Students love patting it, parents love photographing it and everyone from visitors to alumni consider it a must-capture photo opp when on campus. The wildcat statue has become an undeniable emblem of UNH, and it turns 10 years old this fall.
The fierce looking, bronze-cast, hard-to-miss sculpture may be getting older, but it hasn’t lost its appeal. On a warm, sunny day this month its admirers were everywhere.
“We live in New Hampshire and our kids went to UNH, just like us,” said Gloria Andrews ’79. “We had to take a family photo in front of the cat when they graduated.”
Although the wildcat became UNH’s official mascot in 1926, the lifelike statue, designed by Washington artist Matthew Gray Palmer, wasn't installed in front of the Whittemore Center until September 2006. It was commissioned by the Alumni Association, which spent two years working with UNH affiliates to select an artist and statue design.
The $160,000 statue was funded by private gifts, including support from the UNH Alumni Association, UNH Parents Association and several alumni donors. There was also a generous contribution from the Edward ’42H and Selma ’42 Bacon Simon Fund. The hope then was that the cat would become a public art focal point on campus.
“I always make it a point to stop by when I’m here,” said Doug Delong ’80, an alumnus of the civil engineering program. “It’s iconic.”
Iconic it is. “The cat symbolizes UNH as a whole,” said Billy Cavanaugh ’18, a finance major and lacrosse player. “I remember our captains had us touch the nose freshman year to be initiated.”
Cavanaugh’s teammate and friend Max Craig ’18 feels the same. “I think it represents the drive and fierceness each Wildcat has within,” Craig said. “Since we practice and play games on this field right behind the cat, I always feel like it’s there watching over our games, feeding our drive.”