BEAR HONORS ALUMNI WHO DIED IN WWII
Many have seen the newly-carved bear standing where a tree once stood on the University of Central Arkansas’ campus, and UCA’s director of the archives Jimmy Bryant took some time Monday to tell participants of the Pencils to Pixals writing camp what makes the bear — and the tree from which it came — special.
Bryant told 35 middle-schoolers that when the United States entered World War II in 1941, many students left to serve. UCA — which was called Arkansas State Teachers College at the time — became a temporary base for several military branches.
“We had a huge population of military people on this campus in World War II,” he said.
By the end of the war, 46 of the UCA alumni who served in the military had been killed.
“After the war was over, the university wanted to do something for those students,” Bryant said. “What they did at that time is plant oak trees as a living memorial.”
The oak trees that form a line in front of Wingo Hall down past the student center and those along Donaghey Ave. stand for the 46 alumni who were killed.
One of the trees in front of Wingo Hall got sick and was going to have to be cut down, but instead of removing the tree altogether the school repurposed it by hiring an artist to come and carve a bear from the trunk.
“When you see this bear, it’s in remembrance of those veterans,” Bryant said.
There is also a removable flagpole that sits near the bear on holidays such as Memorial Day. Another memorial was placed in 2003 in front of McAlister Hall and lists the names of those lost in World War II.
Some of the campers were curious about why the bear was painted black even though the school colors are purple and gray. Bryant said the official mascot of the school is technically a black bear and the school decided because it was a memorial it would be more appropriate to keep it black instead of purple.
Pencils to Pixels is a collaborative program between the education and writing departments at UCA. The camp gives a unique opportunity to rising fourth, fifth and sixth-graders who want to be authors. This is the second year for the camp, and Stephanie Vanderslice, associate professor of writing at UCA, said several students are returners who participated last year.
Vanderslice and Donna Wake, assistant professor in the UCA College of Education, said introducing the children to the bear and to Bryant seemed like a good way to give the campers a true story they could write about.
“We have this great bear. Why not have the kids write about it,” Vanderslice said.
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)