Something has been missing from Pittsburg State University’s Russ Hall since its renovation more than a decade ago. That’s not the case any longer.
On Thursday, just in time for the university’s observance of the Russ Hall fire centennial on Monday, PSU workers reinstalled busts of two U.S. presidents that had spent more than a decade in storage.
The busts, of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, were originally installed in alcoves on the second floor of PSU’s administration building after the fire and subsequent reconstruction in 1914. It is believed they were selected because Roosevelt was president at the time of the school’s founding in 1903 and Wilson was president at the time of the fire and reconstruction.
University officials say they are unsure of who actually purchased the busts, which are copies of works by British-born sculptor P. Bryant Baker. Baker was a prolific artist who is best known for his sculpture, “Pioneer Woman,” a 27-foot bronze in Ponca City, Okla.
The busts were placed in storage when Russ Hall was vacated for renovation around 2000 but did not return when the work was done in 2002.
PSU officials said that as planning got underway for the observance of the centennial of the Russ Hall fire, it seemed like the perfect time to bring the missing pieces back to the university’s first permanent building.
Art Department Chair Rhona Shand took on the task of making minor repairs to the busts and giving them a new, impressive finish. Across campus, Mark Barnes and the PSU carpenters built wooden pedestals on which to mount the sculptures. Graphic designer Larry Jump, meanwhile, created signage to attach to the bases.
“It really was a labor of love and it turned out to be a fun project,” Shand said. “I got a kick out of driving around town with two presidents sitting in my car.”
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