One of the six lion statues that decorate the walkways of the University Honors College has been missing since May 6, according to MTSU police.
The stone sculpture is a member of a set of identical lions and is valued at about $300. The set was donated to the college by its dean, Dr. John Vile.
“Shortly before graduation, I just walked in one day and took a double-take and said ‘Where’s my lion?’” Vile said. “I keep waiting for a ransom note, but [nothing] has shown up.”
Vile, students and officials are unsure if the theft is a prank, a covered-up accident or a crime of malevolence.
“I hope it wasn’t malicious. They’re sweet, little lions. They haven’t done anything to hurt anybody. Nor to my knowledge has the Honors College,” Vile said light-heartedly.
“It shows a lack of respect toward our university and undermines the efforts taken by so many to maintain the physical appeal of our campus,” said senior Wesley Doyle, president of MTSU’s chapter of Phi Sigma Pi National Honors Fraternity.
The lion was recently featured on the latest edition of MTSU’s “Honors Magazine,” which may have served as the inspiration for the theft, according to the police report. The magazine features an interview with the dean on the story behind the lions.
Vile and his wife purchased the stone lions from an antique store in Nashville.
“We don’t have as many architectural sculpture kind-of pieces on campus as they do in some, and I just thought it’d be a neat thing to have near the Honors College,” Vile said.
While no formal reward is being offered for the sculpture’s return, Vile said there may be compensation if it is found by an innocent party.
“I would be glad to give a reward to someone if they were not a participant [in the theft],” Vile said. “I would hate to set a precedence for ‘hostage taking.’”
If you have any information on the missing sculpture, please contact MTSU’s police department at 615-898-2424.
Follow John Connor Coulston on Twitter at @JCCoulston.