Like the Spirit it Embodies, Spartan Statue Endures
The Spartan Statue stands at the corner of Kalamazoo and Chestnut. He is a younger, sturdier iteration of the terra cotta creation cast by Leonard D. Jungwirth in 1943. That original now resides, safely out of the elements, in the lobby of Spartan Stadium Tower.
Sparty is among the first images that imprint young minds on their initial forays onto campus. Commencing seniors wrap arms around him, hoping to take some of his magic into the next chapter of their adventures. Wedding parties seek out his blessing. Student organizations record their membership for posterity in photographs at his feet. And wise, graying eyes pause before him in the evening of existence to make sense of the past and ponder the future.
Eventually everything and everyone passing through campus comes within his gaze and is touched by his iconic spirit.
During his long life, Sparty has heard dozens whisper, “we live in uncertain times.” And it turns out we always have. He was born when the outcome of the second World War was far from clear. He survived the ups and downs of the latter half of the 20th century, crossing into the new millennium as a symbolic stop for protesters and promoters alike, who hope their combined energy might catalyze change.
From time to time, the misguided have tried to deface him. His likeness has been expropriated to drive home a point. He is associated with the brightest and darkest moments of our history. Both fact and fiction have been attributed to everything one may claim he represents.
And still, he endures.
The essential icon of Michigan State University hears all, sees all and says nothing. Yet the ideas his presence can fire in the synapses of Spartan minds can be more powerful than words.
This is the most important thing to remember about our icons. We created them, imperfect beings that we are, in the hope that they might help us take small steps toward becoming the better people that an MSU education, and all that comes with it, might reveal.
Their very creation involved failure and setbacks, the two unlikely requirements for anyone who hopes to excel. And the faith our icons represent is at the center of the Spartan Spirit, powering our drive to persist, to rise above anything that would impede positive progress, and to ultimately endure and thrive, as all true Spartans Will.
W. Scott Westerman III
Executive Director, MSU Alumni Association