Take a seat with Wilf

Wilfrid Laurier University has finally chosen the design for a statue of its namesake, the seventh Prime Minister of Canada, that will be unveiled on campus next fall.

The design selection was officially announced on Nov. 26, with a planned installation date of Oct. 2011 to mark the university’s one-hundredth anniversary.

Communications and editorial officer for Laurier research services Barry Ries originally conceived the idea for a statue. Ries, a representative on Laurier’s board of governors, proposed the idea in 2007, originally slated for the St. Michael’s campus site.

“I took out a little plastic figurine … and said ‘this is the biggest statue of Wilfrid Laurier we have on campus right now and we should change that,’” he said, explaining that his rationale in part had to do with being tired of graduates’ photos beingtaken in front of the Laurier sign by the Science building.

During the month of October, students, staff, faculty and alumni narrowed down their choices based on illustrations available on the Internet. Voters chose from five different designs from three artists.

“There were more than 2,000 page views and we got back about eighty-some e-mails,” Ries noted of the online response.

Maureen Hilton Moore, a Barrie, Ontario-based sculptor designed the winning entry. Hilton Moore submitted two designs, and the final sculpture selected features a pensive Laurier sitting on a granite bench.

Hilton Moore also decided to depict a young Laurier. She chose a likeness of him
in his mid-30s, right after he had been elected as a Member of Parliament.

“[University] is about your promise, it’s about your future, it’s about your poise for great things,” she said of why she chose to depict a younger Laurier. “He did not know what his future was yet, and that idea was so enticing to me.”

Ries liked the idea of a younger Sir Wilfrid because students could easily identify with him. “It sort of symbolizes the beginnings,” he remarked, “Which is appropriate for a university because everyone’s sort of at a beginning stage.”

Hilton Moore expects to take close to a year to complete her work, with one month alone dedicated to research, four to five months for sculpting, and four months to bronze the statue.

Though a specific location for the statue has not yet been decided, Ries said that it will be placed somewhere in the Quad close to the amphitheatre.

Though Laurier himself had no affiliation with the university, Ries said that Laurier the man and Laurier the institution have plenty in common.

“Laurier was an educated man,” Ries said, “He believed in the power of dialogue. He tried to bring people together, and isn’t that what universities are supposed to be about in the first place?”

Above all else, Ries hopes the statue will become a well-known fixture on campus. “Always one of the concerns was that it be accessible and people adopt it as part of the community, part of the culture.”

“One of the things we don’t want is for people to salute it and treat it with the utmost respect,” Ries added. “We don’t want it to be spray-painted, but if people want to put scarves and hats on it, fine. You want to rub his butt for luck? Fine. Let’s have a little fun here too.”