By STEVEN NALLEY
Tucked away in Mississippi State University’s E.E. Cooley Building are the remnants of a concrete bench shaped like a “D.”
Roger Baker, MSU campus master planner, said no one is quite sure why it’s shaped like a “D.” He said he can only conjecture that it was round on one end to circle an old pear tree and flat on another end so it would line up with the road in front of the Colvard Student Union.
“We don’t have any records to tell us that,” Baker said.
Etched in the bench, he said, is a different kind of record, one which dates back to his own time as an MSU student and beyond.
“I never carved my name in it like some people had,” Baker said, “but it’s sometimes fun to actually read all the different names and look at all the different sketches that have been carved into it.”
The bench is a piece of MSU history dating back to 1933 called the Bull Ring, and the MSU Student Association and Alumni Association are planning to restore it to its place in front of the Union better than before this fall.
According to the Student Association’s website, MSU’s Class of 1933 donated the bench as a class gift, and as students gathered there to meet friends and discuss current affairs, it earned a name for itself as the place to “shoot the bull.” When MSU renovated the Union in 2007, he said the “Bull Ring” was damaged in the process.
“During construction there were some cost cutting measures as to the restoration of the ‘Bull Ring,’” Baker said. “Although it was planned to be put back, we just didn’t have the funds at that time to have it put back.”
Jimmy Abraham, Alumni Association executive director, said interest in restoring the Bull Ring resurged in 2009, when Hart Bailey, president of the MSU Faculty Senate at the time, promised 1965 MSU alumnus Mike Clark he would look into restoring the Bull Ring. Abraham said he then met with Bailey and several other campus leaders, and with MSU President Mark Keenum’s blessing and Baker’s help, the Bull Ring was reassembled at the E.E. Cooley Building.
“A few months ago, Student Association President Rhett Hobart and I traveled to Jackson together for a meeting,” Abraham said. “He indicated to me that he would like to suggest to the senior class to restore the Bull Ring to campus, and I shared with him immediately that I thought the Alumni Association would like to be a partner. Rhett contacted me after this project was approved by the university and shared the cost. I contacted the executive committee of the Alumni Association’s national board of directors, and they unanimously approved $25,000 to support the Bull Ring project.”
Hobart said the Bull Ring has been in the idea phase for more than a year, along with the reinstatement of another dormant MSU tradition: the class gift.
“The class gift program is something that is found in our (Student Association Constitution), but is not something that we had been doing on a regular basis,” Hobart said. “We don’t think there has been an official class gift left in over 15 years to the university, and we feel that it is very important to leave a lasting mark on the university in that way.
“As we were looking into options for fundraising, we realized that the best way to reinstate the class gift program was to restore those class gifts that had been removed from campus,” Hobart said. “Out of every class gift in the history of our university, the one that is known by the most people is the Bull Ring. It is something that so many alumni remember and love, and we wanted to give our student body the opportunity to enjoy that great tradition.”
Abraham said he and the Alumni Association are ecstatic to have the Student Association’s help with the project.
“Many former students sat around the Bull Ring for years, and for these alumni, it has a very special meaning,” Abraham said. “They will be very excited to have this special landmark back on campus. In addition, grandchildren of these alumni, as well as all students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, will now be able to enjoy this historic campus gathering place.”
Hobart said a path of 300 engraved bricks will surround the Bull Ring once restored, and a donor can purchase a brick engraved with his or her name for $50. He said members MSU’s class of 2012 have until March 9 to take advantage of first priority in brick purchases.
“With this being the senior class gift, we want the seniors to have the opportunity to have their names inscribed in the area just as the Class of 1922 did in the initial class gift,” Hobart said. “For anyone who is not a graduating senior, we encourage them to consider supporting the program at one of the other three listed levels of giving, or simply by donating $20.12 to honor the Class of 2012.”