Western Illinois University unveils historic statue of Col. Ray "Rock" Hansen
A new statue is unveiled at Western Illinois University - this is a year in the making.
Statue artist and WIU Arts Professor Duke Oursler has been performing public art for over 10 years.
He was speechless when asked to create this piece.
"I really liked the challenge of doing something this big and impactful in the community of people. Everybody really likes it and I'm just glad to make people happy," says Oursler.
College officials wanted a piece to properly honor the WIU heritage.
One that pays respects especially to Rock Hansen - who himself was a Western alum.
"After one year of being here when we were called the teacher he decided he wanted another nickname, as the story goes he petitioned the U.S. department of the Navy to be able to use the name Leathernecks and since 1927 that's what we've been called," explains Vice President of Administration and Public Services, Brad Bainter.
That's why Hansen is now immortalized as a statue, just outside the football stadium that has his name as well.
Every detail that went into this statue has significance, especially the stance and direction he is looking.
"At parade rest, standing there looking towards the field directing the parade of Leathernecks to the field is what the idea is," explains Oursler.
University leadership says it's important this statue is located in a place students and the community can appreciate everyday.
"There is no question now what our legacy and our heritage is. Every time someone walks by here they will know why we are the Leathernecks," said Bainter.
"Purple and gold and Western will always have a place in my heart and now I'll have a place here forever too," Oursler says.
The statue would not have been possible without the generous donation from WIU alum Jackie Thompson, and her husband Retired Lt. Col. Dave Thompson.