Between the Administration building and the Julian A. McPhee University Union one will find the War Memorial Plaza . This intimate area is rich in both school pride and Poly history. Although most students are well aware of the existence of the horse, the plaza and the history behind it tend to be unheard of. The Plaza itself was dedicated in June 1977 and commemorates those students lost in World War II , Vietnam , and Operation Iraqi Freedom. There are also additional plaques dedicated to the memory of seventeen Cal Poly football players who were killed in a tragic plane crash while in route to a game. The details of the accident and memorial game played in their honor can all be found in the plaza. Perhaps the next time you are passing by take a moment to explore the rich history of the plaza in closer detail while you enjoy a moment in one of the most beautiful retreats found in the heart of campus.
The bronze 1800 pound mustang was added to the plaza in an unveiling on April 23, 1982, and served as the school's first official mascot. According to research in the Cal Poly archives and an article by James Hayes, Roy Harris was the creator of the piece. This Sculptor, professor, and cowboy, donated his time and talent in creating the life size bronze creation. Harris, the cowboy turned Professor of animal genetics was the crucial link to the projects success. His donated time and skill along with more than $150,000 in donations made the project possible. The funds were collected to cover the cost of materials and bronzing as well as small replicas given to major donors. The area was and still is one of the most beautiful niches on campus where students and faculty can relax and enjoy the outdoors. Harris' personal philosophy of art which he stated to an interviewer is, "to express it, you have to live it and be a part of it." The mustang as featured in the plaza has become an intricate part of the student experience, and we are all a part of it every day.
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