That Hendrix College icon, the American World War I Doughboy statue erected to honor those students killed in the conflict, is being refurbished and will be positioned this fall in an imposing place at the new Warriors football field.
For years the handsome statue that commemorated the contribution of Hendrix students in the war effort graced the front of the renowned Young Memorial Stadium, named for a star athlete who fought and died in the “war to end all wars.” Robert W. Young of Okalona was a member of the class of 1915. He had played baseball and football for the Warriors.
Young graduated from Hendrix in 1915 and volunteered for World War I. He was killed fighting in the Argonne Forest.
This fall Hendrix will honor, in particular, the sacrifice of three alumni killed in the service of their country. In addition to Robert Young, Jeremy and Benjamin Wise of El Dorado will be hailed - their names coupled with Young’s on the new Hendrix College stadium.
Hendrix first football game since a 7-6 victory over Ouachita Baptist in November, 1960 will be the Sept. 7 season opener against Westminster (Missouri) College.
Jeremy Wise, Hendrix Class of 1998 and a former Navy Seal, was killed in December 2009 while working for the CIA on a base in Afghanistan. His brother, Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Wise, Hendrix Class of 1999 and a Green Beret, died in January 2012 from wounds he received while fighting in northern Afghanistan.
After the classic Young Stadium was completed in 1923, the structure stood on the northwest corner of the campus for more than 59 years. A statue of the American Doughboy in full military regalia was stationed at the front of the football edifice. Over the years the work of art was moved around the campus during the process of the college’s expansion. Its last location was in a remote place behind the Mills Center.
The new stadium will seat approximately 1,500 and host men’s football, men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, men’s and women’s track and field intramurals, ultimate Frisbee and will provide a venue for general student benefit. Other spaces in the complex will include a new field house that will serve more than 300 students with weight rooms, locker rooms and training facilities; a new indoor tennis facility to replace the Mabee Center; and a new synthetic turf field for women’s field hockey that will be utilized by baseball and football teams when they are unable to practice on their fields due to inclement weather.
At this juncture, the Doughboy statue is undergoing an extensive refurbishing by the Norton Fine Arts Conservation Company. When the work is completed, it will front the new stadium and stand adjacent to a new “Wall of Honor” memorial that will recognize all alumni who gave their lives in service to our country.
The restored Doughboy Statue and the Wall of Honor will face east and be ready in time for the Warriors emergence on the football field. The statue and the base on which it stands are approximately 7.5 feet high and 10 feet wide.
The Wall of Honor memorial will bear the following inscription:
“Here we honor
War’s truest witnesses
Those silenced souls
Whose bodies did to ours bequeath
This cheerful day
This sporting peace”
The words were composed by Dr. Alex Vernon, U.S. Army captain, U. S. Military Academy class of 1989, tank platoon leader in the Persian Gulf War (1990-91) and Hendrix College Department of English faculty member since 2001. Vernon is the James and Emily Boost Odyssey professor of English.
The Young Stadium was completed in the summer of 1923, and the 5,000 seat stadium cost over $75,000. The stadium dates its genesis in 1922 when a group of Hendrix alumni launched a state-wide fund raising campaign that, when completed, exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.
The city of Conway under the leadership of business leaders Jo Frauenthal and Theodore Smith, supported the drive to such an extent that college officials promised Conway High School the use of its new stadium.
As the fund raising campaign gained momentum, the campus went “almost mad with excitement,” wrote Jim Lester, a Hendrix alum who wrote a centennial history of the college in 1984.
In February 1923, the editor of the Bull Dog, the campus newspaper, foresaw the stadium dedication as “the most glorious day in the history of Hendrix.” Designed by the artist who conceived the athletic field at Vanderbilt University, the new stadium mirrored the classic lines of an ancient Greek arena. Lester writes that on October 12 virtually every store in Conway closed at noon for the dedication of Young Memorial Stadium and the ensuing Hendrix-Centenary college football game. Gov. Thomas McRae ordered all state capitol offices to close early to enable officials to be in Conway for the one o’clock ceremony. Speakers for the event included McRae, U.S. Sen. Thaddeus H. Caraway, and officials of the American Legion.
Incidentally, much excitement ensued at the sound of the speakers’ voices. The speakers’ stand was equipped with a microphone attachment for the amplification of sound, and for many the microphone was a splendid addition, if not a surprising one, on that day.