RHIANNON BERG; News Writer; email@example.com
Most people who visit Pacific Lutheran University’s campus notice the tall stainless steel sculpture in front of the library, but few recognize it as more than a modern art piece. This summer, the piece was renovated and its importance to PLU’s history was brought into the spotlight.
The 18-foot sculpture is a memorial fountain dedicated to the life of John Heussman Jr., a student who died in a scuba diving accident on Aug. 2, 1981.
“I thought it was just a really modern sculpture,” Senior Aslin Clagg said. Like many students, she had passed the defunct fountain hundreds of times on her way to study in Mortvedt Library, but didn’t know its significance until this year.
“The Heussman family is a very important part of PLU’s history,” said Lauralee Hagen, the senior advancement officer in the Office of Advancement, who was at PLU when Heussman died.
Heussman’s father, John Heussman Sr., was the head librarian at Mortvedt Library after it was built in 1967. Heussman’s mother, Johanna Heussman, organized the lunch program at the University House for faculty and staff and both were valued members of the nearby Lakewood community.
Originally, there was a simple water fountain in front of the library, but the sculpture was added after Heussman’s death, University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections Kerstin Ringdahl said.
The Heussman family donated the funds for former PLU faculty member, Tom Torrens, to create the piece in memory of their son, and former PLU English Department faculty member, Rick Jones, wrote the poem inscribed on a plaque on the fountain.
The fountain stopped working after a harsh freeze, Raymond Orr, the associate vice president of Facilities Management, said. It has been on the list of renovations planned for campus for years, but funds were donated to complete the $60,000 renovations last year.
Hagen said PLU completes projects each summer to improve the aesthetics of campus and make it a place people are proud of.
“Small improvements, even a little paint on the walls, can make a really big difference in how people feel about the campus,” Hagen said.
The fountain was renovated and water began running earlier this week.
Orr said he hopes it becomes a quiet place for students and PLU community members to gather and reflect.