September 14, 2017, BY Matt Hughes

This bison is on the move.

With forelegs firmly rooted, haunches ready to march and gaze set confidently forward, the new mascot statue installed Sept. 14 outside the Kenneth Langone Athletics & Recreation Center on the Bucknell campus doesn't just recall the University's storied past. Resolute and impossible to ignore — it stands 8 feet tall at the shoulder — the bronze sculpture embodies Bucknell's vision for the future for all who encounter it along one of campus' most heavily traveled thoroughfares.

"We wanted a bison that was in the body position of moving forward, suggesting that rugged, individualistic, determined, stand-your-ground Bucknell spirit," said Richard Rinehart, director of the Samek Art Museum at Bucknell. "A king of the plains, leading the herd forward, and prepared for anything with a stolid determination in his eye — I think we found that."

Watch the installation of the new mascot statue in 10 seconds

Jeff Puff '75, who spearheaded a campaign among his classmates to donate the statue, echoed that sentiment. "We were looking for something that conveyed the leadership, bravery and courage that Bucknell University exemplifies — all those traits that are valuable as we go through our lives," he said. "To the extent that a mascot can convey those things, I think that this does."

For Puff, the new bison brings full circle a legacy begun shortly before he enrolled at the University. It was in 1970 that the stone bison statue that until recently stood in the same location was installed and dedicated at Homecoming, as a gift of the Class of 1942. A photo taken at that dedication ceremony now hangs at Puff's cabin in Wolfeboro, N.H. He likes it not only because it reminds him of his alma mater, but also because among the supporters smiling around the statue are his parents, Charles '42 and Isabel Clark Puff '43, who served on the fundraising committee for the Class of 1942 bison. Inspired by his parents' gift and the joy it has given generations of Bucknellians, Puff contacted Bucknell about the possibility of raising funds to bring a new bison statue to campus, and began a campaign at his class' 40th Reunion in support of the project.

The photo that hangs on the wall of Jeff Puff ’75's cabin, from the dedication of the Class of ’42 bison. Puff's mother, Isabel Clark Puff ’43, is to the left of the milk can, seated in a blue suit and red shirt, and his father, Charles Puff ’42, is to the right of the milk can, kneeling in a gold jacket and glasses. 

The stone Class of '42 bison has been moved to a new home near MacDonald Commons on the University's South Campus — a location selected both to preserve the statue (which has been damaged and repaired several times) and to make a statement about class identity and legacy for the seniors who live in the nearby South Campus Apartments.

"The 1942 bison now stands in an area of campus that's a new hub of activity," Rinehart said. "Bringing our stalwart veteran bison to that location brings a lot of Bucknell's history — not only its history as an institution, but also the history of students and alumni, because it's a class gift. It really indicates that legacy of remembering Bucknell.

"Bucknell is looking forward to having these two bison sculptures bookend campus, in a way standing like twin sentinels on each side campus," he added.

The Class of 1942 bison now stands outside the MacDonald Commons Building on South Campus. Photo by Emily Paine, Division of Communications

Artistic and appropriate
While it was funded by members of the Class of 1975, final decisions about the design and placement of the new statue were made by the Campus Art Advisory Committee, which oversees all permanent art installations on campus, indoor and outdoor. The committee, chaired by Rinehart, reviewed some 70 artists' proposals before commissioning Craig Campbell, an artist experienced not only in sculpting realistic animals, but also in creating works for permanent display outdoors.

"We were interested in artistic excellence and appropriateness for our setting — the look of our campus and the visual legacy that we want to leave," Rinehart said. "There were some proposals that would have been fantastic art projects for another context, but we were thinking, 'This is not just another sculpture coming to campus, but this is also our mascot.' "

"All the lines tell the story of the dynamic tension in this piece," Campbell said of the new statue, which is 1.5 times the size of a real-life North American bison and weighs 1,500 pounds. "This is determination, this is achievement, this is strength — those were the things that I wanted the attitude of this piece to communicate."

The two statues stand "like twin sentinels on each side of campus," Rinehart said.

The placement of the two statues follows last fall's installation of a bust of Edward McKnight Brawley, Class of 1875, Bucknell's first African-American alumnus, outside the Vaughan Literature Building. Prior to that, the last permanent outdoor artwork came to campus about 10 years earlier, when a pair of stone tablets was hung in the entryway of the Rooke Science Center.

The new bison statue will be dedicated during a ceremony at the start of Homecoming, on Friday, Nov. 3, from 5 to 5:30 p.m. on the Bucknell campus.

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