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Trip to see gorilla inspires donation to PSU

A trip to see a baby gorilla that fans of Pittsburg State helped to name Gus inspired a painting now displayed on the PSU campus.
Trip to see gorilla inspires donation to PSU
Artist Dan Spangler (BS, 1977) and his painting, "Gorilla Sunrise"

Dan Spangler, a 1977 graduate, visited the Ft. Worth Zoo during a Gorilla Gathering sponsored by the Office of Alumni & Constituent Relations. 

There, a world-class gorilla exhibit features a baby western lowland gorilla baby that in April 2016 was named Augustus, or Gus for short, in an online poll promoted by PSU social media and heavily voted in by PSU alumni. 

Spangler, a Pittsburg native who graduated from Colgan High School in 1972, earned a bachelor's degree in biology and went on to a career in pharmaceuticals. But his passion beyond work has always been art. 

Fellow Gorillas Caryn and Greg Murray, who earned their degrees from PSU in 1993, saw Spangler taking photos of the baby gorilla and the other gorillas and struck up a conversation. 

"They asked if I'd ever considered donating any of my art to PSU, and that kind of planted the seed," Spangler said during a reception in his honor Friday afternoon in the Overman Student Center's Balkans Room, where the painting is displayed. 

Called Gorilla Sunrise and based on the baby's father, Elmo, it is part of the university's permanent art collection.  

"We never get tired of seeing its different forms around campus," Vice President of Student Life Steve Erwin said of the university's gorilla mascot. "It symbolizes the strength of the institution and the value of the degree." 

Erwin noted that because of the glass walls of the Balkans Room, and the fact that it's on a "major thoroughfare" in the Student Center, it will be seen by many passersby. 

For Spangler, a Ft. Worth resident, the reception was a chance to reconnect with friends and family he hadn't seen in many years. 

"It warmed my heart to be able to give back," he said. 

In describing his painting and how he completed it over a three-week period, Spangler said he used oil paints and a 3-foot by 3-foot canvas. 

And, he said, it wasn't his first attempt — that one, which he wasn't satisfied with, wound up in his attic. 

"I hope we've done it an honor," Erwin said of the place chosen for the artist's second attempt.

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