Despite the chilly October wind, hundreds of students, staff and alumni gathered outside of Gonzaga Hall to catch their first glimpse of Fairfield’s new stag statue at its unveiling on Friday afternoon.

“I don’t think the weather can stop the stag pride that’s in the air tonight,” said alum Rob Scribner  ‘09 as he stood amidst a crowd of people wearing give-away fuzzy stag antlers and “I’ve Been Bronzed!” T-shirts.

A Public Safety car with lights blaring, an athletics bus and a pickup truck with members of the dance team on the back escorted the statue from Alumni Hall to the circle outside of Gonzaga. The statue was initially hidden by a giant red tarp, although its many-pronged antlers peeked out of the top.

Before the stag was unveiled by a group of student representatives, onlookers observed a moment of silence for Fr. Laurence O’Neil, a longtime teacher and former dean of students who passed away on Oct. 19. Mike Rubertone  ‘11, art history professor Phillip Eliasoph and Fr. Charles Allen also spoke.

The statue is a bronze depiction of a stag in motion, according to James Fitzpatrick, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.
Fitzpatrick played a role in the committee that helped bring the stag statue to campus, an effort that began in the mid-1960s but did not really gain momentum until 2007, when the stag statue committee was formed. Members included Vice President for Administrative and Student Affairs Mark Reed, Eliasoph, Fitzpatrick, Megan McConville ‘08 and former FUSA president Hutchinson Williams.

After approaching several artists and receiving proposals at the end of last year, the stag statue committee commissioned the work from artist J.C. Dye of Stanford, Montana.

Fitzpatrick said that from the beginning, the statue was never going to be funded by the University budget. All funding came from anonymous outside resources that were willing to commit funds specifically for a stag statue.

“It would have been very difficult for me to approve such a project if University operational funds paid for it,” said Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick’s wife, Phyllis, was one of the University staff members laid off last June, though she was recently rehired as Director of the Credit Union.

Most onlookers had a positive reaction to the unveiling event and the new campus mascot.

“I think it’s great the alumni are trying to connect with the student body, putting on such a wonderful event that will help foster school spirit and combat the notion that Fairfield is apathetic,” said Joyce Dos Santos  ‘12.

Sara Jannetty  ‘12 was impressed by the number of students who came out to see the new statue.

“This is the most school spirit I’ve ever seen since I got here,” she said.

Jack O’Connell  ‘55, a member of the Alumni Board of Directors, accidentally happened upon the statue unveiling. He said that he knew they had been looking for a symbol on campus, and the stag was a good idea.

Many members of the campus community expressed concern about the statue’s funding.

“I just think it’s a little ridiculous that we’d accept a donation in this way when there are much more pressing issues to deal with,” said Dana August  ‘11. August added that more funds should be dedicated to improving sustainability on campus.

Fitzpatrick said that ideas for new campus art projects are in the works, including potentially a statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

“Despite the difficulties of what happened last June, we are moving forward,” said Fitzpatrick. “Just as the stag is moving, we continue to be moving forward, though it may be at a slower pace. I think the timing was perfect to unveil the stag when we did.”

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