The late MTSU alumnus James M. Buchanan’s youngest sister and a nationally acclaimed sculptor unveiled a long-awaited bronze bust of the Nobel Prize-winning economist during a special Sept. 18 ceremony on campus.
Guests attending the annual Buchanan Fellows Inauguration ceremony in the James E. Walker Library saw the unveiling of the 75-pound bust created by Tracy H. Sugg of Wartrace, Tennessee.
The bust, which Sugg calls “Dr. James Buchanan, A Man of Vision,” was cast by Bronze Services Fine Art Foundry in Loveland, Colorado.
As a lasting tribute to Buchanan, a member of MTSU’s Class of 1940 who received the 1986 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, the University Honors College commissioned Sugg to create the bust, first in clay and then in bronze.
“We’ve been looking forward to the official unveiling,” Honors College Dean John Vile said.
“Tracy performed a wonderful job with the clay bust, but there’s nothing like seeing the real thing.”
Elizabeth “Liz” Buchanan Bradley of Pearland, Texas, joined Sugg for the unveiling of the sculpture of her brother, who died died Jan. 9, 2013. The creation rests on a black walnut pedestal made by Highland Rim Woodcrafts, which is owned by MTSU Class of 1989 alumnus Kevin Kelly and his wife, Melody, of Tullahoma, Tennessee.
“Isn’t that gorgeous?” said Bradley, addressing the audience after viewing the work of art, then telling Sugg that her sculpture “will be cherished.”
After congratulating the Buchanan recipients on their achievements and upon earning the coveted scholarship, Bradley informed them the bronze sculpture of her brother will be “a real symbol here for you.”
Bradley, who earned three degrees from MTSU, and her brother — “he was always ‘Buck’ to me” — grew up in the Buchanan community in Rutherford County. She worked in elementary education, retiring as principal of Homer Pittard Campus School.
Sugg said she was proud to accept the challenge “to honor this brilliant, intellectual man and his work.”
“A bronze sculpture elevates a man or woman to the highest element of nobility for humanity to see,” Sugg said, “and I wanted this to inspire students who go to MTSU to realize ‘I can have that impact on mankind as well.’”
Sugg’s oldest son, Philip, graduated from MTSU in August as a member of the first class of 15 Honors Transfer Fellows. Vile, his staff and the university began offering the transfer scholarship in 2013.
Just as she did in May 2014 when she spoke at the unveiling of the clay bust, Sugg spoke passionately on the backstory of Buchanan and the bust, which will remain on permanent display in the Walker Library’s Buchanan Family Reading Room.
A Rutherford County native, Buchanan graduated from what was then Middle Tennessee State Teachers College. He later completed a master’s degree at the University of Tennessee and a doctorate at the University of Chicago.
Buchanan held teaching and research positions at the University of Virginia, UCLA, Virginia Tech and George Mason University. He authored hundreds of scholarly articles, published numerous books and received dozens of awards, including honorary degrees from colleges and universities throughout the world.
A stridently independent thinker, Buchanan earned the Nobel Prize for his development of Public Choice theory, which brings the tools of economic analysis to the study of public decision-making. He is the first MTSU alumnus to receive a Nobel Prize.
As part of the ceremony, the new Buchanan Fellows received a book of the Nobel winner’s essays.
The competitive Buchanan scholarships, which are the highest financial aid award an entering MTSU freshman can receive, are named for the alumnus.
One of Bradley’s sons, Jeff Whorley of Indianapolis, Indiana, serves on the Honors College Board of Visitors. Buchanan’s estate gave MTSU $2.5 million in May 2013.
“His generosity, both in life and in death, has largely been responsible for the many extra benefits we have been able to provide to our Buchanan students,” Vile said.
For more on the Buchanan Fellowships and transfer scholarships, visit www.mtsu.edu/honors/buchanan.php or call 615-898-2152. The deadline to apply for the 2016-17 academic year is Dec. 1.
— Randy Weiler (firstname.lastname@example.org)