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New Symbol of Triton Spirit Unveiled in Heart of Campus

Ioana Patringenaru | October 20, 2008

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Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, left, and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Penny Rue unveil the Triton statue Thursday.

The sound of a conch blowing along Lyman Lane Thursday announced the unveiling of a 750-pound bronze statue of the campus' mascot, the Triton, standing in the heart of campus.

The statue is an important piece in UCSD’s efforts to build community on campus, Chancellor Marye Anne Fox told a crowd of about 500 gathered near the expanded Price Center. “He is a symbol of pride, of Triton joy, of belonging to the university,” she said.

It’s fitting that the Triton now stands at the bottom of the steps at Price Center East, Fox added. The steps are a place where community can flourish through conversations, she said. They might also be a place where students take a nap, she joked. Fox also recognized former Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Joseph Watson, who was in the audience for the unveiling Thursday. “Without Joe Watson, this would never have happened,” she said.

The unveiling marked another step toward building a lively downtown in the heart of campus. The first step came when the Price Center East opened earlier this year, bringing a night club, a grocery store and other amenities on campus, doubling the size of the center’s food court and tripling the amount of lounge space available. The final touch will come when the Conrad Prebys Music Center opens next year.

The Triton was missing as a symbol of campus pride at UCSD, said Penny Rue, vice chancellor for Student Affairs. But Chancellor Fox recognizes the importance of uniting the campus around symbols and the Triton will now take its rightful place along the Sun God and the Geisel Library, Rue said. The statue was made possible by funding from University Centers and from the senior classes of 1998 and 1999.

The classes hoped that the sculpture would lead to a “Tritonization” of the campus, said alumnus Ping Yeh, who championed the project. Students wanted to donate a gift that would unite the university, he explained. “The Triton sculpture reminds me of the importance of donating to UCSD to improve student life,” he said. “It’s about giving forward.”

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Artist Manuelita Brown poses with the Triton sculpture she created.

Officials hope that students will build their own traditions around the statue, said Gary Ratcliff, assistant vice chancellor for Student Life. They could touch the mascot for good luck before a test. They could take their picture with the Triton and send it to their parents, the assistant vice chancellor said. They also could take snapshots on graduation weekend, decked in their caps and gowns, said Darryl Nousome, Associated Students vice president of Student Life. The statue also has been strategically placed near the Student Services Center, where many campus tours for prospective students and their parents begin, and near the new headquarters of the UCSD Alumni Association, Ratcliff pointed out.

“It feels great,” he said when asked how it felt to have the project completed after almost eight years of work.

After students made their gift, the expansion of the Price Center and the Triton statue became closely tied, Ratcliff explained. In 2003, students voted to increase fees to build additional facilities in the heart of campus. Meanwhile, a committee of students, administrators and staff members met with artist Manuelita Brown to help refine their vision for the Triton. The sculptor first produced a 12-inch tall version.  Feedback included suggestions that the statue should look confident, yet approachable—and buff, recalls Brown, who is a UCSD alumna. Finally, she produced a full-scale model, which was approved. A full-size version of the Triton made of clay and Styrofoam went to the foundry to be cast into bronze.

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Student Daniel Simmons brandishes a trident.

When Chancellor Fox and Vice Chancellor Rue unveiled that very statue, the audience let out an appreciative “Woo-hoo.” Some were overheard commenting: “He is buff.” Others, like Daniel Simmons, had brought their own trident. Simmons, a baseball player, said he hopes the statue will help boost the profile of the campus’ athletics teams. “I think it’s going to become the focal point of our athletic endeavors,” said the junior, an international studies and Chinese studies major, who also is earning a minor in music. He said he turned out for the unveiling not only as an athlete, but also because he wants to support social events on campus.

Perhaps the most spirited at Thursday’s unveiling were a group of a half-dozen students from Eleanor Roosevelt College. The boys had painted their torsos in blue and gold, with the letters U, C, S and D. The girls wore blue and gold beads. Alex Vu, a sophomore and human biology major, wielded a trident made of PVC pipe. “We love UCSD,” he said. Asked how they liked the statue, Vu and his classmates answered: “It’s amazing.”

 

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