Editor's note: The Tommy Statue was in place for just four days when its legend took hold at UNCP. Senior basketball player Chavis Rachel was photographed by a passing Fayetteville Observer-Times photographer climbing the rock to touch the hawk for luck before the Homecoming game on Feb. 13, 1999. With the Braves down by two points, Rachel made a desperation three-point attempt that -- perhaps guided by an unseen hand -- found nothing but net to win the game. Rachel's visit with the hawk was not revealed until the following Thursday when the photograph was published by the newspaper.
With an assist from a gentle breeze, UNC Pembroke's Class of 1999 unveiled a life-size bronze statue of the school's mascot in a Wednesday morning ceremony.
Located in front of the James B. Chavis University Center and perched on 16-tons of granite, the red-tailed hawk statue was hailed by students and university officials as a new campus landmark and a new school tradition. It is the gift of the Class of 1999.
The statue is the university's largest and is placed in one of the most visible locations on campus. The ceremony, attended by over 200, included an honor song, drummed out by a contingent from the Native American Student Organization.
"This is the start of a new tradition, and I urge you to rally around the rock," Chancellor Joseph B. Oxendine said. "The red-tailed hawk symbolizes the courage, speed, power and vision for athletes and all students to aspire to."
"Although the red-tailed hawk has been our mascot for only seven years, the tradition of the hawk goes back centuries for local Native Americans," he said. "You really can't walk around this campus without seeing and being seen by the hawk."
Athletic Director Dan Kenney, who directed the project, called the hawk, "a symbol we can all relate to." "Don't be afraid to touch the rock," he advised students. "I believe its magical and spiritual qualities will rub off on all of us."
Mr. Orvil White, chair of the Senior Gift Committee, said it was "an appropriate gift" for the senior class.
"As a symbol, the hawk is worthy of this honor because of its unfailing pursuit of success in the hunt," Mr. White said. "I challenge you to set similar high and lofty goals for yourself .. to embody the spirit of the hawk."
Mr. Kenney thanked the individuals who were involved in the project.
"A lot of people helped with this project, especially Professor Paul Van Zandt who is a talented genius," Mr. Kenney said of the statue's creator. "Paul exemplifies the ideal of public service for us all."
For the record, the bronze statue is 22 inches tall with 57-inch wingspan and weighs 150 pounds. It sits on a pedestal of raw granite weighing close to 16 tons and over nine-feet tall.
The statue took Professor Van Zandt about sixteen weeks to complete and was crafted after close observations of a red-tailed hawk. The artist said he enjoyed the challenge of this project.
"I was impressed by Dan Kenney's enthusiasm and the fact that the students were involved and excited about it," Mr. Van Zandt said. "I feel good about giving something back to this campus."
It is not the first Van Zandt bronze on campus. He created the statue of university founder Hamilton McMillan and a bust of Dr. Adolph Dial, a long-time UNCP professor. Mr. Van Zandt joined the university in 1969 and has served as chair of the Art Department for 29 years.
Mr. Kenney thanked Greg Price with the state Department of Transportation who located the rock at Becker Quarry in Harnett County, Lonnie Locklear who transported the rock and Dr. Stan Knick who provided research for the project.