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Penn State Mont Alto gets a lion of its own

February 12, 2001|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

Penn State Mont Alto gets a lion of its own



MONT ALTO, Pa. - It may not roar, but Penn State Mont Alto's new 2,135-pound solid fiberglass Nittany Lion should become the most photographed icon on campus.

The 8-foot lion, unveiled in a brief Monday afternoon ceremony, sits atop a knoll overlooking the campus entrance. At seven-eighths scale, it is a slightly smaller version of the 21-foot lion that graces Penn State's main campus in University Park.

The original Nittany Lion was carved from a single block of Indiana limestone in 1942 by Heinz Warneke, a German-born sculptor. It was a gift from the class of 1940, said Christy Rambeau, spokesman at University Park.

Mont Alto's lion cost about $4,000. It was bought by the college's students with money from their activities fund, said David Goldenberg, the school's chief executive officer.

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The students also picked the site for the sculpture.

The lion, a reproduction of a North American cougar that once roamed Pennsylvania, crouches over a base of fieldstone that was saved when the bridge over a small stream at the campus entrance was rebuilt last year.

The statue is the last of three major campus projects, Goldenberg said.

The bridge reconstruction was first, followed by the $325,000 renovation of a 146-year-old stone chapel on the campus. Abolitionist John Brown and his men met in the chapel on the night before their raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., in 1859.

John Boozer, chairman of the Mont Alto Advisory Board, said the lion will allow the campus to continue a Penn State tradition. Mont Alto students will return to the campus in years to come, stand in the shadow of the lion and reflect on their years at the school, he said.

Hillary Sutton, a sophomore speaking for the students, said the lion, like the one in stone at University Park, will become a symbol of pride for Mont Alto.

"It will be a blending of traditions between University Park and Mont Alto," Goldenberg said.

John Bardi, who teaches philosophy at Mont Alto, said the mountain lion symbolizes cunning and courage - qualities held by Penn State students.

The mountain lion officially became the university's mascot in 1907. The choice stemmed from a baseball game between Penn State and Princeton University at Princeton in 1904, according to Rambeau.

The university's spokeswoman said Harrison Joe Mason, a member of Penn State's team, got frustrated when he saw the Princeton tiger, the Ivy League school's mascot, so he made up the Nittany Lion as the fiercest animal on the field. "We went on to win that day," Rambeau said.

Mount Nittany looms over Penn State's main campus. Mountain lions thrived in the area until the late 1880s, when the last one was spotted in the Mount Nittany area, she said.

Penn State opened in 1855. Today, it consists of the main campus and 24 satellite campuses.

Rambeau said the lion is the most photographed site at University Park.

Mont Alto's reproduction is the seventh to grace a satellite school. An eighth one, to sit on yet another Penn State campus, is under construction, said Andrew Schluter, spokesman for Statue.com in Edwardsville, Ill., makers of the statues.

Schluter said the scale reproductions are molded of solid fiberglass polyester resin, a popular material for modern statues. "It should last for years and years with an occasional refinishing, just like any painted object" he said.

It takes about six months to complete a statue, he said. The mold for the Penn State lions was created by Jon Repa, Statue.com's resident sculptor, Schluter said.

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