News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 15, 2011

Larry Bird statue still not a done deal

TERRE HAUTE — While a primary donor has stepped forward, fundraising is continuing for the Larry Legend Foundation to craft and erect a statue of Larry Bird outside Hulman Center, and to create an annual scholarship.

Gene Crume, president of the Indiana State University Foundation, said he cannot yet release a name of that donor or others. “At this time, we do not have permission from the individuals who made contributions to the fund to release any of those names,” he said.

“Because of the lead donor’s request to have an artist that this donor is very familiar with work on this project, we are not in a position to publicly announce yet who the artist is,” Crume said.

The goal is to have the project completed by August 2012, which is 33 years after the Sycamores finished runner-up in the 1979 NCAA Finals. Crume said that goal “is still very much in reach.”

Crume spoke to the Tribune-Star in a telephone interview Monday while en route to Chicago.

“We have had some significant conversations with a lead donor who is interested in ensuring this project is successfully completed. With the strength of that commitment, we feel very confident that we will successfully secure the private funding necessary to complete this entire project,” Crume said.

“It is very important, as a part of this project, that we make sure we have all the details in place and a fairly thorough knowledge of the scope of the project — who the artist of record is, what the full cost is going to be — before we approach Larry and possibly Dinah Bird to get their permission and support for the project,” he said.

“We want to make sure that we do everything that is appropriate in advance so that we can have that conversation with Mr. Bird, because I know he feels his name and image is very important, and it is,” Crume said. “We want to make sure that everything is appropriately assembled and all the information is 100 percent correct and accurate before we have that conversation with Larry, and today we have not had that discussion with Mr. Bird.”

Crume said it is important that Bird and his family are comfortable with the final scope of the project.

Crume said Bill Wolfe, a sculptor/artist who has worked for years to promote the project, has been a “great partner for Indiana State University,” pointing out that a Navy V-12 sailor sculpture on ISU’s campus was crafted by Wolfe. That statue was funded by a lead donor who selected Wolfe, he said.

But Wolfe may not get the opportunity to sculpt the Bird statue if the donor chooses another artist. “Going through the process of a donor selecting a specific artist is not unusual at all,” Crume said.

Student members of the Larry Legend Foundation will determine the path the project takes, Crume said.

Last week, Brad W. Fenton, president and founder of the Larry Legend Foundation, sent an email to Wolfe, indicating to the artist “we have now reached our goal of getting a statue for Larry on campus.”

Crume said he thinks the assessment in that email, a copy of which was obtained by the Tribune-Star, was premature.

“Brad, in his private correspondence with Bill, never intended for his private email to be released to the media. In that email, it contains some language that easily could lead people to believe that this project had been successfully completed. It has not, we have a ways to go,” Crume said.

“We are very fortunate to have the interest of a donor who is willing to provide a significant amount of the philanthropic support and it just goes to show that there are so many people who have ties with Indiana State, Terre Haute, the Wabash Valley, that they would love to be a part of this project in support of recognizing Larry Bird,” he said.

Fenton, in an email responding to the Tribune-Star on Tuesday, said members of the Larry Legend Foundation “were very excited to learn of a donor who was interested in providing significant financial support for the project. Because of the unique request of having a specific artist to work with I realized I needed to share this with Bill [Wolfe] as soon as possible,” Fenton wrote.

“In doing so I didn’t intend for my email to be shared with others and I would have selected different wording for where we are in the process. I respect Bill very much and I also would have done the process of sharing this news with him differently.”

Fenton is currently a business management major at ISU.

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