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Community News Network

February 8, 2013

Retired teachers hope bulldog statue will inspire school spirit

OTTUMWA — Students and parents at Evans Middle School will get a reminder every day: We’re proud to be Bulldogs.

“The statue is bigger than life-size,” said Larry Northup, who retired from Evans Middle School. “I had it sculpted by a sculptor out in South Carolina.”

The big bulldog itself is 3 feet tall — but his tough face stares down from a 6-foot-tall pedestal.

“It’s a great way to promote school spirit,” said Gary Gullion, an associate principal at Evans, standing in the entryway near the statue as he supervised students going home Thursday.

Northup and colleague John Sodey worked together on many of those famous out-of-state science trips Evans students took each year. Both retired with each having 40 years or more in the classroom. When there was a balance left over in their travel funds, they decided they’d use that money to make some improvements at the school.

The men installed a new flag pole and are working on designs for  a three-column “Evans Middle School” sign near the new main entrance.

But this week’s addition of the Ottumwa mascot has students talking. Not everyone knew the gift was on its way.

“I just noticed this [for the first time] yesterday,” a girl told a friend as they passed the column after school Thursday.

“They just put it in yesterday!” the other girl responded.

It did go in fast, acknowledged Gullion. He knew Sodey and Northup were working on the project.

“I was glad to see the idea bubbling around,” Gullion said. “It’s a great addition to the entryway of our school.”

But why would former employees continue to put in so much effort?

“John and I worked for the school district forever. We just appreciate what the school district has done for us, we’ve been blessed ...”

 He said they decided on improvements that will last  — and leave a lasting impression.

Hopefully, Northup said, the big bulldog will permanently inspire school spirit among students, parents and staff.

“We thought that this would give us a place to take different pictures of athletes and other groups.”

The statue is not just meant to inspire middle school kids, Northup said.

“A lot of high school games get played there, and that’s our main [sporting event] entrance to the building, so it’ll fit in really well. Everyone will get to enjoy it,” he said.

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