Creating new tradition at Ashland University

Senior class gift of bronze eagle to be purchased and donated to the university

Alumni putting dropping coins into Louise the eagle for good luck.
The Ashland University senior class is looking to spark new traditions at AU by purchasing a bronze eagle.

Senior Class President, Mark Blitz is in charge of planning the senior class gift.

“The class gift has kind of been lost; the senior class gift last year was a couch in the library,” said Blitz. “I want to do something better than that. My original idea was to start a new tradition on campus to incorporate more camaraderie between the students.”

“We need to change [how] senior class gifts are done so that this happens more often,” he said.

Biltz came up with the idea to create a bronze eagle that will sit on campus so that students can create a new tradition of rubbing its head or beak for good luck.

Biltz’s spin on creating tradition here at AU came to him while visiting his younger brother at Ohio State University, he was visiting the library when he saw a life sized bronze statue of former OSU president William Oxley, where it is known that you rub his head and his feet for good luck while studying. He thought to himself after seeing this tradition “let’s have an eagle where you can rub its beak.”

Ideas and conversation started there, Biltz then decided to meet up with Mark Libs, the director for annual giving, where he came to find out that AU has a cast of the eagle that they have out in front of all the buildings on campus.

“This is going to be a bronze molded cast of an eagle, it’s going to sit right on the avenue for the Eagles, between Bixler and the hammocks, and the tradition is going to be whenever you’re on your way to classes or just walking by, you rub his beak or head for good luck,” said Biltz.

Mark Libs, director for annual giving at AU, is in charge of helping with this year’s Senior class gift.

Libs said, “We really wanted to kind of inspire the senior class this year, with this idea to kind of recreate a tradition…Talking with alumni, current students, staff, and all, one of the things that we felt was really missing at Ashland is tradition.”

The goal is for the bronze eagle to be presented at the 2023 homecoming in October, but to achieve the goal, the senior needs to raise $10,000 of the $20,000 that the eagle will cost.

Blitz is already planning on achieving the goal and will make sure it happens “hell or high water”.

The way the money will be raised for the senior class gift will be based on “a ladder system.”

“So what we’re setting up to raise money for this bronze eagle, is kind of like a ladder system, ” said Blitz. “Once we get to say 10% of the senior class to give, it will unlock a donor that’s going to give x amount of money, once we get to 30% it will unlock another donor for x amount of money, and once we get to 50% that is the breaking point where the rest of the money will get donated, which will fund the eagle.”

He is also planning on setting up a fundraiser event to go towards the eagle called “Sprint for the senior class gift”, which will take place at the indoor track in the Rec Center, only Biltz will be participating in the run on March 31.

The plan is that for every lap he runs you pledge X amount of money, it can even be as small as 1 cent, Biltz goal for this fundraiser is a half marathon, which is 118 laps around the indoor track in the Rec Center.

They are planning on setting up a live stream for this event where there will be a link attached to a donating service, where people can tune in and donate.

On the livestream there will be a list of different donation levels that will unlock perks, such as choosing a song that plays on the stream, being able to ask Biltz any question that he has to answer during the event, or a higher donation leading to Biltz having to sprint a lap around the track.

If the goal of getting 60% of the senior class to donate towards the goal of $10,000 cannot be reached, the senior class will turn to raising $2,600 and getting a typical iron-casted eagle.

The eagle in the process does not yet have a name, but the senior class is leaning towards the name “Lucky.”

There will be an email in the future sent out by Biltz to the top donors and senior class to vote on the top three options of names for the new eagle.

“Every single faculty [and] staff member that I’ve talked to loves the idea; the board of trustees thinks this is amazing,” said Biltz.

Even though the senior class is trying to create tradition at AU, there have been some eagles in the past that held tradition at the university.

Past Tradition at AU

Jeffrey Alix, Director of Alumni and Parent Relations at Ashland University, was an undergraduate student at AU from the fall of 1997 to 2001.

He was a sports communications major with a business minor, along with being a member of the men’s basketball team for the four years he attended AU. While attending AU, Alix remembers the old tradition of Louise the eagle on campus.

Alix remembered that there was a crack in the eagle’s head, and there was a tradition that people would drop coins in her head as a means of good luck.

“When I played basketball here, our head basketball coach, coach Lyons at the time, every year the night before our first game he would tell us the story and tradition of dropping a coin in Louise the eagle head for good luck. So the entire team would come over and drop a coin in for good luck for the season to keep up that tradition,” said Alix.

According to Jessica Byers, Reference and Curation Librarian at Ashland University, the first few Eagle statues arrived on campus in the early 1940s and from there formed a nuclear family: mother Louise, father Louie, and daughter Amylene.

The first to arrive was Louise the Eagle in 1941, and she was originally placed in front of and facing Founders Hall.

This spot was chosen because of the tradition of planting trees in front of Founders to honor the birth of a faculty member’s new baby.

She was named Louise as the female counterpart to Louie, who at the time was a wall advertisement in the shape of an eagle, placed above the scoreboard in the gymnasium.

Byers said, “When the students who aided in the eagles family’s “flight” and their and their classmates graduated in 1944 they left this from their graduation: “As our last bequest we are more than proud to preset Ashland College a gift no preceding class has ever given, and no succeeding class will ever be able to give. We are speaking of the greatest bird a school has ever had, Louise…. With this we charge the class of ’45 to keep Louise well feathered, and to carry on the traditions which she typifies.””

“Because the original statues were cast in two pieces and welded together there is a fine seam along the center of the statue. With the Louise statue either due to craftsmanship or wear there was a natural slot created in her beak where the two pieces normally would join and with her central location students would pass by when they had exams on their minds and dropping change into the slot became a good luck tradition,” said Byers.

When Miller Hall was set to be torn down in 2010, Louise was removed and over $40 in change was taken from inside the statue.

The remains from Louise the Eagle now sits in the maintenance and grounds garage of AU according to Paul Brady, director of maintenance and grounds at AU.

This year, the Day of Giving is March 23 & 24, kicking off at 8 a.m. on the 23, and ending at 8 p.m. on the 24, with 36 hours of giving. You can donate to the senior class for their new tradition or anywhere you’re passionate about on campus.