50@50: Panther statue leads to new commencement tradition

To celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary, FIU News is sharing 50 moments in FIU’s history as part of our “50@50″ series. Below is a video from the panther statue’s unveiling ceremony in front of FIU Arena in January 2013.

Fierce. Spectacular. Aggressive. Strong.

Those were some of the terms used to describe the new panther statue when it was unveiled Jan. 10, 2013 in front of FIU Arena on the renovated terrace.

For the last three years, the 2,000-pound, 7.5-foot statue has stood as a representation of the FIU’s can-do spirit and has become a part of a new tradition for the university community.

“You walk into most major universities, you see something that represents the institution,” Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Lunsford said. “It’s more spectacular than I thought it would be.”

In his remarks at the unveiling, President Mark B. Rosenberg spoke about how the statue symbolizes many of the values and virtues for which the university stands.

“In many ways this panther is a symbol of hope for our institution. It’s a symbol of the pride we have in our FIU,” Rosenberg said. “It’s a symbol of the commitment we have to our incredible environment that nurtures our community.”

After commencement ceremonies held at the arena, thousands of graduating students now line up to take a photo with the statue in their cap and gown. It is a rite of passage for students as they prepare to enter the next phase of their lives.

The sculpture was created by artist Brian Hanlon and took several months to complete. Hanlon built a full-scale sculpture out of clay in his studio in New Jersey and then sent it to China for use in creating a mold.

The mold was later divided into several smaller ones; from these pieces, the final bronze work was cast, welded together and shipped as one solid structure to the Port of Miami.

Hanlon created an identical second statue that was installed at the Biscayne Bay Campus just outside of the Wolfe University Center in August 2014.

“My job is to help people feel, connect, think about their relationship to the school in meaningful ways, for just a moment, so they reflect the spirit of the school,” Hanlon said in 2013.

Portions of this story were adopted from previous FIU News stories about the panther statue (Click here and here to read more).

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