LINCOLN, Neb. — On a day when four former U.S. secretaries of agriculture from Nebraska were honored in bronze on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus, Ronnie Green already was looking ahead to the need to make room for a fifth and sixth – who knows how many? – statues.
Green, Harlan vice chancellor of the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, led the dedication Saturday afternoon of statues of J. Sterling Morton, Clifford Hardin, Clayton Yeutter and Mike Johanns.
Only Iowa claims more secretaries of agriculture, with five, but Green assured the crowd Nebraska isn’t done.
“When the next secretary of agriculture from Nebraska is appointed, we’ll start working on that next statue,” he said.
Yeutter’s statue is in the Jeanne Yeutter garden, while the other three are placed in an area bound by the East Union, Thompson Library and Filley Hall. With planned renovations to the library and the union, Green said, this Legacy Plaza will become a major focal point on East Campus, where the statues will serve to educate future generations of students about “these four distinguished Nebraskans who have served our country greatly.”
Green said the idea for the statues was born during the celebration two years ago of the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which created the land-grant university system. Yeutter and Johanns were among four former ag secretaries who participated in a panel-discussion Heuermann Lecture that fall.
The statues, privately funded, were sculpted by Matthew Placzek of Omaha, who expressed his joy in getting to know the four men’s families over the last couple of years. “To me, to be a part of this wonderful campus is truly an honor,” Placzek said.
Yeutter and Johanns expressed appreciation. “I’ve been a Cornhusker all my life,” said Yeutter, a Dawson County native.
Johanns, a former governor now finishing his service in the U.S. Senate, said he too was honored.
“You can’t be a senator or governor and not have a very deep, passionate appreciation of what the University of Nebraska means to this state,” he said.
Many members of Hardin’s family also were present Saturday, including three daughters who accepted the honor on behalf of the family.
Writer: Dan Moser, IANR News Service