Panther sculpture

Derby High School students will soon have a new tradition. 

Principal Tim Hamblin unveiled plans over the summer for a new panther sculpture that will sit on the front lawn of DHS. 

Hamblin said he had a vision for the sculpture when he started as principal 10 years ago.

“When I became principal, I got this idea of creating a lasting gift for campus,” Hamblin said to the Derby Board of Education back in July. “There’s the [black marble panther] and the bell. Both of those were donated in 1967. Oddly, there’s really been nothing of that magnitude given to the current Derby High School campus.”

So Hamblin called up an alum, John Parsons, who creates bronze sculptures. Parsons created some sculpture ideas out of clay, and Hamblin picked out his favorite.

“Ten years later, I have raised all the money required to see this come to a reality.”

The money used for the sculpture is all donations, Hamblin said – there was “absolutely not a single tax dollar or bond money used on this.”

“Obviously I wasn’t going to use any tax dollars or school dollars for this, so I had to start raising money,” Hamblin said. 

Hamblin explained that over the years senior classes have been “willing to contribute any money they have left toward

[the sculpture],” and that community members have also donated money.

The panther sculpture will be 85 percent bronze, 1-1/4 life size in scale, and will be standing up on two legs. The statue’s full height will be roughly “six feet from tail to the tip of the nose,” Hamblin said.

“It’s a vertical statue, so my hope is that it will be tall enough that someone could stand in front of it and the paw could be on their right shoulder,” Hamblin said. 

Because the estimated price of the sculpture goes over the district’s statutory limit, the project had to be bid on. Bidding was held in late July.

A bid of $43,900 by Parsons Sculpture was unanimously approved by the board of education in early August. 

Hamblin said that if everything moves forward as planned, landscaping and construction of the base should begin this semester. His goal is to have a sculpture in place this spring before the school year ends. 

School traditions are something Hamblin sees as important to the high school experience. At the beginning of each school year, Hamblin takes the freshmen out to the bell, tells them about its history and significance, and has them touch it.

“They touch the bell as they’re walking into Derby High School for the first time, and then as seniors I have them ring the bell on their last day when they’re walking out,” Hamblin said. “And in between I constantly am reminding them that you need to do everything you can to graduate and ring that bell.” 

Hamblin said he hopes the statue somehow becomes another tradition — and photo op — for incoming freshmen.

“Hopefully it sticks and carries on for years and years.”


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