Shenandoah’s newest addition, a one-ton bronze statue of the university mascot, Buzzy the Hornet, traveled the 1,466 miles to arrive at its permanent home at the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center (WAEC).
On Saturday, Oct. 6, WAEC namesake and university trustee James R. “Jimmy” Wilkins, Jr. dedicated the statue in honor of Shenandoah President Emeritus James A. “Jim” Davis, Ph.D., and his wife, Janet ’85, who returned to Winchester for the surprise ceremony held in conjunction with university homecoming.
Wilkins, as part of the dedication ceremony, noted how Dr. Davis, during his 26-year tenure as president (1982-2008), helped the college become Shenandoah University, a singular entity with six schools. Under Davis’ leadership, enrollment grew from 874 students in 1982 to 3,300 in 2008, and the endowment grew from $500,000 to more than $50 million. He also assumed leadership roles in a variety of higher education organizations. Additionally, he is a published author, who served three terms in the Virginia House of Delegates.
The statue was made possible through the James R. Wilkins Charitable Trust, and Ashley Smith Warren ’07, who is both a Shenandoah University trustee and alumni association president, called the addition the WAEC’s crown jewel.
We’re taking time from the fun festivities all around us today for a dedication that will be the crown jewel of the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletic & Events Center.
Ashley Smith Warren ’07
The statue, designed by artist Lee Leuning of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and crafted by BronzeAge Art Casting, also of Sioux Falls, stands 12 feet tall, including its approximately two-foot-tall platform base. The Buzzy statue took more than 900 hours to create, with an average of two people working on it at any given time, according to BronzeAge member/manager Rick Haugen.
This statue is symbolic of our commitment to a vibrant athletics program here at Shenandoah, and that’s really an athletics program that was largely launched by Jim and those with which he worked. He saw the relevance and deep importance of athletics—Division III athletics—at the institution. This was really the man who helped create an institution that was really a place that I wanted to be.”
Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D., who succeeded Dr. Davis as university president in 2008
The statue is a fitting way, she said, to honor a couple who fostered an athletics program and built the foundation that the entire university stands upon, Dr. Fitzsimmons added.
Shenandoah’s Chief Marketing & Creative Officer Scott Spriggs said he contacted Leuning about designing the statue after encountering his work at other universities. The design features a stinging Buzzy, curved into a classic attack stance, which also allows people to see the mascot’s face better, according to Leuning.
Effectively, it’s a 14-foot-to-15-foot-tall sculpture condensed into 10 feet of height, because of its posture. Leuning also recommended BronzeAge as the foundry for the piece. Being located nearby, Leuning could check in on the work regularly. “They do wonderful work for us,” he said. “We use them because they’re the best in the business.”
The statue’s more than 70 individual pieces began life as 3-D printed resin pieces, covered in wax. Those pieces were then coated in a silica solution and sand, creating a ceramic mold. Bronze age burned the resin and wax out of the ceramic structure, and then poured in bronze, which hardened to a 3/16-inch thickness, according to Haugen.
The piece, which has a stainless steel skeleton, is the second-largest made by BronzeAge, which is entering its 12th year of operations.
Honor a Hornet by Dedicating a Personalized Paver to Them!
Be a part of the Buzzy statue at the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center with a personalized, engraved brick paver.