A crowd mingles shortly after The Spartan statue was officially dedicated on June 9, 1945 after years of planning. Created by Leonard Jungwirth, an assistant professor of sculpture at MSU, the statue was originally supposed to be bronze. Likely due to the lack of metal during war time, The Spartan statue was made from terra cotta. University President John Hannah gave a speech titled “The Spartan" at the unveiling.
Circa 1943, before The Spartan statue was completed, Leonard Jungwirth showed University President John Hannah (second from left) and others a model of the sculpture.
One iconic campus staple, the Spartan Marching Band’s percussion section, poses with another, The Spartan statue, in 1962.
While The Spartan statue has maintained its look through 78 years, Sparty (the mascot) has gone through a few iterations. In 1974, the Sparty papier-mâché head mascot posed with the statue to promote a health day event on campus — hence the large stethoscope with Sparty.
After years of dealing with Michigan winters, cracks began to form in The Spartan statue. In 1988, the statue’s first major renovation took place thanks to a “Save Our Sparty” committee that raised around $75,000. The renovation took just over one year.
The area surrounding The Spartan statue looks different today than it did in 1993, but the blooming flowers behind the statue remain a yearly tradition.
Even after the 1988 renovations, The Spartan statue’s terra cotta remained in need of assistance. So, in the early 2000s, the Sparty Project was formed to create a new replica statue in bronze, remove and preserve the original statue, build a new plaza and create an endowment for the long-term care of the statues. Over $500K was raised, and in 2005, the bronze statue — which was made thanks to a mold of the original statute — was dedicated. Photo by Greg Kohuth, 2005.
There are a plethora of locations to take graduation photos on campus, but The Spartan statue remains a top spot, just like it was in 2010. Photo by Derrick L. Turner.
Though The Spartan statue spends most of its time being looked at, it has a scenic view, too. With its head tilted to the west towards new horizons and new beginnings, the statue has a nice look at the Beal Street bridge that spans over the Red Cedar River. Photo by Derrick L. Turner, 2012.
While the bronze statue has taken its place outside of Demonstration Field, the original statue composed of terra cotta is housed inside Spartan Stadium. Photo courtesy MSU Athletic Communications.
Not only is The Spartan statue ready for inclement weather, The 9-foot-7, 1,500-pound structure is somehow even more stunning with a fresh coat of snow. Photo by Derrick L. Turner, 2016.
“One of the possessions of all educated persons should be an appreciation for the beautiful and for the arts,” then University President John Hannah said at the original dedication ceremony for The Spartan statue in 1945. “A little appreciation for good music, for good painting, for sculpture can make life much more interesting for all of us.”
The Spartan statue has given Spartans an appreciation for art for 78 years now — and much more than that.
Hannah continued in his speech, “In the years ahead, this Spartan warrior in this beautiful and proper setting will become one of the distinguishing marks of this campus that all students and visitors will associate with this college and this campus in much the same way that Beaumont Tower is now generally recognized as the proper symbol of Michigan State [University].” Photo by Nick Schrader, 2023.