A powerful symbol of Shippensburg Area Senior High School’s pride was unveiled during a ceremony Saturday.
Local artist and SU sculpture professor Steve Dolbin has envisioned a greyhound sculpture to be placed in front of the school for many years, and that vision has finally come to fruition.
Dolbin’s craftsmanship will help to lead the Shippensburg Greyhounds to “Victory” for generations to come.
“Welcome to the Flagship Proud School Front Improvement Project Dedication and Unveiling Ceremony of our statue,” Principal Deborah Luffy said. “I would like to first thank Dr. Wilson for initiating the Flagship Proud Campaign to create a more positive environment for students at Shippensburg Area Senior High School. It is appropriate that we have such an exciting event on the eve of our Homecoming Week at SASHS. It is an honor that we have several SASHS alumni that were critical to the completion of this project here. Thank you to Troy Shively, chairperson of the Flagship Proud Front Entrance committee, and member of the Class of 1988; Steve Dolbin, sculptor of our greyhound, and member of the Class of 1977; and other committee members, Leah Helm, Class of 1988, and Brian Zullinger, Class of 1989. While I did not attend SASHS, as a community member and principal of the high school, I do have Greyhound pride. My connection to the Greyhound community was strengthened by working with this committee. The dedication and support that Shippensburg alumni provide speaks loudly of the pride that was instilled in them as students at SASHS. Our ‘Victory’ is running toward the school, encouraging students and community members to enter our building with energy and excitement, eager to embark on a journey that will be intertwined with academics, arts, athletics and sciences. Our Victory is an appropriate model for the school community. Our Victory is a culmination of vision, tools and skills.”
Luffy noted the determination and focus that are required in creating a sculpture of such caliber, and the challenges that can arise in the process.
“And just like a sculptor labors on his statue, the students of Shippensburg Area Senior High School will come here and develop their vision, their tools, and their skills for their future. They will pursue victory here and obtain excellence.”
Shively noted during his speech: “The building behind me is not just a building, it is the final facility that completes a Shippensburg child’s educational journey. This building was built in 1970 -- 50 years ago. Since that 1st June of 1970, until this past June of 2020, over 12,000 teenagers went in and out of those doors. They are the fabric of our community and beyond. This team’s goal was to restore the face of the building, which is now completed. Improvements included: 1. Aged trees and shrubs were replaced with new ones; 2. The cafeteria roof has been replaced; 3. The building front has been professionally power washed; 4. The memorial paver area has been renovated; 5. New light fixtures installed; 6. Broken concrete has been repaired; 7. Banners are hung; 8. New benches and new tables with umbrellas obtained; 9. And a lot of new grass has been planted. What is really special today is we are not only celebrating these physical improvements today, but we are unveiling a sculpture. It is not a statue, or a simple replica from a mold, anyone can buy statues of mascots and make do. But today, we unveil a one-of-a-kind sculpture indicating that Shippensburg is not from a mold. We expect to have the best leaders, the best faculty, the best curriculum, the best facilities, and the best community support. If we can’t have a new school, then we want these 1970s bricks to appear modern and surrounded by new required amenities. I’d like to thank my committee, the school district maintenance team, many volunteers, the Orrstown Bank for sponsoring, and professor & sculptor Mr. Steve Dolbin for his artistic passion, skill, as well as his personal resources. Lastly, I’d like to thank our principal and our leader, Mrs. Deborah Luffy. Her leadership of this high school is enabling SASHS to excel academically, but also with character.”
Dolbin said the stainless steel sculpture weighs close to 400 pounds, and has been somewhat in the works for the past six years. The physical process of creating Victory took him about a year and a half.
“A former superintendent asked me years ago if I would consider doing one. The improvement committee recently came to me and asked if I would consider doing the sculpture in front of the school. I still had the sketches from 2014, and I agreed as long as I knew this would be a group effort. Orrstown Bank stepped up and donated half of the cost, and I donated the other half. If they ever build a new stadium, I will do a different one for free,” Dolbin explained.
Dolbin said Saturday he felt a great sense of pride and relief that the project was finished. The process involved a miniature model to show to the committee, a life-size model that he could make adjustments to and the final sculpture.
He said the stone underneath Victory came from a local farm down the road from his house. He said it was the perfect shape and could hold the weight of the sculpture.
“The holes have to be drilled ahead of time, so you have to have it exactly perfect so when you bring the sculpture, it fits perfectly,” he said.
Dolbin said he is very pleased with the way the sculpture turned out, and with the pavers and landscaping surrounding Victory.
“I wanted you to be able to see the evolution of the power in the piece,” he said. “It starts out more whippet like, and then it becomes machine angled. The name Victory just came to me while I was working on it. When you have a dog, it has a name. So I thought, ‘What would I call it?’ I never thought twice about it. Victory. It just fit. We are going to claim Victory during this pandemic. The students, teachers and staff have all been faced with this thing to be victorious over.”
During the ceremony, Dolbin said the school means so much to him as an alumni, and was proud to have his wife, Robin, and their sons, Reece and Collin, who are also Shippensburg graduates, present at the ceremony. He noted their late Great Dane, Maggie, was often a model for the sculpture since she was “old and gray.” He noted Maggie became ill, but held on until the day after the sculpture was installed.
Dolbin himself suffered a massive heart attack in the midst of the project a few months ago.
“I surely hope that this is not my last outdoor sculpture, but if it was, I’d be proud that it was,” he added.
“I wanted this sculpture to be a symbol of something you can get behind. I wanted it to have a little muscle so that it can get that Bulldog! Art and architecture have to inspire, and it is my wish that it will do just that. Thank you to the members of the former school board for their vision. It’s dirty, physical work. As brutal as stainless steel is to work with, it fights back, that’s what I like about it. You have to get in sync with it, almost like you have to dance with it.”
Superintendent Dr. Chris Suppo said, “I think it is very exciting for our students, particularly given the time and what has happened over the past six months. We are looking forward to having the students back, and we want them to see this and understand who they are, and know that they belong.”
Reece said this has been a long process for his father, and a very long evolution of “creating this piece that is very powerful and unifying amidst this pandemic.”
“I am excited that we had the opportunity to come together as a community around a symbol like this,” he added.
Collin noted the installation experience was flawless.
“We are very pleased with the way it came out,” Robin said. “It’s just a bright spot in a time where things have been distanced and very negative. This is a very positive moment.”
Former Mayor and Class of ‘56 alum Bruce Hockersmith added:
“This continues the spirit of Shippensburg, and gives you an idea of the originality of the educational program that’s presented by the faculty of Shippensburg. To brag, we are unique. Just as that sculpture is unique. And will be a symbol to all that pass by it that Shippensburg is unique to the world. There’s no place like us.”