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Tigers Around Town

University of Memphis celebrates its centennial with mascot statues.

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University of Memphis mascot TOM II will soon be showing up all over town in celebration of the university's centennial.

But fortunately for the live tiger mascot, TOM II won't have to adhere to an exhaustive appearance schedule. Instead, 100 life-size tiger statues will be installed in locations around Memphis in 2012.

University supporters are already purchasing the statues through the U of M Alumni Association. Tammy Hedges, the association's executive director, said buyers get the opportunity to work with an artist to design their tiger as well as choose the year it will represent.

"If you graduated in 1982, you can purchase that one," Hedges said. "It will also have a plaque on it that will provide something important about that year at the university, as well as the buyer's name, the artist who created it, and what they named their tiger."

The university's centennial public art campaign is similar to that of the 60th anniversary of the Germantown Charity Horse Show, for which 21 painted horses were commissioned and placed around Germantown in 2008.

There are two different fees for the U of M's tiger statues: $5,000 allows a person to sponsor the statue and keep it forever; $3,000 will allow them to sponsor the statue throughout the centennial campaign. After the campaign, the statue will be auctioned.

Each fiberglass tiger statue will be around six feet high, two feet wide, and weigh 600 pounds. Buyers have a say in where their tiger statue will be located.

Hedges said, thus far, 21 of the 100 tigers have been sold. Mark Long, co-owner of Holiday Flowers Inc. and past president of the U of M Alumni Association, is one of the buyers.

Long, who was also involved in the Germantown Charity Horse Show campaign, helped come up with the idea to place the tigers around town.

"We want people to see what an asset the campus is and show what the U of M means to the community," Long said.

Hedges said all 100 sculptures would be revealed on campus during an unveiling gala on September 10th. The statues will remain on campus throughout the holidays. In early 2012, they'll be transported to sponsor-selected locations around town.

The last day to purchase a tiger is the day of the gala, and those that go unsold will be auctioned online to the public in 2012.

Connie Thiemonge, coordinator of the U of M Alumni Association, said the statues symbolize the growth that the U of M and the Memphis community have made over the last 100 years.

"The more people see the statues around town, they will get an in-depth understanding of the relationship that the school shares with the city," Thiemonge said. "It's generations deep."

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