Everyone wanted to have their picture taken with James M. Buchanan during the University Honors College’s Inaugural Presentation of the Buchanan Medallions.
Actually, it was the clay-sculptured bust of the late MTSU alumnus and benefactor that Honors College Buchanan Fellows, alumni and special guests wanted their photographs and selfies with for a reason.
The bronze medallions, presented to spring 2014 graduating Buchanan Fellows and those from previous classes, proved quite special.
The sculpture, unveiled by artist Tracy H. Sugg and her son, Philip, both of Bell Buckle, Tennessee, made a major impact on the audience attending the May 9 dinner event in the James Union Building’s Tennessee Room. Philip Sugg is a transfer in the Honors program. Tracy Sugg said the sculpture will be cast in bronze this summer.
Buchanan, who died in January 2013, was a graduate of the Middle Tennessee State Teachers College class of 1940. He received the 1986 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and was professor emeritus in Economics at George Mason University.
The Honors College was honored that Buchanan, a distinguished member of the University Honors College Board of Visitors, lent his name and support to its most prestigious scholarship and was grateful for his $2.5 million bequest to the Honors College after his death last year.
Tracy Sugg delivered a descriptive and extremely thought-provoking presentation before the unveiling, incorporating quotations from 20th century British sculptor Albert Toft, and French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Sugg said it will “keep green the memory of Dr. James Buchanan in the most impacting and dramatic way” and “will inspire future students of MTSU to pursue their dreams, visions and to set high standards and goals, for James Buchanan once walked these halls as a student like yourselves.”
“I really liked hearing her description of the process beforehand,” said alumna Kelsey Wells, a member of the Buchanan class of 2009-10, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communication. She is assistant director of World Music Weekends at the Folk School of Chattanooga, teaches music and plays fiddle and old-time banjo in the touring contra dance band Turnip the Beet.
“Even though I’d never met Dr. Buchanan,” Wells added, “it seemed like a very honest representation of who I know he was from being taught about him and reading his books.”
Two men with strong ties to the Honors College, alumnus and benefactor Paul Martin Jr. and former Dean Phil Mathis, gave the unveiling of the bust a standing ovation. Martin made a donation toward the event expenses and he and his brother Lee contributed $2 million to help build the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building, which opened in 2004 and named for their father.
Daniel Murphy, a member of the class of 2010-11, said receiving the medallion “is a huge honor and culmination of four years of hard work.” The May 10 graduate with degrees in physics and philosophy will be pursuing a doctorate in physics at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville this fall. He was the recipient of a prestigious 2013 Goldwater Scholarship.
Honors College Dean John Vile said there are plans for a special event, possibly in September, at the James E. Walker Library, where the bronze bust will be displayed.
The Buchanan Fellowship is the highest award given to an entering MTSU freshman. To learn more, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/honors/buchanan.php or call 615-898-2152.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)