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Tillman statue an authentic likeness, down to the era-accurate football helmet.
ASU football team to start tradition of touching statue as they charge field.
August 30, 2017

Bronze statue of Pat Tillman, created by an ASU alumna, looms large both in ASU hearts and now at Sun Devil Stadium

Arizona State University has unveiled a new statue of American hero Pat Tillman, who played football at ASU before sacrificing his life as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan in 2004.

On Wednesday evening, a maroon-and-gold wrap dropped to reveal the life-size bronze figure of Tillman, shown in his ASU uniform, ready to sprint onto the field. Including a pedestal, the statue stands 7½ feet tall in front of the new Tillman Tunnel that leads players onto the north end of Frank Kush Field at Sun Devil Stadium.

Kevin Tillman spoke at the unveiling ceremony, telling the crowd that his brother’s likeness is everywhere at ASU but that the university had a big impact on Pat as well.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could be. He didn’t focus on money or things or a pretty statue,” he said. “It was, ‘How do I make myself better in all of these different facets in my life?’ And ASU gave him the opportunity to do that.”

ASU Coach Todd Graham said the football team will start a new tradition of touching the statue as they charge onto the football field.

“I want to challenge our players with this,” he said. “If you come out and touch that statue, you need to pour everything you have onto the field and play with passion because that’s what his life was about — having a passion for what you’re doing.”

Artist Jeff Carol Davenport, an ASU alumna, created the statue, which portrays a younger Pat Tillman with a fringe of hair peeking out from under his helmet.

“I’m an ASU graduate and I had followed Pat’s journey, and I always thought it would be wonderful to do a sculpture of Pat,” said Davenport, an art teacher at Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Phoenix who spent nine months on the project.

“It’s a great honor to do this.”

Tillman was a student-athlete at ASU from 1994 to 1998, earning a degree in marketing, and then played football professionally with the Arizona Cardinals. Reacting to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Tillman brothers enlisted in the Army together in May 2002. Pat Tillman died in Afghanistan in 2004.

Tillman’s influence still touches the ASU football team, whose members wear number 42 on their uniforms every year. Graham said the team watches highlights of Tillman almost every day because his passion for playing inspired his teammates to excel.

Arthur Pearce II, a Mesa businessman and third-generation Sun Devil, donated the statue after hearing Graham’s vision for it.

“I’ve always admired Pat, as everybody has in Arizona,” said Pearce, who earned a degree in business from ASU in 1975 and watched Tillman play in the 1990s.

“Pat symbolizes courage and persevered to be the best he could be,” said Pearce, who pulled the cord that unveiled the statue at a ceremony attended by the Tillman family, ASU leaders and football players.

“This will be a lasting memory of Pat that will be here 100 years from now so students from Arizona State will know who he is.”

Pearce asked Davenport to create the Tillman statue because he was so pleased with the 2014 sculpture she did of Pearce’s grandfather, Zebulon Pearce, that sits in downtown Mesa. Zebulon Pearce played football at the Tempe Normal School — now ASU — in 1899, graduating with teaching credentialsThe Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, named for him and established in 1971, honors teaching excellence in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU.

Sculpting is only one of Davenport’s careers. She earned her master’s of elementary education in 2008 from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU and has been teaching while also making art in her studio in New River.

“I taught fourth grade my first year teaching, and for our field trip we went to the state Capitol,” she said. “I told the students that I made the police K-9 memorial that’s there, and when they saw it, they started asking for my autograph.”

Davenport was so excited when Pearce asked her to do the project in November that she started sketching out the model that night. She began by looking at every photograph of Tillman that she could find.

“In the original image I was given of Pat coming out of the tunnel, his hands are just at his side in a more relaxed pose, but I wanted to tell a little more of the story,” she said.

“So in the final form, his glove from his right hand is in his left hand because in my mind, he’s so anxious to get onto the field that he didn’t put his glove on.”

The sculpting process started with an 18-inch-tall maquette, or model, made out of clay. Originally, she designed it with Tillman not wearing a helmet. But ASU and the Tillman family asked that she create the image with a helmet. She bought a helmet from Tillman’s era so she could get the Sparky logo just right.

The final maquette was taken to Bollinger Atelier, a fine-arts foundry in Tempe, where the staff made a digital scan and then created a three-dimensional version in foam. The foam was coated with rubber and then clay to make the molds.

Bronze ingots were heated to 2,030 degrees and poured into the molds. Because the statue is so large, it was divided into several molds. After cooling, Davenport took a sledgehammer to the molds to reveal the bronze pieces underneath. The pieces were then welded together.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Davenport wanted a specialist to work on the finish, or patina, of the statue, so she had ASU alumna Aiya Jordan come from San Francisco to spend a full day completing the exterior. Bronze is somewhat flat in appearance, and applying special patinas creates a glowing finish with a hint of color.

