Skip to Main Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Footer Navigation
Give Now

Profiles in Giving

Our New Jumbo

New sculpture will stand at heart of Medford campus

Dick Reynolds, A67, wanted to thank Tufts for some unexpected “late-career fun”—serving as the university’s interim vice president of operations for three years. A colleague suggested a gift in line with his obsession for details like improved landscaping, lighting, and walkways. How about, for instance, a new sculpture of Jumbo?

The idea was a perfect match and soon, a majestic new likeness of the Tufts mascot will arrive at the university thanks to Reynolds’s generosity.

A Truly "Jumbo" Gift

Cast in bronze, the life-size statue will weigh close to 5,000 pounds and stand just over 11 feet high. Steven Whyte, a California-based sculptor, has modeled it after a photograph taken when P. T. Barnum purchased Jumbo for his “Greatest Show on Earth.”

“To me, this Jumbo represents the quality of the university,” says Reynolds, who joined the Tufts administration after retiring from a long career in real estate. “The detail is phenomenal—and it’s a true representation of an African elephant. It will always convey gravitas—and that’s what Tufts is all about. It can be a unifying character for all our schools.”

The Elephant in the Quad

The new Jumbo will look over the academic quad on the Medford/Somerville campus in a special garden that a fellow alumnus has made possible (see sidebar). It will replace a smaller replica of an Asian elephant, a gift from the Class of 1958, which has stood outside Barnum Hall since 1993. Barnum was the home of the original, stuffed Jumbo from 1889 until the elephant was destroyed by a 1975 fire.

The new sculpture will greet prospective students and other visitors because it will face a central triangle between Ballou, Packard, and Bendetson, home of undergraduate admissions. “He’s looking right at the historic heart of the university,” says Reynolds, “and it gives me great pleasure to know he’ll be looking at that center point forever.”

Jumbo’s Greenery

Martin Richard “Dick” Asher, A53, remembers putting pennies in Jumbo’s trunk, back when the legendary elephant held court in the Barnum Museum of Natural History. The tradition reportedly brought good luck at exams. “I guess it worked,” he says. “I graduated cum laude!” Now Jumbo is having some good luck of his own. Asher and his wife, Sheila, have made possible a beautifully landscaped site for the new statue.

The Dick and Sheila S. Asher Jumbo Garden transforms a corner of the academic quad next to Barnum Hall. The new Jumbo, which will be lit at night by low spotlights, will be encircled by a harmonious mix of decorative grasses (emblematic of an African savannah), winter-tough evergreens, and drought-tolerant perennials.

When Asher attended Tufts he always felt that Jumbo was a great symbol of school spirit. Losing the original Jumbo left a void, so he hopes the Tufts community will enthusiastically receive the new Jumbo as its new mascot.