Saint Leo school spirit received a boost thanks to the efforts of the Student Government Union. The SGU presented the university with Leo the Lion, a bronze sculpture by artist Jon Hair. The statue was unveiled at the reception following the annual SGU and Student Affairs Awards ceremony on April 12.
Standing majestically between Kirk Hall and the Donald R. Tapia School of Business building, the lion will greet visitors and community members as they enter the university grounds. The sculpture is 11-feet long, 7-feet tall, and 39-inches wide.
The sculpture—a gift from SGU—is a project the students have worked on for the past two years to promote school spirit for current students, alumni, and future Saint Leo Lions.
"The Student Government Union decided to use student activities funds to purchase this gift for the campus to give student pride, to represent our Benedictine values, and to let visitors know that we are kings and queens of any jungle," said Joseph D. Thompson III, '18, SGU president. "This statue is supposed to give school spirit to the student population past, present, and future so it was only fitting that we use student activities fees because this is a gift by the students for the students."
St. Petersburg, FL-based artist Hair was selected to create the lion, Saint Leo's symbol. Hair's monument sculptures include Wake Forrest University's "Demon Deacon;" the University of South Carolina's "Gamecock;" Purdue University's "The Boilermaker;" and the University of Cincinnati's "Bearcat; " as well as the Olympic Rings for the Beijing Olympics.
Hair said the lion sculpture symbolizes strength and power, and it took him six months to complete the piece of art.
"This lion embodies all of what Saint Leo is to the world," Thompson said. "The lion represents courage and leadership. Every student who comes to Saint Leo should know that they are an impactful leader in this world, and that they should have the courage to take an opportunity given to them."
It is fitting that the lion will greet those who visit the campus, Thompson said. "It was placed so that when you first pull into campus, directly in front of the clock tower [on Saint Jude Chapel], it is a prominent figure on this campus."
Saint Leo's Student Government Union gives back to the university and its students. SGU made financial contributions to the construction of the Tapia School of Business building and Kirk Hall. In addition, SGU has funded multiple scholarships.
This year, in addition to using some remaining student activities funds for the sculpture, SGU provided 15 scholarships for seven domestic and seven international students as well as one student-athlete to financially assist them. Also this academic year, SGU created a campus food pantry, located in the Student Community Center, to help address food insecurity.
Members of the Saint Leo community, alumni, and friends are invited to visit Leo the Lion and take a photo with the new sculpture.