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[Photo Story] Statues & Sculptures At Penn State

There’s plenty of buildings that take up the sights outside at Penn State, but what about the other structures? The statues? The sculptures?

You’ll come to find that there’s actually plenty of both around campus, too. But how much do you know about the history behind them? Probably not much. That’s where we come in, folks.

Without further ado, let’s get into some of the statues and sculptures.

Old Main Armillary Sphere

Known to some as the “Old Main Turtle,” this sphere is a gift from the Class of 1966. It’s an armillary sphere — an instrument used to show the position of the sun when it’s rising and setting. The astronomical tool’s origins originally date back all the way to the 4th century when it was created by Chinese astronomers.

At Penn State, the sphere was chosen by the gift committee and later installed to “give Old Main Lawn an extra touch of distinction,” according to an editorial published in The Daily Collegian on April 1, 1966.

The Obelisk

The Obelisk, located between Willard and Sackett buildings, was built in 1896 under the supervision of professors TC Hopkins and MC Ihlseng from the School of Mines. William CB Alexander supervised the collection of stones.

The 33-foot-tall tower is made up of 281 building stones in natural geologic order from locations across Pennsylvania. Its purpose was to demonstrate the weathering properties and subsequent value of all the different Pennsylvania building stones.

Plus, it’d be really cool if we could climb it.

College Of Engineering Time Capsule Sculpture

Located outside Hammond Building, a time capsule was buried under this sculpture on July 18, 1996, commemorating the College of Engineering’s centennial. The time capsule is not to be opened until the same date in the year 2096.

The sculpture itself was refurbished by Donsco Incorporated, noted by a sign bolted to it. The mark also notes that the sculpture commemorates the Penn State alumni in the foundry industry.

‘Connected’ Sculpture

Created by artist Harry Gordon, ‘Connected’ is an 11-foot-high sculpture made from two oak trees that had fallen. To make the sculpture, the oak trees were bolted together and then carved.

The sculpture was originally on loan to the university until fall 2010. The purchase of it was a proposed class gift for the Class of 2010, but the class chose the Marsh Meadow Boardwalk and Overlook at the Arboretum as its gift. The purchase of the sculpture would have been an endowment for a scholarship in the name of the class. Both the scholarship and the sculpture were meant to “connect” students, alumni, and other visitors.

Pieced Column Sculpture

Sitting next to the Weaver Building is this piece of weathering steel gifted to Penn State by artist Stephen Porter. According to the sign, Porter was a professor of sculpture, digital media, and computer animation at the university for 29 years until 2002.

The sign also reads that Porter is known for his abstract sculptures based on a “formal vocabulary of the geometric shapes arranged,” several more of which can be found around the State College area.

Donald W. Hamer Sculpture Garden

Most people know it for a sculpture notoriously called the “Butter Statue,” but it is officially called Doc/Pride/Humility by Bonnie Collura in 2011, which is a sculpture made from plastic, steel, expandable foam, auto body paint, lacquer, and rainbow flake. Currently, it’s on loan to the university, but it’ll continue to catch the eyes of visitors to the garden as long as it remains.

Aside from Collura’s statue, there are seven other sculptures within the garden. The garden’s located between the Forum Building and the Palmer Museum of Art and is a quiet, little nook dedicated to Donald W. Hamer. Hamer, a 1968 graduate who was named Penn State’s Philanthropist of The Year in 2014.

‘The CEO’

“The CEO” Statue was cast in bronze by the late Glenna Goodacre and gifted to the university by Helen and Edward Hintz in 2006. Goodacre is a renowned sculptor nationwide, with her most notable work being the Vietnam Women’s Memorial installed in Washington, D.C. in 1993.

The statue, located on the Hintz Plaza outside of the Business Building, is meant to portray Goodacre’s daughter, Jill. She is a model, actress, and photographer married to Harry Connick Jr.

Warrior’s Shield at Michael P. Murphy Memorial

Within the memorial dedicated to the late Lt. Michael P. Murphy is a rounded surface, which is meant to serve as an artistic representation of a warrior’s shield. The shield is meant to symbolize honor and sacrifice and is carved specifically to resemble rippling water to evoke a feeling of tranquility.

The curved wall enclosing the shield has a Greek phrase written on it, the phrase meaning, “With it, or on it.” According to ancient Spartan tradition, a warrior was always with his shield either returning from battle carrying it or dying with it in his arms.

‘We Are’ Sculpture

Sculpted by Jonathan Cramer, a 1994 Penn State art graduate, this gift was dedicated to the university by the Class of 2013. With it comes a placard that features the Penn State Alma Mater on it.

The statue is located next to the IM Building and was created from polished stainless steel, which explains why it practically blinds its visitors at certain times on sunny days.

The Nittany Lion Shrine

The Symbol of Our Best has the richest history of any statue or sculpture on campus, which may be why it’s become such a staple to the university over the years.

Dedicated on October 24, 1942, during Homecoming and gifted by the Class of 1940, the shrine was approved from a group of six different shrine proposals from animalier Heinz Warneke and stonecutter Joseph Garatti. The shrine was sculpted from a 13-ton block of limestone.

The Class of 2012 gifted the university renovations to the shrine. These improvements include lighting that illuminates the shrine at night as well as a sidewalk and decorative stones leading to it. While this is the most recent major renovation that the shrine went through, the shrine is still periodically closed off for cleaning, which last occurred in summer 2020.

The JoePa Statue

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About the Author

Michael Tauriello

Michael is a senior(!) majoring in industrial engineering hailing from outside of Frederick, Maryland and is Onward State's visual editor. In his spare time, he likes to explain to his friends why Mint Nittany ice cream is clearly superior to Bittersweet Mint, discuss '80s music as if it was just released yesterday, or stand around at the top of a parking deck. You can find him on Twitter talking about things only he finds interesting or making dad jokes @mtauriello_.

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