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Photographer's Note

This statue is a memorial and gravesite for William Marsh Rice who provided the money for the founding of Rice University. His ashes are inside the granite pedestal that supports the statue. The statue, which was dedicated in 1930, was sculpted by John Angel and it is located in the university's main quadrangle. Everyone refers to it as Willy's statue.

In 1988, some students decided that, after fifty-eight years of facing East, looking at Lovett Hall, it was time to give Willy a change of scenery by having him face the library for a while. You can see part of the library on the right-hand side of the picture.

The students planned the whole thing very carefully. One of them was quoted as saying “We were sitting in the pub drinking beer, and we decided something had to be done.”

They actually tried to move the statue a couple of times and failed, but they were determined. Most of them were planning to be engineers and scientists, so the kinds of things they were studying in school probably helped them solve the problem of “How do you pick up a one-ton metal statue, rotate it 180 degrees, in the dead of night, without getting caught?”.

They got plans of the statue at the school’s library, and used computers to figure out what kind of stress it was going to cause on whatever they used to lift it. Then they built supports that they thought would hold the weight, and attached hoists to them. They took their equipment to a nearby garage and tested it by lifting a Toyota that weighed a little more than Willy. A couple of Houston police officers asked them what they were doing. They told them it was a research project for school, so the officers gave them a police escort back to the campus.

While they were turning Willy around, they had lookouts stationed around the quad to get rid of anyone who might wander by. They used walkie-talkies and X-Men code names to communicate while they pulled it off. They said it only took them an hour to turn the statue around, they didn't damage it at all, and the material for the supports only cost about $400.

One of the guys was caught, and they made him pay about $2,000 to have a company come in and put Willy back the way he was before. So the student wouldn’t have to come up with the money himself, a bunch of students sold t-shirts that said, “Where There’s a Willy, There’s a Way”, and raised more than enough money to cover it. The professional movers broke part of the statue putting it back.

The image was cropped and rotated slightly in Photoshop, levels were adjusted, then it was sharpened and resized before uploading.

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Additional Photos by Michael Sirois (msirois) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 30 W: 1 N: 51] (275)
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