SFA dedicates new Centennial Ring Plaza during university’s Centennial Celebration

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Lumberjacks filled the corner of Alumni and Vista drives Monday as Stephen F. Austin State University staff and administrators dedicated the new Centennial Ring Plaza and its towering ring statue, adding another landmark to the already picturesque campus. The dedication was part of SFA’s four-day Centennial Celebration.

Located across from the Austin Building, the plaza is a bricked area featuring a 9-foot-tall statue of the revered SFA ring. The ring is a representation of one of the crowning achievements a student will experience during the graduation process and will serve as a celebration of their educational journey at SFA.

“The SFA ring serves as a symbol to the world that you are a proud SFA alumnus,” Erika Tolar ’02, president of the SFA Alumni Association, said during Monday’s dedication ceremony. “The ring sends a message to all who visit this beautiful campus how serious we are about student success while focusing on our Lumberjack legacy.”

The ring statue is a 9-foot replica of the SFA ring students may purchase as they near graduation. They receive their ring from the university president during the Big Dip ring ceremony, which is a beloved campus tradition that was expanded in recent years to include an overnight stay in the Stone Fort Museum the night before the dip ceremony. SFA’s ROTC cadets stand guard over the rings throughout the night.

Fashioned after these class rings, the new statue consists of approximately 100 sections of cast bronze panels and serves as a reminder to students of the hard work they put toward earning a degree. Each SFA ring is inscribed with “Mentor for Life” to remind all Lumberjacks to extend the help they received throughout their academic career to future Lumberjacks.

The plaza will be forever tied to the Big Dip tradition, which invites students to submerge their right hand and ring finger into a large bowl containing purple liquid. It has been voted by students as the best tradition for the past several years, according to polls from The Pine Log, SFA’s century-old student publication.

Pyrology Foundry and Studio created the statue, which took roughly 11 months and 2,000 hours to complete. Located in Bastrop since 1981, Pyrology has created multiple noteworthy and recognizable statues, including the Texas A&M University Aggie Ring monument, the Gateway Monument in the heart of downtown Nacogdoches, and Buc-ee statues at most locations of the popular gas station and convenience store chain.

SFA will join institutions such as Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, The Citadel and Tarleton State University with outdoor ring statues. SFA’s statue will be the second largest in existence, second only to the Texas A&M University Aggie Ring monument.

“No one ring statue is the same, and SFA’s is truly a piece of art,” said Craig Turnage ’00 & ’05, SFA Alumni Association executive director. “The statue is unique to SFA because it embodies one of our university’s biggest traditions and is a rite of passage for our graduates. From the iconic symbols contained on the ring statue to its large size, it is truly a sight to behold.”

The idea and funding for the statue came from Balfour, SFA’s exclusive ring provider for over 20 years. The Alumni Association also received support from the on-campus Barnes & Noble Bookstore, the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Alumni Relations and the Office of the President.

The ring base was funded by Dorothy Clagett ’70, an alumna and family member of Turnage who passed away in June 2021. The Alumni Association will place a plaque at the base of the statue in her honor.

Visit SFA’s YouTube page or gosfa.com/SFAring to view a video of the creation of the ring statue. For more information about the Alumni Association, visit sfaalumni.com.