Governor Chris Gregoire called it "a wonderful tribute to the Cougs," and President Elson S. Floyd remarked that he couldn't think of a "better way to celebrate Apple Cup than to be at this moment, at this time."
The comments by Governor Gregoire and President Floyd were just a sample of the numerous accolades given to the Cougar Pride monument during its dedication ceremony at the Martin Stadium plaza Nov. 22.
Cougar Pride, a 15-foot tall monument that is the largest bronze sculpture on the Washington State University campus, was commissioned by Gary Schneidmiller (WSU class of '71) and created by Spokane-based artists Mike and Chester Fields.
With the monument, Schneidmiller wished to honor his late father, Manuel, a 1941 graduate, as well as his mother, Gladys, who still attends all of the WSU football games.
In addition, he wished to preserve a long-standing tradition at Washington State.
For over a half a century, from 1927 to 1978, Washington State's mascot was a live cougar named Butch. During those 51 years, six cougars served as the school's mascot and lived in a cage located adjacent to the football stadium, which became known as Butch's Den. The tradition came to end with the passing of Butch VI in 1978.
"Fifty years ago, my mom and dad came to this very spot to look at the live cougar," Schneidmiller commented during the ceremony.
As described on the plaque dedication, 30 years later, Butch has returned home with Cougar Pride. The monument is located at the area where Butch the mascot called home.
"This is a way to recreate that tradition," Schneidmiller said. "How interesting in that we get to finally bring Butch home."
President Floyd remarked during the ceremony that Gary is "someone we tend to emulate as much as we possibly can for his generosity, for his commitment, for his dedication, for the fact that he is indeed a Coug."
In its entirety, the sculpture is 14-feet, 5-inches long nose to tail, 6-feet, 4-inches wide, and weighs approximately 4,500 pounds; the cougar itself stands 11-feet, 4-inches high.
"Washington State University deserved a magnificent art piece and symbol that would forever be the equal of a world-class institution," Schneidmiller said. "I hope that Cougars everywhere will agree we have succeeded."
"Gary is a great friend and supporter of Cougar Athletics and Washington State University," Director of Athletics Jim Sterk said. "This sculpture is a testament to this fact. His generosity and love of WSU have made this sculpture a reality, and it is something that past, present, and future generations of Cougars will take great satisfaction in and be able to enjoy forever."
Crafted by Mike Fields and his father Chester, the process of creating the statue began in May and was only completed in early November when the monument was cast in bronze. The monument was brought to Pullman the night of Nov. 19 from Joseph, Ore., where it was cast in bronze, and placed the following morning amongst a throng of onlookers and picture takers.
"My Dad and I want to express how pleased and honored we are to create this sculpture for Martin Stadium," said Mike Fields. "We were excited to have the opportunity to work on it."
"They did an amazing job," Schneidmiller said of the Fields. "They created a masterful piece that represents the entire University."
"Mike and Chester Fields have created a sculpture that will become a signature landmark of this great University," Sterk said. "It is a terrific work of art."
Schneidmiller said during the ceremony that the sculpture is a "working Butch, and he starts today."
This was in reference to the fact that the public will have the opportunity to purchase miniatures of Cougar Pride, which will be available in either 11-, 18- or 30-inch versions in bronze casting, and in 2009 a 9-inch nickel plated version will be available.
More information on how to purchase the miniatures can be found on the website cougarpride.com. A significant portion of the proceeds from the sale of the miniatures will be contributed to the WSU Athletic Department.
As the Cougar Pride monument is a permanent fixture at the Martin Stadium plaza, the statue has rekindled memories of a bygone era of Cougar Athletics, the time when the mascot was a live cougar.
Deb Acuff remembers the time when he transported the last live cougar mascot, Butch VI, from Pullman to Spokane's Joe Albi stadium.
Working for motor pool, Acuff frequently transported equipment to Cougar football games. For one game, he was asked by an athletic administrator if he was willing to take Butch VI up to Spokane. Acuff agreed.
So Butch VI and his cage were placed on Acuff's flatbed truck for the trip to Spokane.
"The students would pass me and honk and wave," said Acuff, who remembers Butch VI as a friendly cougar.
"You could reach through the cage and scratch him behind the ears," he remembers.
By Jason Krump
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