Jordan spent several hours one day recently with a huge blowtorch in one hand and a squirt bottle of chemicals in the other, climbing up and down a ladder, coaxing out the image of Tillman in his uniform. Sulfurated potash, a dark substance, created definition in the folds of the socks and the veins on the forearms. A touch of maroon pigment brought the jersey to life.

After the patina process, a clear coat was applied, making the 400-pound bronze statue nearly impervious to damage from the Arizona sun.

Jordan, who earned a bachelor’s of fine arts from ASU in 2004, worked with Davenport at Bollinger Atelier several years ago.

“I was super excited to do this because I’m an alumnus and because it’s Pat Tillman,” she said.

Davenport found the entire process to be emotional.

“For those who know me, I'm sure they would not be surprised to hear that I have shed several tears along the way, both happy and sad,” she said.

Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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ASU prof on why the federal budget isn't the same as running up a credit card.
September 1, 2017

ASU business professor breaks down issue facing Congress as it reconvenes, why it's not same as balancing your family's budget

Congress reconvenes Tuesday to resume the work of running the government, and one of the most important — and controversial — issues it will face is the debt ceiling, when members will have to vote on whether to increase the country’s borrowing limit.

The two-week government shutdown in October 2013 was partly related to partisan differences on whether to raise the debt ceiling, with Republicans opposed unless deep spending cuts were enacted.

Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, breaks down the debt-ceiling issue and explains why you can’t compare the $4 trillion federal budget to running up your credit card.

Question: What is the debt ceiling?

Answer: Congress spends more than it takes in in tax revenue, and it has for years. So it has to borrow to make up the difference. And by statute in Congress, there is a borrowing limit set. So if you’re at whatever the limit is today and you agree to borrow that amount of money, it’s generally agreed upon that you’ll have to borrow more to finance the deficit. So they set a ceiling of 10 percent or so above the current debt level. When you start reaching the limit you have to revisit the issue. In September, we’ll be at that point.

This happens every year or every other year, and historically it happens without much fanfare. Recently, there’s been more controversy because we have a number of congressmen that ran on a platform saying that they would never raise the debt ceiling. If that’s what you run on, it makes it difficult to garner the votes of those people. As more people run on that platform, it’s become more difficult to raise the debt ceiling.

The irony is that the decision in Congress to spend dollars and to raise dollars in tax revenue has already been made. It’s pure arithmetic that you’ll run into a debt ceiling. So if you’re concerned about the debt ceiling, you should be more concerned with either raising taxes or cutting spending before you raise the debt ceiling.

Q: So by consistently raising the debt ceiling, is the government acting like a person who keeps using credit cards to pay bills?

A: That’s said all the time, and some politicians put fuel on that fire by saying, “If my family has to balance its budget, why doesn’t the government?”

The simple answer to that is that a typical household budget has a finite beginning and a finite end. They have to balance that over their lifetimes or go into debt.

A government, especially a federal government, has the capacity to deficit spend. It’s made the choice to deficit spend. The alternative on the part of the federal government would be some pretty painful austerity. Although some folks claim they want that, I don’t there’s been a clear realization of what that would mean.

So we elected representatives who have chosen to run a deficit, and it is very clear that you can run a deficit for many decades as long as that deficit does not dramatically increase faster than the pace of overall growth in the economy. That’s in contrast to what would happen in a household.

Households serve individuals in the household, and governments are designed to service entire societies and to provide infrastructure investments and programs that provide for the future. It provides for a national defense and public safety. It’s an ongoing, living entity rather than having a finite beginning and end like a family budget does.

Q: What happens if the debt ceiling is not raised?

A: The first thought is, if you’re unable to issue more debt, conceivably we’re in a position where we have to default on existing debt. We have to tell our creditors that we can’t pay them when they show up at the door.

Realistically, we’re probably quite a ways away from that happening. What would happen in the short run is that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his staff would scurry around to find short-term cash, raise funds and conceptually shut down some government operations to save dollars so we could continue to meet the debt obligations of the bond holders who have agree to purchase our debt.

I think it’s quite unlikely that the treasury would let it get that far. There would be a clamoring back to Congress to say, “Let’s make this happen.”

Q: What’s the political reality?

A: I think it’s reassuring that you have leadership in Congress that appears to be sending signals that they have no interest in engaging in a fight around the debt ceiling.

But politics could always intercede. You could get a group of far-right, conservative folks who say they would never raise the debt ceiling, and they could form an odd alliance with a group of Democrats who wants to see chaos ensue.

What we saw under Obama was a lot of obstructionism on the part of the GOP, and what we’re seeing now is a fair amount of obstructionism from the Democratic Party.

We’re hearing (Speaker of the House Paul) Ryan and (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell sending signals that they would like a fairly smooth ride through this. We’ll have to see if the rest of the folks in Congress and Trump allow this ride.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now