JOPLIN, Mo. —
A new face will be seen on the Missouri Southern State University campus on the first day of school — that of a large bronze lion.
The Lion Icon statue, 10 feet in height and 12 feet in length, will be the focal point of a new 5,400-square-foot plaza, which will also feature a graduated wall, ground pavers, and new seating and lighting in front of Billingsly Student Center.
The project, which is funded by alumni Bill and Tracy Gipson and the MSSU student senate, is scheduled to be unveiled on the campus oval during a dedication ceremony at noon Monday, Aug. 19.
“He arrived about a week ago,” JoAnn Graffam, vice president for development, said of the statue. “There’s some work to be done to get it placed and polished and buffed to get him ready. Now he’s covered and will remain covered until the ceremony.”
MSSU also will be the host for a week’s worth of events for students to mark the start of the fall semester.
Friday, Aug. 16, will feature a kickoff cookout with entertainment, a large inflatable water slide and a screening of the summer blockbuster “The Great Gatsby,” all taking place on the campus oval.
The First-Year Student Convocation, in which new students and their families are formally welcomed to MSSU by the president and faculty, and the Campus Craze, an evening of food and music, are scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 18.
Monday, Aug. 19, features the Welcome Back Picnic, which includes food, music and the statue dedication ceremony.
There are also student-oriented events scheduled throughout the first week of school, including screenings of “The Hangover 3,” a “Survivor” night of music and games, a business fair sponsored by Career Services, a campus fair of organizations looking to recruit new students, and a water-balloon fight.
Landon Adams, director of student activities, said the events will be free for all students. They were planned last spring by a group of “dedicated” student volunteers to help boost a sense of community on the MSSU campus, Adams said.
“It’s really important for us to reach them (new students) quick,” he said. “That way, they realize the fun aspect to it. We don’t want students to get caught up in only going back and forth to class, especially since our school is so commuter-based.”
Opening on Monday, Aug. 19, is “Un.It Unescoitalia,” a photo exhibit highlighting the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Italy. The exhibit can be viewed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 6 at the Spiva Art Gallery on the MSSU campus. Admission is free.