Will fountain flow again?

The fountain, at home at Stimson Hall. (Photo by Shelly Hanks, WSU Photo Services)
PULLMAN — “Here we … uh, had … the Minerva Fountain,” fumbled Clare Wiser as he rounded the corner of Stimson Hall in spring 2007. Leading an outdoor campus art tour, the retired math professor-turned-docent for the Museum of Art found the words at the tip of his tongue — “here we have” — to be suddenly, and alarmingly, inappropriate. Where once had been a statue of a cherubic maiden holding a water-spouting fish, there now was only a concrete pad in a grassy courtyard.
Students living at Stimson likewise were disturbed to find the historic fountain missing when they returned to campus after spring break. In their absence, someone had vandalized and broken the head off Minerva. Rescued by university officials, she was whisked into storage. The culprit has never been found.
Phelan, leader of the effort to restore the fountain.

Today, Spenser Phelan, junior English education major and Stimson Hall sponsor, is leading the effort to restore the fountain. He’s hoping to raise enough money to repair the statue, refill the pond and allow students to carry on the time-honored traditions surrounding it.

According to Brandon Brackett, Residence Life education director, Stimson Hall was built in 1922. The fountain was added in 1928 through funding from WSC and the Stimson Hall senate. The original fountain pond included a somewhat unpopular centerpiece of jagged rocks which was replaced in 1931 by the more comely Minerva. 
Stimson Hall celebrates a long tradition of dunking fellow students in the pond when newly “pinned” (engaged) or graduating. But almost any excuse was a cause for dunking at first, writes Brackett on the hall website.
“If you were a freshman and received an A on a major exam, or even if you slept in, an upperclassman might simply drag you out and throw you into Minerva.”
A history of “pranks” also surrounds the fountain, according to Wiser. In the days of fierce rivalry between WSU and the University of Idaho, game day would trigger a host of practical jokes. Most were relatively harmless, such as stealing the victory bell or the (live) cougar. Some pranksters put dye in the fountain, but others took it further and repeatedly broke the head off the Minerva statue.

The damaged statue in storage now. (Photos by Ernie Day,
WSU housing and dining maintenance)

Funding needed for repairs
Phelan said Stimson Hall has not been the same without Minerva. Though students have sponsored events to raise awareness of the fountain — such as the “Nonstop Techno Dance Party for Minerva” — progress has been slow. Phelan is seeking new ideas with the help of Bob Tattershall, director of Housing and Dining Services, and Ernie Day, assistant director of Housing and Dining maintenance.

James Stone, construction engineer with Capital Planning and Development, has created a plan to repair the statue but said it has been difficult to find someone qualified to do art restoration.
“One idea is to rehabilitate the old sculpture and put it inside a glass case in Stimson Hall,” he said. “Then, we could make a replica that is more resistant to weather and vandalism and put it back where the original was.” For now, those plans remain on the drawing board until sufficient funds can be raised to begin.
If you would like to help preserve this iconic piece of university culture and history, donations can be made to the WSU Foundation — for the “Stimson Hall Development Fund.” The address is: WSU Foundation, P.O. Box 641927, Pullman, WA. 99164-1927. For more information, call 335-1686.

Next Story

Recent News

Sweat health monitor measures levels of disease markers

A 3D-printed, wearable health monitor developed by WSU researchers was shown to reliably measure levels of important biochemicals in sweat during physical exercise.

Remembering our history this Juneteenth

WSU System President Kirk Schulz shares a message reminding everyone of the significance and importance of Juneteenth, and the enduring fight for equality that continues today.

Regents approve biennial operating budget request

At a special online meeting on June 17, the WSU Board of Regents approved four action items, including the university’s 2025–27 Biennial Operating Budget Request from the state.

Hot but not bothered

WSU’s new Perennial Grass Breeding and Ecology Farm is developing resilient combinations of grasses that could better withstand hot temperatures.