Plan unveiled for Lion Shrine historical display and beautification

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- One year ago, Penn State’s Senior Class Gift Committee announced that the class of 2012 had chosen to improve and enhance the area surrounding the Nittany Lion Shrine on the University Park campus as its gift to the University. After months of planning and collaboration with students, the Office of Physical Plant presented its specific design to the Board of Trustees on Friday (Nov. 16).

Itself a gift of the class of 1940, the Lion Shrine is already the most recognized and photographed location on the University Park campus. In fact, it is the second most photographed site in Pennsylvania, bested only by the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. A recent Facebook photo of a 14-month-old boy trying to feed the Lion some breakfast garnered nearly 2,000 likes, comments and shares and 3,400 engaged fans.

A careful design process, informed by historic research, has revealed needs and identified specific enhancements to the shrine’s functionality and aesthetics. The existing mulched mound surrounding the shrine is not accessible, and the continued application of mulch to the site has had a detrimental impact on existing trees. The base of the lion has deteriorated over the years, and repairs with concrete patch have only provided a temporary fix and are aesthetically inappropriate. Finally, lighting for nighttime viewing is outdated and poor.

Access to the lion will be improved with an accessible ramp, stairs and new sidewalks to connect with the sidewalks being constructed for a separate Kern Building project on that end of campus. The location and elevation of the lion will remain as it has for the last 70 years. Stone from Mount Nittany will be used to fix the base of the sculpture, to provide informal seating for visitors, to support the accessible ramp and to protect the root system of the surrounding oak trees. The stone stairs also will provide a multi-level platform for large group photography. Finally, brighter and more efficient LED lighting will improve security and strengthen the aesthetic environment of the shrine, enhancing nighttime photography.

An interpretive sign will describe the origin -- Penn State third baseman Joe Mason’s impromptu recommendation of the “dignified, courageous, magnificent … Nittany Mountain Lion” as the University’s mascot -- and its design and sculpture by Heinz Warneke in 1942. The overall impact of this class gift will be to make the shrine and its setting more visitor-friendly and more attractive.

The tradition of class gifts began when the class of 1861, at its reunion in 1890, gave the University a portrait of Penn State's first president, Evan Pugh, which still hangs in the lobby of Old Main. For more information about Penn State's senior class gift program, visit online or the Penn State Senior Class Gift page on Facebook, or follow the campaign on Twitter at @PSUSeniors.

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Last Updated November 19, 2012