Visitors to Whitehall-Yearling High School's football stadium next year will be greeted with a larger-than-life version of the school's mascot.
A 7-foot-tall, 7-foot-long, 300-pound bronzed ram on an elevated pedestal is expected to be dedicated in August, before the Rams football season begins next year.
The statue is a gift from U.S. Army Col. Scott Harrison, a 1978 graduate of Whitehall-Yearling High School who lives near Tampa, Fla.
"(Scott) told me he wanted to do something special to show his support of our school levy, since he couldn't support it with a vote," Superintendent Brian Hamler said.
While attending his 40th high school reunion this summer, Harrison said he was reminded the district has nothing significant that shows visitors – and gridiron opponents – that they are in Ram Country.
"I remember (when I was in high school) and went to Gahanna Lincoln High School, there was a large lion outside the school. I thought Whitehall needed something, too," said Harrison, who reached out to Hamler about his intentions.
It did not take much online searching to find a manufacturer of large bronzed animals such as lions, oxen and rams, with the latter significant in the Hindu religion, Harrison said.
"I found two (kinds of rams) and called Brian to ask which one he liked better for the (football) stadium," Harrison said, adding he and Hamler both preferred the same one.
The bronzed ram already has been shipped to Whitehall-Yearling but will remain in storage until the district acquires a base for it and identifies a location inside the football stadium, Hamler said.
Its dedication will coincide with the replacement of the stadium's natural-grass field with artificial turf and other upgrades made possible after voters approved a combination bond issue and permanent-improvement levy earlier this month.
"We can't thank Scott enough," said Bill Hughett, Whitehall's athletics director. "It will be a significant part of our new stadium."
Other work planned includes upgrades to restrooms, lighting and concessions and the construction of an outdoor locker room area for athletes, Hughett said.
The oversized ram isn't the first gift Harrison has given to his alma mater.
Five years ago, he purchased a smaller statue of two rams that's on display in the high school's library.
It was dedicated on Veterans Day in 2013.
That present also was inspired by a desire to illustrate the school's mascot, Harrison said, but it is seldom seen by anyone other than students and staff – unlike the larger ram to be placed next year at the stadium.
In addition to the new statue, Harrison last summer purchased eight rows of seats to support the school's This Seat is Taken program.
"Scott has enjoyed a successful career that has given him the ability to give to his alma mater so generously," Hamler said.
Last summer, the district replaced all the seats on the first floor of the school's original auditorium, renamed the Walter Armes Learning Center in 2015.
The 743 upholstered and wooden-backed seats were part of the school's original high school dating back to 1958 and the only portion of the high school that was not rebuilt when reconstruction was completed in 2013.
Metal tags will be placed on the armrests on eight rows of seats bearing the names of deceased veterans who either were teachers at, or graduates of, Whitehall-Yearling High School, said Ty Debevoise, director of communications and marketing for the district.
"When I was in high school, they were teachers to me, not veterans, and they didn't talk (about being veterans)," said Harrison, a 38-year U.S. Army veteran who concluded his military career as deputy chief of staff for logistics for the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Command.
Harrison has served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose responsibilities included briefing former Vice President Dick Cheney.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1978 and began serving as an orthopedic technician and emergency-medical technician.