to build the statue in front of the Old Library on Church Street by the fall of 2006.
At the head of the committee is SSI Director Mell Josephs. Much like others involved in the project, Josephs feels that the presence of this statue will add “spirit and beautification” to the campus and foster an increased sense of school pride with the present student population as well as alumni who return to visit.
“Our goal in this project was to do the job right,” she said, “and in the end we wanted to create a spot that any West Chester student would always want to remember.”
In addition to heightening school spirit, the statue would also serve as a landmark that the admissions office could use to entice more applicants, since statues seem to play a predominate role at any university. At Penn State University, the Nittany Lion statue is the most widely photographed shot on their campus, especially during events like graduation.
According to Josephs, the idea to build a statue was first introduced by SGA four years ago, and a committee was later formed to research possible sources for a piece. Taking into account that they wanted a quality statue and could withstand abuse from vandalism and weather conditions, the committee contacted museums and even Penn State University. However, the project initially lagged since original pieces were extremely costly and pre-made statues were of poor quality.
It was during this past year that the project was revitalized under the administration of SGA President Brad Williams. Like Josephs, the SGA president pushed for the idea because he felt that the university needed a source for “school pride and unity” that all students – past and present – would remember.
“Our present executive board pushed for this idea, and whenever we set a goal of this magnitude, I make it my business to carry it out,” he stated.
By the end of last semester, the committee was made up of the efforts of Mell Josephs, John Baker and John Rhein from the WCU Art Committee, Dolores Giardina from WCU Facilities and SGA senators John Farley and Krysta McCaslin.
Finally after weeks of research, the committee came across a bronze, nine-foot, 2,000 pound statue of a big-horned ram atop a rock. The design entitled “Ram Country” is one of four limited originals developed by sculpture artist James Marsico from Cody, Wyoming.
Marsico, whose father is a native of Pennsylvania, has been the recipient of several fine art awards and has had his work shipped to collectors worldwide. The Smithsonian Natural History Museum is one of many that display his sculptures. He currently operates his studio and art gallery out of the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
Marsico got the idea for the “Ram Country” design from observing the vast amounts of big-horned sheep that are present in the snow-capped mountains surrounding the town of Cody. Thus far, two of the originals have been sold to schools in Virginia and Utah.
“As far as I know and am informed, both statues have been a great inspiration to and for everyone involved and will be for generations to come.” he said. “I think it’s really exciting for me to be able to return to Pennsylvania in this way and for a school monument to be placed in the state with the Marsico signature.”
The location for the statue was given careful consideration, since Josephs felt that it needed to be in a proper spot where its full beauty could be appreciated. The proposed plan is to place the statue between the two trees in front of the Old Library, above the crescent path and facing the intersection of Church Street and Rosedale Avenue. The statue will rest on a short, blue-stone incline and be surrounded by a 16-inch high, brick wall for sitting. The wall will be surrounded by planted flowers.
The cost for the whole project, including the statue itself, transport fees and landscaping, is approximately $100,000 ($52,000 for landscaping and $48,000 for statue costs). SSI has already guaranteed $30,000 towards the project and SGA can contribute $20,000 depending on approval from their Senate. The price also doesn’t include any unknown costs after digging begins or any costs for lighting.
Several members of the committee are exited about the possibility of seeing this project eventually approved. Ms. Giardina, who is a graduate of Penn State University, knows the symbolic significance that a statue can bring to all students since she spent her college days in the shadow of the Nittany Lion grotto.
“Current students will see it as a ‘place,’ a site for formal activities or an interlude during special events. Alumni will look upon it as a fountain of memories of a special time in their lives. And, to incoming students, it will offer a sense of identity, of community. I look forward to seeing the statue affirmed and working with the students on its dedication,” she stated.
Freshman Krysta McCaslin is proud to be a part of this major project and takes pride in knowing that she might be part of something that will live forever at the university.
“It would truly be amazing to take my kids back here one day, and look at the statue and be able to tell them ‘See what mommy did?'” she said. “To see this project approved would truly be wonderful.”
What Krysta said illustrates how this is far from “a done deal.” Final plans for the project still need to be approved by WCU President Dr. Adler and the SGA Senate. Furthermore, the borough has to look over the project in order to foresee any natural problems that might occur with drainage or runoff.
But through it all, Josephs remains confident that the project will be fully accepted and most of all, she takes pride in the role that the students have played in its development. In an earlier interview, she brought out how many new wonders we have on campus were brought about due to the ideas of students. These include the online encyclopedias in the library, the RAM-e cards and the WCU logo on the school water tower.
“I have a lot of legacies and I get a lot of satisfaction with what I’ve done for the university,” she said, “but most of all I’m proud of the students and their involvement.”
If the project is approved, Josephs and Brad Williams hope to have the site prepared by late spring. Construction would take place during the summer and a formal dedication for the statue would take place in the fall.