Seventy-five years ago, Jesse Owens was breaking racial barriers and world records in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
Ohio State, Owens’ alma mater, is celebrating his achievements with a four-day tribute that began on Thursday with the unveiling of a statue at the southwest corner of the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
OSU athletic director Gene Smith, along with President E. Gordon Gee and Owens’ three daughters, helped unveil the statue in front of a crowd of family, alumni and current athletes.
The statue is an eight-foot likeness of Owens standing on the top of the podium wearing his Olympic attire and holding his four gold medals next to his heart. Alan Cottrill, an artist from Zanesville, Ohio, designed and sculpted it.
Cotrill said the statue tells a story about Owens and his achievements in the 1936 Olympic games.
“The heart and soul of the piece is Jesse’s gesture and expression,” Cotrill said.
Gloria Owens Hemphill, one of Owens’ daughters, said her father was a caring man.
“He showed extraordinary love for his family and friends,” Hemphill said. “He has inspired countless others, all over the world to do the best in spite of obstacles.”
Smith agreed with Hemphill, and said Owens was one of the most important figures in our history as a university and as a country.
“He is truly an individual that we, as your athletic department, hold on a pedestal for all of our student-athletes to hopefully emulate,” Smith said.
The David E. Reese family funded the $250,000 statue, said Liz Cook, assistant director of media relations. Hemphill said she and her sisters are grateful for the Reese’s contribution.
“We thank you for this magnificent gift, this statue of our beloved father,” Hemphill said. “We hope it will inspire others to reach for the sky.”
Reese said he and the rest of his foundation donated the money to honor his father as it relates to Owens. Owens and Reese’s father were friends and both considered pioneers.
However, Reese said the statue is mostly for OSU.
“It is about this university, because that is why we’re all here,” Reese said.
Hemphill said the statue is important to the family and the memory of her father.
“It certainly demonstrates to our family that time and change does surely show,” Hemphill said. “How firm thy friendship, O-HI-O.”