lionstatue3-smallerrevThe landscape of the Missouri Southern State University Oval will soon be enhanced by a new landmark, thanks to two significant gifts made to the Missouri Southern Foundation.

This fall, a new, larger-than-life lion statue will grace the grounds in front of the Leon C. Billingsly Student Center on the west side of the campus Oval. The project is a step forward in the university’s Master Facilities Plan, which calls for new buildings, campus renovations and gateway signage over the next 25 years.

Made possible by a generous gift from Bill and Tracy Gipson as well as the MSSU Student Senate, the bronze statue will stand 10 feet in height and will be nearly 12 feet in length. The structure will be surrounded by a new 5,400 square-foot plaza, which will feature a winding, graduated wall as well as ground pavers. The area will be accentuated with new seating and lighting, and will be a location designed to attract students and visitors.

“It’s a special moment for Missouri Southern to announce these gifts,” said JoAnn Graffam, vice president of University Development and executive director of the Missouri Southern Foundation. “It is exciting to be able to accomplish another of our Master Facilities Plan projects, especially one that will be so visually meaningful and inspiring for our campus. We are very grateful to Bill and Tracy as well as the Student Senate for making this project possible.”

Construction of the plaza will begin this summer, and is scheduled to be completed by the first day of the Fall 2013 semester, when the statue will be publicly unveiled.

A new design created for Missouri Southern by Brian Hanlon of Hanlon Sculpture Studio in Toms River, N.J., the bronze lion is one of Hanlon’s more than 200 original art pieces, which are located throughout the world. Hanlon created a statue of Shaquille O’Neil for Louisiana State University, “The Pirate,” a famous statue at Seton Hall University in New York, as well as art for many other universities across the nation. The plaza will be constructed by RDG Planning and Design of Des Moines, Iowa, the firm that helped develop MSSU’s Master Facilities Plan.

Taylor Hass, MSSU Student Senate President, said the organization was quick to support the fundraising effort.

“The Student Senate has been trying to get a project like this completed for several years and we are very happy to see it finally done,” Hass said. “We are proud to be a part of such a huge project on campus and are excited that, thanks to the donation from the Gipsons, such a bold icon can be placed on our Oval.”

For the Gipsons, both graduates of Missouri Southern and both now retired, funding this project was an opportunity to share their affinity for their alma mater with current and future students.

“We are pleased to work with the Student Senate to bring this iconic symbol to the University campus,” said the Gipsons. “The lion is an important part of Missouri Southern’s history and it is time for it to take a prominent place on our campus.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Lion Icon statue and plaza is planned for April, with construction to begin immediately afterward.

“This piece of art will invoke pride and will give us an additional point of beauty on our campus,” said MSSU President Bruce Speck. “I am looking forward to seeing the difference it makes on our Oval.”