Bronze owl flies in late
August Pelliccio – Features & Opinions Editor
One day, everybody is going to come out of Engleman Hall, said President Joe Bertolino, and there is going to be a big owl there.
Bertolino said the five-foot-wide bronze owl statue, set to be installed in front of Engleman Hall, arrived last week, and has since been undergoing a structural reinforcement and weatherproofing process.
The thought of putting an owl statue on campus has been around as long as he has been president, said Bertolino, but considering the potential cost, it was never been a high priority.
“I was not inclined to have one commissioned,” said Bertolino, “and pay astronomical amounts of money for something like that.”
He found after researching, that commissioning a bronze statue for a school mascot can cost as much as $100,000.
Michelle Johnston, director of alumni relations, said the 125th Anniversary Committee— which she is a member of, began discussing the idea last spring—when planning for the anniversary began.
There was a search for the perfect owl, said Johnston, and even a wooden sculpture was being considered at one point.
“I have to give credit where credit is due,” said Bertolino, “and that is with Roland Regos, in my office.”
Regos, assistant to the president, found an owl statue already manufactured online, according to Bertolino, for a cost of roughly $7,000.
Regos said the costs, including installation, construction of the foundation, shipping and handling totalled $11,584.50.
“I was like, ‘wow,’” Bertolino said, “‘what do we have to lose.’”
Bertolino said at that point, he brought the idea to faculty and staff, “and everybody pitched in.”
Johnston said the alumni association gave $2,000 to this pool.
The low cost made the concept “perfect,” according to Bertolino.
“If someone had said to me, for example, ‘Joe I want to buy you a statue, and I’m going [to] commission an artist to do it for 100 grand,’ my response to that would have been, ‘why don’t you give us the 100 grand for scholarships, and let’s hold off on the owl.’”
Bertolino said he personally wrote a check for $1,000 of the total cost, which, including installation, totalled about $10,000.
“The goal had been to unveil it at Homecoming,” said Bertolino. “Unfortunately, the owl didn’t fly here, and got delayed in transit.”
During Homecoming week, he said, the statue was still en-route in Chicago.
Bertolino said in the spring, there will be a formal ceremony to dedicate the owl statue, and a plaque will be placed.
Johnston said she looks forward to school commencements and convocations in the future, when students can walk by the owl, and stop to take a picture or touch it for good luck.
“Hopefully,” Johnston said, “we’ll start a good tradition.”
Hannah Molwitz, a freshman, and pre-nursing major, said if the installation is executed well, the statue will be a nice addition to the campus.
“I think the location is really good,” said Molwitz, “I personally pass it at least three times a day, when I have class.”
The other only concern she had was the upkeep as time goes on.
“Bronze will deteriorate and go green over time,” said Molwitz.
“I like the fact that they’re putting a sculpture in, in general,” said Molly Flanagan, a junior and interdisciplinary studies major, “but it’s just such a random area.”
She said she would have rather seen some element added to the middle of the quad, in the center of all the buildings, to add to an otherwise plain grass field.
Vittoria Cristante, a junior, and theater major, said she looks forward to walking by the bronze statue in the future; it is a welcomed new element.
“This is the first owl thing I’m seeing on campus,” Cristante said.
Johnston said she thinks the installation will be beneficial to alumni as well. She is sure, she said, alumni will appreciate the sight of it when visiting campus in the future.
Johnston said having an owl cast in bronze will be a lasting image, considering how frequently the mascot costume and school logo have changed over the years.
“I hope it’s a symbol of a positive direction,” said Bertolino. “I hope it’s a point of pride.
Photo Credit: Patrick Dilger