U of M Adds Iconic Symbols to Campus

By Bill Dries

As workers began adding the platforms to the Beale Street Landing project on the city’s riverfront over the weekend, on the other end of the riverfront, workers prepared to move the Ramesses statue from the front of The Pyramid.

The 20-year-old replica of the Ramesses statue has been moved from its former home in front of The Pyramid to the University of Memphis campus.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

The 20-year-old replica of the icon to the ancient Egyptian pharaoh was moved to the University of Memphis campus Monday, April 23, with a dedication on campus scheduled for Tuesday.

It was created from a mold of the original icon that was the centerpiece of the 1987 Wonders exhibit on ancient Egyptian culture. The items from Egypt were selected and curated by the university’s Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology.

The replica will stand in the plaza at Central Avenue by the campus crosswalk, near the institute. Its move is both part of the conversion of The Pyramid to a Bass Pro Shops superstore with other attractions as well as an effort by the university to add some symbolism and rallying points to the campus.

The statue will be the second icon dedicated on campus in less than a week.

Last week, the university unveiled a Tiger statue just outside the west entrance of the University Center as part of ongoing 100th anniversary activities that included an alumni gathering on campus this past weekend.

The tiger has been the university’s official mascot since 1939. But until last week, there wasn’t what most major colleges and universities have somewhere on campus – an iconic representation and talisman of the school’s mascot.

“We’ve been waiting for this for so long,” said Rosie Phillips Bingham, U of M vice president for student affairs. “We hope to start a lot of new traditions. … Let TOM give you some good luck. I think this Tiger will help bond us all.”

The sculpture is different than the multiple tiger statues around the city that are part of the university’s centennial.

“It’s really rare that a university of this caliber does not have representation on campus,” said David Alan Clark, the sculptor who modeled his work on TOM 3, the live tiger whose name stands for “Tigers of Memphis” that until now had been the school’s sole representation of its mascot. “It was a big challenge and it was a challenge I took very seriously.”

Clark is from Wyoming but he is no stranger to the city. He is the sculptor of the Tom Lee statue unveiled in 2006 in Tom Lee Park.

“Memphis has been wonderful to me. The people are so open. … It just makes me feel special,” he said before talking of his attention to detail, which in the case of the tiger statue involved a meeting with TOM 3.

The pattern of stripes on the statue matches the stripe pattern on the living TOM.

“We got plenty of video and lots of photographs I could take back to the studio with me,” Clark said. “I did a lot of putting on clay and taking off clay to where we got a nice portrait of the animal and also a kind of archetypal rendition of a lot of the intangibles of the University of Memphis – strength, power, confidence.”

University president Dr. Shirley Raines echoed the sentiments.

“I like the strength and the fact that he’s looking out, not down,” she said.