There’s more to the Bearcat than What Meets the Eye!
BY KIMBERLY BENNETT
A few days into the 2014-15 academic year, McKendree University installed a new Bearcat statue in front of Holman Library as a way to begin a great semester. While some students welcome the statue with open arms, others are curious as to why McKendree bothered spending money on a mascot statue rather than a statue of the school’s founder, William McKendree. Makes sense, do you not agree? I, myself, wondered the same thing, but after interviewing Joni Bastian, Ph.D., who co-led the project with President James Dennis, Ph.D., I am satisfied with her answers. Hopefully, others will be too.
Had I known the Bearcat statue was something a majority of students wanted, I would have been less harsh on the project initially. Before the statue was built, I did not think it would be a great investment. However, now that it stands prominently in front of Holman Library and gives McKendree University a fiercer depiction of the Bearcat (though not as accurate, I must say), I am convinced the project was a good endeavor to pursue.
“Over the years, we have surveyed students on a variety of different topics including traditions and campus spirit,” Dr. Bastian explained when I asked her why McKendree would build a Bearcat statue instead of William McKendree. “Often students shared that having a Bearcat statue would enhance some of the older traditions that are valued as well as create new ones. A statue of William McKendree has been requested by students and alumni as well. I do hope that a statue of William McKendree will someday be created and have a place of prominence on our beautiful campus.”
I was grateful to find out that there will be a William McKendree statue in our university’s future; I think our founder deserves some recognition other than a few paintings and pictures here and there in the library or a bust in Piper.
Taylor Rossi, sophomore, had a similar opinion to mine about the statue: “When I first saw it, I thought it was a waste of money. A lot of things on campus could benefit us more. [For example], could that money have been spent on trying to provide free/cheaper laundry to campus residents? Or to begin updating Voigt? And while I still believe that these things are significantly more important than having a hollow, metal statue of an immature male lion, it’s growing on me. It does look kind of cool, and if it makes more people fall in love with McKendree, I suppose it’s worth it. We’re investing in the future, right?”
Indeed, just like Rossi said, despite the misrepresentation of the Bearcat animal, the statue is a very nice piece of work. Rossi’s insight on the amount of money it took to invest in the statue was spot-on; in simpler terms, the statue’s investment was not cheap by any means.
And yes, that money could have been spent on other projects for McKendree University, but as all of you can see, it wasn’t. In fact, McKendree University did not spend the campus’s money to pay for the statue. Rather, the funds came from McKendree-centric groups.
Regarding the financial aspect of the project, Dr. Bastian added, “The Bearcat statue was privately funded by students, members of the Board of Trustees, Alumni Board and the senior administration. The final cost will be between $50,000 and $60,000.”
With that amount of money spent towards the project, I think it is safe to say a great deal of people wanted the Bearcat statue to proudly stand in the center of McKendree to represent campus pride. Speaking of the center of McKendree—smack-dab in the center of the Holman Library walkway—I wanted to know why McKendree University wanted the statue to stand where it was built.
“We chose its location because of the student traffic flow through that area and also wanted the statue to be seen from Alton Street,” Dr. Bastian explained.
Unfortunately, with all of the road construction going on down Alton Street, it will be a while before many people can drive by and see the statue in all its glory. Hopefully, the road construction, which, according to a source, should take about 70 work days, will be able to be completed without delay so the statue can be seen from the main road of McKendree.
As a final comment about the statue, Dr. Bastian concluded our interview by saying, “We know that students will understand that the statue is a valuable piece of art that we need to respect and one that we will cherish for many years to come. We encourage students to take photos with their Bearcat; students may stand on the granite foundation which was created for many photo opportunities that will take place.”
That being said, when you are walking by the statue, whip out your phone and capture some McKendree history for your college scrapbook. Respect the Bearcat, and the Bearcat will respect you. Remember, the statue is a brand new McKendree monument that will bring about campus spirit and pride to the university.
While the statue “may” misrepresent the true depiction of a Bearcat, it does bring about a sense of homeliness, because, without the Bearcat, all McKendree would have left is its outstanding educational and athletic values. Just as the statue is planted at the center of McKendree, the Bearcat—our mascot—is what holds our university together. Bogey, the Bearcat, is the center, the glue, the foundation which keeps McKendree University grounded.
Be sure to check out the statue on your way to class this semester and take a selfie with it.
Be a proud McKendrean.