The "Big Wildcat" Arrives On the Davidson Campus
October 4, 2001
The world's largest wildcat arrived at its permanent home in Davidson on Friday, September 28. Weighing 1,500 pounds and measuring eleven feet from outstretched paw to tail, it was cloaked tightly in black plastic as protection during several hours transit in an open trailer. Only two bronze fangs poked through the covering to hint at its specific identity.
The statue, an artistic representation of the Davidson College mascot, is a gift to the college from Irwin Belk, a 1945 alumnus and longtime college supporter from Charlotte. Belk has donated "world's largest" statues of mascots to several other area institutions, including a bull at Johnson C. Smith University, a 12-foot tall pirate at Eastern Carolina University, and an eagle at the Jesse Helms Center Foundation at Wingate University.
Sculptors Jodi Hollhagel and Hanna Jubran of J&H Studio in Greenville, N.C., fashioned Davidson's wildcat standing on three legs with its right front paw swiping forward, in a pose that Hollhagel described as "somewhat aggressive."
She built several models for the statue based on extensive study of photographs, and stuffed and live animals.
The inside of the statue is supported by a steel armature, and covered with carved Styrofoam and oil-based clay. For the outside, the sculptors poured bronze into twenty plaster and bonded sand molds. The bronze pieces were then welded together on the skeleton and sanded down to appear whole. A ferric nitrate finish gives the statue a red-brown color.
The bronze wildcat will be installed in front of Baker Sports Complex sometime in the next few weeks by the college physical plant, and will be dedicated in a special ceremony later this fall.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is ranked in the top ten liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson is currently engaged in "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.