By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Missouri Southern State University broke ground Thursday for a new Lion statue and plaza that will be constructed on the campus oval in front of Billingsly Student Center.
In prepared remarks, President Bruce Speck said he expects that the project will become a “beautiful landmark” for the campus.
“This Lion icon statue and plaza will be truly magnificent, and I, for one, truly can’t wait to see the difference it makes on our oval,” he said.
The bronze lion statue, 10 feet in height and 12 feet in length, will be designed by Brian Hanlon of Hanlon Sculpture Studio in Toms River, N.J. The 5,400-square-foot plaza, which will feature a graduated wall and ground pavers as well as new seating and lighting, will be constructed by RDG Planning and Design of Des Moines, Iowa, the firm that helped develop the university’s master plan.
The project is funded by alumni Bill and Tracy Gipson and the MSSU student senate.
Speck thanked the Gipsons for backing the project and also said he was “greatly impressed” by the student senate for its financial support. In addition to the statue, student senators previously helped pay for the electronic sign in front of the campus along Newman Road, he said.
Taylor Haas, president of the student senate, said that putting a lion statue on the campus is something that students have wanted for about two years. He said it will be more than just an iconic representation of the MSSU mascot.
“I think it’s something in generations to come that students will look at and be proud of their university,” he said.
The project is part of the university’s 25-year master plan for new buildings, campus renovations and signs, said JoAnn Graffam, vice president for development and executive director of the Missouri Southern Foundation.
“We’re the Lions, but we haven’t had that statue, that icon we can really look to and see and touch,” she said.
Construction of the plaza will begin next week and is scheduled to be completed by the first day of the fall 2013 semester, when the statue will be unveiled.
BECAUSE OF THE THREAT of inclement weather, Thursday’s groundbreaking was more ceremonial than typical groundbreaking events. MSSU campus leaders and students turned shovels of dirt over in a long flower box underneath a tent set up on the campus oval.