For a generation of Eastern Kentucky State College students, he was more than just an unofficial campus mascot.
Mozart the dog was a constant companion and shaggy soulmate – in the Ravine, in nearby residence halls and music classrooms, and even on the football field. When he died in 1964 after a 17-year run of the Richmond campus, he was buried behind the Van Peursem Pavilion in the Ravine, the site of many outdoor concerts over the years.
Now, thanks to the Eastern Kentucky University Honors Student Advisory Council (HSAC), the canine’s legacy will be kept alive for future generations of Colonels. A new gravestone for Mozart, financed by the council, was dedicated in a brief ceremony on Monday, April 17, and will soon replace the old weather-worn marker behind the pavilion.
For Dr. Ron Wolfe, the memories came flooding back. The EKU alumnus and retired professor/administrator, who was on campus for Mozart’s last five years, fondly remembers the stray mongrel as a “gentle” and “loving” dog.
He told the audience about Mozart sleeping in his residence hall room on the third floor of McCreary Hall, noting “it was a big honor.”
He recalled Mozart attending every one of his music appreciation classes – where his namesake was often the subject – and even serving as sort of a class-closing bell. “When he got up and left, we were dismissed.”
But Wolfe saved his “funniest” memory for last.
“Mozart would walk in with the band during its halftime show at (the old) Hanger Field,” Wolfe recalled. “Then, when Tennessee Tech’s band took the field, he walked to the 50-yard line and howled through its entire performance.”
The ceremony also included remarks from EKU President Michael Benson, retired Archivist Charles Hay, EKU Honors Director Dr. David Coleman and HSAC President Morgan Wood.
Benson, who was born a year after Mozart passed away, emphasized the importance of traditions on a college campus and thanked all who had a part in restoring Mozart’s legacy.
The subject of Mozart comes up every time Hay directs a tour of campus landmarks.
“I always ask people where Mozart is buried, and they say Vienna. Then I say, ‘No, I’ll show you where he’s buried,’” behind the pavilion.
Hay reminded the audience of the period that Mozart’s grave was without a marker. “Twenty-five years ago, his grave was stolen. Five years later, it was uncovered in the woods in Grant County. It’s very fitting that he’s going to get proper recognition now.”
A t-shirt sale helped the HSAC raise funds for the project. The council also made a contribution to the Humane Society Animal League for Life of Madison County in Mozart’s name.
“We’re trying to build a culture of service, a culture of stewardship,” Coleman said.
Wood compared Mozart’s life to that of her own educational journey at Eastern.
“Mozart was taken in by a loving community who fed and sheltered him, and went out of their way to enrich his life,” she said. “I, too, have been taken in by the campus community, nurtured and given the opportunity to enrich my life.”
Bottom photo: Katie Patton, EKU Honors coordinator, far left, with HSAC officers, from left, Claire Kelley, vice president; Morgan Wood, president; Jessa Hay, communications coordinator; Jackson O’Daniel, service coordinator; and Emily Rose, finance coordinator.