Athens, Ga. – For nearly a decade, he charmed crowds, delighted football fans and was hailed as the “winningest” mascot in University of Georgia’s history.Uga VI passed away in June 2008, but his likeness will live on in the main lobby of the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.
On Saturday, Nov. 14, Frank W. “Sonny” Seiler, owner of the past and present Uga mascots, and the Seiler family dedicated a bronze statue of Uga VI to the veterinary college in honor of the love and care the college has bestowed upon all the Uga mascots through the years.
The bronze statue is nearly life-size and weighs about 100 pounds.It is one of two original artistic studies made by sculptor Wesley Wofford, who was commissioned by a friend of Seiler’s to create an 8-foot statue of Uga VI for a Savannah restaurant chain called “The Dawg House Grill,” which opened in 2006.The restaurants are now closed, following the death of owner Dennis Lofton.
It was Lofton who came up with the idea for the giant Uga VI statue for his restaurants-a towering likeness, standing 5-feet tall by 4-feet wide and 8-feet long; it was Lofton who worked with Seiler to get his approval of Wofford’s creation. And, it was Lofton who aided Seiler in the idea to give one of the two original artistic studies (maquettes) to the College of Veterinary Medicine.
“It was a mutual idea,” recalled Seiler last week.”He said he wanted to do something nice for the university and I couldn’t picture a better place for one (of the maquettes) to be than the veterinary college, because they’ve taken such good care of all the mascots, and I am very close to Dean Sheila Allen and Dr. (R. Bruce) Hollett.”
The statue sits on a pedestal in the lobby of the main academic building for the College of eterinary Medicine. In celebration of the Seilers’ gift, one of the lobby display cases currently plays host to a variety of mascot memorabilia, including collars and outfits that have been worn by the Uga “dawgs” in recent decades.
“We are proud to accept this bronze statue as a major feature for our lobby.It is a fitting tribute not only to the mascots, but to the veterinarians, students and staff who have provided medical care for all the mascots over the years,” said Dr. Sheila W. Allen, dean of the college.
Wofford said Lofton commissioned him to create the 8-foot statue in January 2008. The first two maquettes were created long before the 8-foot statue was finished. Lofton told Wofford that he wanted to present the first mockette, also bronzed, to Seiler as a gift for allowing him to use Uga VI’s likeness at his restaurants. Lofton presented the gift to Seiler in late summer 2008, not long after Uga VI died.
“Well, I was delighted,” recalled Seiler about the moment, “but I knew about it; it wasn’t a surprise. I thought it was a fabulous likeness of VI.(Wofford) captured all of his traits and characteristics.It looked like it could step off the platform and come to life.”
Wofford grew up in Georgia and remembers the university, and its mascot, as always being prevalent in his life.
“Some of my first drawings were of Uga, so it was really satisfying to me artistically,” he explained.”Dennis said all along: ‘I don’t just want a bulldog.It’s a portrait of Uga VI.’ As an artist, finding that glimmer of soul is the intent.I’m very satisfied.I felt like I captured it.Dennis said Sonny got real emotional when he got his statue because he felt I had really captured the essence of Uga VI.”
Seiler; his daughter, Swann; son, Charles; and daughter-in-law, Wendy, all attended the dedication, which was held at noon Saturday in the academic lobby.Earlier last week, Seiler noted his friend’s absence from a special moment they’d hoped to share.
“I wish that Dennis could be here because he thought it was a great idea, and he was so happy when I told him that the veterinary college vet school would be delighted to have it as an addition to its memorabilia,” said Seiler.”I’m sorry that he’s not here to see the unveiling, because he would be very happy and very proud.”
The UGA College of Veterinary Medicine has provided care for the Uga mascots since 1957. Hollett has been the lead UGA veterinarian for the Uga mascots for the last two decades.
“The Seiler family epitomizes dedication, commitment and personal sacrifice to their alma mater and this college.They are and have been polite, concerned and conscientious clients of the Teaching Hospital and remain deeply involved with the daily care and well being of their family pet,” said Hollett.”Their dogs just happen to have served as the University of Georgia mascot for the past 53 years-quite a legacy for the Seilers of Savannah.”
The UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, founded in 1946, is dedicated to training future veterinarians, to conducting research related to animal diseases, and to providing veterinary services for animals and their owners.Research efforts are aimed at enhancing the quality of life for animals and people, improving the productivity of poultry and livestock, and preserving a healthy interface between wildlife and people in the environment they share.The current Teaching Hospital, built in 1979, serves more than 18,000 patients per year in one of the smallest teaching hospitals in the United States.The college is currently working to raise $15 million toward building a new Veterinary Medical Learning Center, which will include a new teaching hospital as well as classrooms and laboratories that will allow for the education of more veterinarians. More veterinarians are needed to promote food safety and protect public health and to provide veterinary services for farm and companion animals owned by a rapidly growing regional population.The college enrolls 102 students each fall out of more than 550 who apply.The goal is to increase enrollment to 150 when the Veterinary Medical Learning Center is built.