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Penn States Nittany Lion Shrine back open after commencement weekend vandalism

The Nittany Lion Shrine was back open on Thursday, May 26, 2022, after being closed for more than two weeks following damage to the statue’s left ear. JOSH MOYER jmoyer@centredaily.com

Penn State’s iconic Nittany Lion Shrine reopened to visitors this week, after it was closed for more than two weeks following vandalism.

The campus landmark was closed May 8 — during commencement weekend — after the statue’s left ear was broken off and red paint was splashed across its head. The vandalism was part of what the university referred to as “profoundly disturbing acts,” as red paint was also used to graffiti Old Main and the Hintz Family Alumni Center.

Paint on the 80-year-old Lion Shrine was removed immediately, but the left ear proved more problematic. A university spokesperson previously told the CDT a sculptor would be needed to replicate the lost appendage, and a final cleaning with protective coating also needed to be applied.

But, by Thursday, the ear was fixed and fencing around the statue removed. According to spokesperson Wyatt DuBois, a landscape team on Friday will also perform some general cleanup, plant restorations and mulching in the area.

A number of students and alumni posed in front of the landmark Thursday afternoon, taking turns snapping photos. Some sought out the statue after seeing photos circulating on social media; one couple said they simply decided to stop by to see if it was open after visiting the Berkey Creamery.

The university police investigation into the vandalism remains ongoing, according to a DuBois, who declined to specify the cost of the repairs.

“We have nothing more to share at this time,” DuBois added in an email.

Student publication Onward State released a series of photos on the vandalism May 8. In those photos, the phrase, “Time is up” was written in red paint on the entrance of Old Main. Other doors on the building had phrases written in blue, such as “Death by cop,” “Death by hazing,” “Death by suicide” and “Death by PSU culture.” The alumni center was also covered by large red letters that read, “FTG” and, according to Onward State, a note was written that said, “Should have listened when you had the chance” and was signed by “ADG.”

The oft-photographed Lion Shrine — sculpted from a 13-ton block of Indiana limestone — was carved by Heinz Warneke, a decorated artist who boasts several works in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The statue was a gift from the class of 1940; it was dedicated on Oct. 24, 1942, during Homecoming.

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