Class of 1958 reprises its gift of bronze leopard for College — by Danielle Ward ’08
What does the original “Leopard Class” do to commemorate its 50th Reunion? Give Lafayette another leopard, of course.
When the Class of 1958 graduated, members wanted to give Lafayette a one-of-a-kind gift, something different than the outdoor bulletin boards and benches that classes had donated in the past.
“It was only natural for us to search for a class gift that would not only be distinctive, but also contribute to the culture and spirit of the College,” said Ed Alkire, now class webmaster.
The senior class gift committee researched ideas for this distinctive gift. “We noted that many colleges had statues of their mascots done in various media, but Lafayette had none,” says Alkire. “The process turned out to be far more complex than we could even imagine. But the exuberance of youth is a marvelous thing.”
Although the process did take longer than expected, the leopard was proudly installed on the hill leading down to Fisher Field, in front of what was then Alumni Gym, now Oechsle Hall. “We have gathered as a class at that leopard statue for every one of our Reunions since 1958,” said Alkire. “Those class pictures are part of our Reunion memories and our continuing Lafayette experience.”
For its 50th Reunion gift, the Class of 1958 decided that it was only fitting to give Lafayette another leopard, this one to be placed next to the Kamine Varsity House at Metzgar Field.
With the help of Michiko Okaya, director of Lafayette art galleries, class officers sought to find a second leopard. They decided to make a copy of the original leopard and searched for a foundry to take on such a task. Okaya settled on Bedi Makky in Brooklyn, N.Y., the same foundry (although now of a different name) that created the original leopard 50 years ago. “I liked the idea of continuity of the second cast at the same place as the first one,” says Okaya.
In October, the original leopard was sent to the foundry and an original sand cast was made. A plastic full-size figure was created and then one of smaller pieces which bronze was poured into to make the shell of the leopard. Okaya was pleased that the process to make each leopard was the same. “They used the same techniques,” she says. “The new leopard was cast the same way as the old one.”
The final step was adding the combination of acids to give the leopard the same bronze color that the original leopard had 50 years ago. “We did not want to replicate the now brown-green [color] that the original one is,” explains Okaya. “That’s something age has done.”
The second leopard clawed its way onto campus at the end of March. The Class of 1958 will be able to see its newest gift to the Lafayette community when members attend Reunion this weekend. They will enjoy a continental breakfast 8 p.m. Saturday, June 7, in the Oechsle Hall lobby, followed by Okaya’s presentation in the lecture hall at 8:30 a.m., “Making the New Leopard.”
Alkire says that the class left Lafayette with the knowledge that “we were giving a one-of-a-kind gift that would distinguish the Class of 1958 in the annals of College history.” Now the second leopard has confirmed ’58’s title as “The Leopard Class.”