WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Rock Hanson Statue Unveiled at WIU

Oct 2, 2017

Rock Hanson's name adorns the football field at Western Illinois University.  Now a statue of the Marine and coach looks out over the stadium.

Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas said Hanson is the embodiment of WIU.

"His toughness, perseverance, dedication, commitment to excellence, and positive influence resonate across the decades.  I am sure that he would be pleased with athletics new motto: tradition of tough," Dr. Thomas said during the unveiling ceremony.

Ray "Rock" Hanson was a highly decorated Marine who served in both World Wars I and II. He also coached football, baseball, and basketball at Western and served as Athletics Director.

Hanson secured the permission from the United States Marine Corps that allowed  WIU to use the nickname “Leathernecks” for its athletic teams. 

 
The statue of Ray "Rock" Hanson at WIU.
Credit Jonathan Ahl

The statue of Hanson is located just outside the northwest entrance to Hanson Field, where the Leathernecks Football and Track and Field teams compete. It is a bronze statue standing eight feet tall. WIU Art Professor Duke Oursler, who designed and sculpted the likeness of Hanson, said he intentionally made the statue larger than life-size.

"Hanson was small in stature, but his presence was bigger than life," Oursler said. "Hanson fought for the Red, White and Blue and the Purple and Gold. If there is anything I can do to further that idea, that's what I tried to do with this statue."

Oursler said the placement of the statue played a huge role in its design.  "We have all of our student athletes, many of our students from the dorms and the tailgates, they all walk past that area on the way to the football field," Oursler said. "And he’s standing here at parade rest as if he is leading the parade. He’s still leading the future parade of Leathernecks."

The statue cost about $200,000 and was paid for entirely with private donations.